Dharwad Literary Festival turns sour after BJP Yuva Morcha vandalism
January 22, 2019
The second day of the Dharwad Sahitya Sambrama ended up in a bedlam when a group of people disrupted Shiv Visvanathan’s lecture. During the annual conference at Dharwad, Visvanathan was addressing the session “Nationalism: Altercations in contemporary situation”.
Referring to himself as an “anti-national”, Visvanathan pointed out that the country is obsessed with the nation-state. Visvanathan objected to the idea of “nationalism” and asserted that there is an immense need to revisit the larger idea of nationalism that can be equated with civilizational character. “There is a need for developing the practice of asking questions in a democratic manner,” added the speaker.
Controversy ensued when Visvanathan critiqued the incapability of the government and referred to the incidents of rape in Manipur and other states by the Army personnel, along with raising the question of Kashmir. Before he could conclude the lecture, a group of people interrupted his speech and started questioning him loudly, followed by an attack, as can be seen in the video below.
Linguist and one of the founding members of Dakshinayan, G N Devy, who was also present at the event, concluded the session by saying, “We thank Visvanathan for sharing his perspective with us. It is a question of ideas and ideas need to be liberated with other ideas.”
The 3rd day of the seminar yet again witnessed another protest when a group of students from the BJP Yuva Morcha barged into the hall and disrupted the ongoing proceedings, demanding an apology from Visvanathan. Even though the organisers informed them that Shiv Visvanathan had left Dharward that morning, the protesters refused to return. Instead, they demanded an apology from the organisers of the event for Visvanathan’s speech. A parallel protest was also called by a group of retired Army personnel gathered outside the event who condemned Visvanathans’ speech and threatened to take legal action against him.
Speaking to Indian Cultural Forum and responding to the growing intolerance in the state, G N Devy said, “Dharwad is the land of Kalburgi. He was murdered for his thoughts. Dharwad, in the recent years, has witnessed strong reaction to such thoughts. It is a place which was known for its literature and music in the past, but in the present, its complexion has changed.”
Every year, the Dharwad Sahitya Sambrama invites eminent personalities from across the country. However, this is the first time that the event has witnessed vandalism during a session. Basavaraj Sulibhavi of Ladai Prakashana, Karnataka, told the Indian Cultural Forum, “It’s surprising how some men were able to enter into one of the sessions and disrupt the lecture. None of the attackers had a name tag with them as everyone else did. Instead of filing a complaint, the organisers tried to diffuse the situation by tending an apology."
Even though the session was interrupted, there were many in the audience who were in agreement with Visvanathan’s speech. “Such solidarity proves that the present regime is losing its hold”, G N Devy concluded.
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