Jaipur: The Jaipur Literature festival began on Thursday under heavy security with Pakistani authors attending the programme as scheduled. Controversy surrounded the festival again this year with the Bharatiya Janata Party's youth-wing protesting against the participation of Pakistani authors following tension at the Line of Control.
However, organisers say there is no change in their plans and they are slated to speak on Thursday. Authors MA Faruqi, Jamil Ahmed and Amina Syed, all from Pakistan took the stage at the festival on Thursday.
The organisers of the festival thanked the state administration and said they won't be bullied by any kinds of protests.
"We are all on the same side. We are all against terrorism of the mind, we are all against terrorism of any form. We're not here to be bullied and we absolutely appreciate the support the state has given us on this occassion." Jaipur Literature Festival Convenor Sanjoy Roy said.
He added that it was difficult to hold such cultural programmes in India, but the protests won't deter them. "Doing anything in India in difficult, especially when it's in arts which is always new and unusual. We have had a meeting on the security front. We have to stop being bullied by these radical groups. Artists become the first target," Roy said.
Rajasthan governor Margaret Alva also warned against any kind of violence at the festival. "Intolerance and sectarian violence is growing in the world, it has to end. We should make the literature festival work," Alva said.
Unfazed by protests, event co-director William Dalrymple today saying few fringe groups were trying to hog the limelight. "JLF is the same as always, serious literature and then some fun. It is just some fringe groups who are trying to hog the limelight," the author of "The Last Mughal" said.
Following recent tension between India and Pakistan over cross-border violations, many right-wing organisations have opposed the participation of Pakistani authors in the festival. However, while all Pakistani authors were attending the festival as scheduled, author Mohd Hanif skipped the festival citing personal reasons.
The festival that hogged much attention in 2012 due to Salman Rushdie's planned visit - that ultimately did not materialise - is once again facing the ire of Muslim as well as right-wing Hindu groups. This year too, few Muslim groups have issued warnings against allowing Jeet Thayil, one of the four authors who had read out of an except from Rushdie's controversial book 'Satanic Verses' as a mark of support.
Jeet Thayil, Ruchir Joshi, Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar had read out passages from 'Satanic Verses' following the cancellation Rushdie s visit to the festival last year. However, on Wednesday some Muslim groups softened their stand over the visit of Thayil saying they have no objection provided the act is not repeated.
The event will discuss through a series of sessions the influence of Buddhism on philosophy and literature and how writers view the influence of this ancient religion on their writings. International authors like Commonwealth Prize winner Aminatta Forna, Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson, two Orange Prize winners Linda Grant and Madeline Miller will also attend the festival. Other notable names are Ahdaf Soueif, Tahar Ben Jalloun, Sebastian Faulks, Deborah Moggach and Zoe Heller.
According to the organisers, international sessions at the festival will explore Russian literature, the Jewish novel, Shakespeare, Kipling, cricket writing, the New Africa, Iran, and writing on the contemporary art scene.
(With additional information from PTI)