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Writers withdraw from Bangalore Lit Festival over ‘growing intolerance’

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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