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Writers withdraw from Bangalore Lit Festival over ‘growing intolerance’

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Image courtesy: http://bangaloreliteraturefestival.org/

In a bid to lodge their protest against the letter written by one of the Directors of the Bangalore Lit Festival (BLF), author Vikram Sampath, wherein he stated that he was against writers returning their awards, Kannada writer TK Dayanand and poet Arif Raja have boycotted the festival.

The BLF is scheduled to be held in the city on December 5 and 6.

According to reports, Dayanand has written in his letter of withdrawal from the BLF that, “I have learned that the organisers of BLF have, in their own ways, understood and criticised writers returning awards.

“Writers have the right to protest that way (by returning awards). I have no right to sit in judgement of right and wrong on this. Those who cannot understand the terror within one’s spirit cannot understand any literature, writing or anything that can be lively through a festival.”

Poet Raja in his withdrawal letter to the BLF stated, “In a democracy, the debate on ‘to return or not return awards’ is a fascist thought. This is a writer’s independent prerogative. Sampath’s argument that it is politically motivated is childish.”

Issuing a statement on the row, the BLF directors, authors Vikram Sampath and Shinie Antony have issued a clarification on this controversy they said, “The Bangalore Literature Festival has done Bengaluru proud as it has emerged as the second largest literary conclave in this country and survives as a community funded festival that runs on no agendas.

“BLF is a forum created to democratically discuss, dissent and debate varied viewpoints and opinions and not merely a single strand of thought. Individuals and particularly writers, including the organisers, are entitled to their opinions in a free country like ours.

“However, BLF as a whole is neutral and impartial and subscribes to no single ideology or viewpoint. If we were monochromatic in our views, in the last three editions and this one, we would not have invited diverse shades of opinion in the first place. We organisers work really hard to put the festival together against all odds, staying away from corporate funding thus far.

“The reason for this is we believe that voices need to be kept independent and a rainbow of opinions can then be presented to a discerning audience. To ascribe motives to us is simply mischievous and unwarranted.

“While we respect the decision of the writers who have chosen not to participate in the festival due to certain misgivings, we feel they have deprived a vast section of the audience to listen to their viewpoint. We would still urge them to reconsider and participate in the festival so that their views are heard by all.”

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A Hindu Woman held captive for 7 years due to affair with a Muslim Boyfriend in Delhi

The girl's mother reportedly threatened to commit suicide if she tried to escape, her father would thrash her for bringing dishonor to the family

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Women from different community in rural India. Image source: youthkiawaz.com
  • The 32 year-old female homeopath was found to be a hostage in a Delhi based Hindu family.
  • The girl’s family showed her videos from ‘love jihad’ claiming her boyfriend to be plotting against her
  • The girl while being inside the walls of her house attempted a failed suicide
India has always been known as a country inhabiting various cultures, traditions and religions. As Nehru claimed, the country showcases “Unity in diversity”. However, when it comes to religious tolerance the land has failed to show up when an incident of inter-religious correspondence comes forth.
The news published in The Hindu stated that a 32 year-old female homeopath was found to be a hostage in a Delhi based Hindu family. She was 25 years-old and at the time of the most important phase of her life, her entering into the institution of marriage, she was hosted by her family for being acknowledged in an affair with a Muslim boy by her family.

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She was refused any kind of socialization with no access to internet or telephones. She remained locked inside the four walls of her house since 2009. Her coming out is no miracle, nor it is an outcome of the fact that her parents have realized their mistake. In the absence of her mother, she called the women’s helpline number 181 to seek help and was thus “imprisoned” by the team.
“Her mother reportedly threatened to commit suicide if she tried to escape, her father would thrash her and her family members even threatened to kill her for bringing dishonor to the family,” according to the Hindu report.

pd_domestic_violence_080207_msIt seems one of the most disturbing incidents in an age when the protests for freedom of speech and equality surround the city with the famous universities. One finds the city as epicenter for the celebrations of the “International Women’s Day”, however, the reach of this freedom where all women can exercise their needs seems to lack in a society which apparently discusses the movements like Save Girl Child and educate her.

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The girl while being inside the walls of her house attempted a failed suicide being saved by the family members. The DCW reported, the words she uttered at first were: ‘please rescue me’. Further, the girl also disclosed how her family would show her videos from ‘love jihad’ claiming her boyfriend to be plotting against her.
She didn’t take any action against her parents and even didn’t ask for any hold against her boyfriend if he had moved on.  She is under the protection of DCW in their shelter and is happy to be rescued from the life as bad as in a prison.

 

-prepared by Megha Sharma, a freelance contributor at NewsGram. Twitter: @meghash06510344

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Australia to hold first of its kind ‘Feminist Writers Festival’ at Melbourne in August

The festival aims to break down and challenge the barriers that feminist writers face

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A vintage poster on Feminism. Image source:progressiverags.com
  • Women make up 50% of the population in Australia, but only have 26% representation in parliament
  • In Australia, women on an average make 17.5% less than men
  • The Feminist Writers Festival will be held on August 27 and 28 in Melbourne, Australia

Feminism is a political movement that involves people campaigning for equality granted towards women. In Australia, they have declared a Feminist Writers Festival, and there is much hype around it. There are some appalling facts in regards to feminism in Australia. In Australia, women on average make 17.5% less than men. Women make up 50% of the population in Australia, but only have 26% representation in parliament. Finally, one in three women has experienced sexual or physical violence in their lifetime.

Keeping these facts in mind it is not hard to understand why people are fighting for equality. Many people have spoken out about it. At the Sydney Writers Festival, Gloria Steinem simply stated, “Just don’t ask us if feminism is still relevant.”

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Openly being a feminist writer in today’s world is no easy task. In fact, often times the few and the brave women who declare themselves as such, are ridiculed. This was the case with Clementine Ford. On January 25, Ford innocently tweeted-

“Writing a book is the hardest thing I have ever done. #homestretch”

Funny Feminist Make Me a Sandwich Poster. Image source: zazzle.com.au
Funny Feminist Make Me a Sandwich Poster. Image source: zazzle.com.au

This received almost instant backlash from Gary Orsum, a YouTube user. Orsum opened his YouTube video mocking Ford, claiming her tweet was hilarious. He then found a sewer worker and addressed him as such, “Excuse me mate, um, Clementine Ford’s having a pretty hard time of it. Would you mind letting her do your really cruisy job as a sewer worker for a week, while you take on the hardest job ever in the world of writing a book and stopping whenever you feel like it to make a cup of tea and get on twitter and abuse men?” Unfortunately for Ford and other feminist writers, the video has over nine thousand views and four hundred likes.

For anyone looking to get into feminist writing, this story can leave a daunting impression of the backlash you will receive for even the most innocent of opinions you may have. It is clear that the world has much farther to go in accepting feminist writers, and hopefully, the festival aids in this movement.

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That is just one example of what feminist writers have to deal with. A clear indicator that something must change can actually be found among the main twelve Australian review publications. When looked into, there is a clear bias regarding male reviewers towards male authors.

The festival aims to break down and challenge the barriers that feminist writers face. They are attempting to, “free people from historic boxes” says Cristy Clark, Chair of the Festival. The festival is made up of a diverse group of committee members, Celeste Liddle (aboriginal origin), Maxine Beneba Clarke (Afro-Caribbean), and Shakira Hussein (Pakistani). Each woman, although having different roots, sets out with the goal to challenge the conventional way people tend to think about writers and their works.

The women passionately backing the festival realize that things will not change immediately. They do hope that they open up channels of communication and support among feminist writers so that change will happen gradually.

-by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono

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Diamond of Hindi and Urdu literature: Munshi Premchand

Premchand was born on 31 July, 1880 in a village named Lamhi near Varanasi. He was named Dhanpat Rai

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Munshi Premchand

By Shruti Pandey

 “Literature adds to reality; it doesn’t simply describe things”.- C.S. Lewis

Munshi Premchand is one of the peculiar writers of India who lived up to this thought and modified the trend of Hindi and Urdu literature, being all about religion and fantasy. He was a pioneer in writing who relished and even succeeded in bringing a change in society with his words.

Here are 10 quick facts about this exemplary writer-

Related article: 4 Indian litterateurs who should have got Nobel Prize

  1. Premchand was born on 31 July, 1880 in a village named Lamhi near Varanasi. He was born to Ajaib Rai and Anand Rai and was named Dhanpat Rai. Ajaib Rai did clerical jobs in a nearby post office. His mother met with a casualty and died when Dhanpat was only 8 years old. This followed a remarriage of Ajaib Rai. His early education was accomplished in a Madrsa, where he learnt Urdu and Persian.
  2. Although, he was very close to his elder sister, he shared bitter relation with his step-mother, which took him towards books and he became a voracious reader after that. Dhanpat was married at an early age of 15, but he renounced his wife later on as he couldn’t find competence with her. Things turned upside down when his father died due an illness in 1897 and Dhanpat was compelled to take care of his sisters and step-mother.
  3. He started working as a tuition teacher and along with this, he completed his matriculation. After struggling for years, he finally found his luck at Government District School in Baharaich. At the age of 20, he did his intermediate, privately, and completed his bachelor’s in arts. He even inspired himself to complete some creations in Urdu.
  4. Dhanpat Rai started writing under the pseudonym “Nawab Rai” and wrote his first short novel titled “Asrar-e-Ma’abid” ,that dealt with the issues of corruption among the religious preachers and their tendency to exploit poor women, sexually. He came under the watch glass in 1910, after he published a collection of short stories named  Soz-e-Watan. The copies were burnt by the British Government and were termed seditious as it contained elements that were intended at arousing nationalist sentiments. After his work was confiscated by the British, he relinquished “Nawab Rai” and instead opted for another pseudonym “Munshi Premchand”.
  5. His journey as a Hindi writer began in 1914. In this series, he wrote many short stories and novels. His first major Hindi novel was “Sevasadan”. The issue of this book was one of a kind. The story explored the life of a prostitute, who aspired to be educated and live a respectful life and finally ended up doing so. This was a rebellion of Premchand against the injustice done to women and he fought this with bullets of words.
  6. He also showcased this valor when he turned against social norms and married a child widow Shivarani Devi and had three children with her. As a part of National Freedom Movement, Gandhiji asked all the public servants to leave their jobs as a form of protest. Following the diktat, he renounced his job and joined to movement. He came to Varanasi and went on to establish his own publishing house: Saraswati Press in 1923.
  7. From Saraswati press, he published novels Nirmala and Pratigya and both the novels had women as the leading protagonist. They were shown being empowered in the novel. He started a Socio-political magazine in 1930, which failed to derive economic benefits and was finally shelved, forcing Premchand to look for more stable job. He became principal at Marwari College in Kanpur in 1931.
  8. Not a lot of people are aware of this fact that, Munshi Premchand did film script writing for a while. His financial condition was declining and to make up for it, he accepted the job of writing at Ajanta Cinetone where he wrote script for the movie “Majdoor”. But because of  his inability to walk hand in hand with the commercial writings, he left the job and finally came back to Varanasi and wrote a number of short stories and completed “Godaan” in 1936. He was working on his novel “Mangalsutra” before he embraced death on 8 October, 1936 out of illness.
  9. The peculiar thing about his writing was that, he never made use of Sanskritized Hindi which was in trend at that time. Instead, he used common Hindi language that was the tongue of majority of people in India in those times. The second thing; his stories never revolved around the upper classes of the society. The protagonists always belonged to some lower sections of the society which made everyone believe that there is a hero inside everyone of us.
  10. His most famous work, “Godaan” was based on a Dalit farmer family ,who were hand to mouth and how they were exploited. He didn’t write to please the élites, instead he wrote to please the masses. Apart from this, his short stories like “Poos Ki Raat” and “Namak Ka Daroga” dealt with contemporary problems of those times. He wrote around 300 short stories and novels and the anthology of his works has been named “Mansarovar”.  

Shruti Pandey is a third year engineering student in HBTI, Kanpur and aspires to bring a change through words. Twitter  @srt_kaka