Amid the brouhaha over Kanhaiya Kumar’s presence at the ongoing Lucknow Literary Festival held in Sheroes Hangout, differences arose this Saturday among the eloquent and erudite netizens of LBC, who took to social media to express their opinions on the issue.
The primary bone of contention between the two ‘camps’ was whether politicians like Kanhaiya speaking at literary events ushers a new dark era of declining quality of local literary festivals, or if it reflects a positive change of democratizing the debates of the literati and providing political representation.
Like most things that involve student politics, there seemed to be two clear (if somewhat parallel) ideas on the basis of which LBC engaged in some constructive debate, suggestions and differences of opinion between the two groups that appeared to support or condemn the festival organizers for their initiative.
The prime mover opposing the Literary Fest’s decision was Pradipta Roy Chowdhary Sen, LBC’s learned librarian, who questioned their motives for picking Kumar as a speaker ( he may have written a book, but did they call him for his book or for his controversies, she asked) . Another point raised by her was the exclusion of more literary names in favor of political ones like Owaisi and Kumar.
This point of view drew support from Mr Ashutosh Shukla, who stated that while literature and politics couldn’t remain exclusive , the former should be the priority, and quoted Ruskin Bond on how literary fests have little to do with literature these days.
Professor Siddhartha Rastogi, one of the club’s founder members, too, wasn’t quite pleased with Kanhaiya’s presence, but seemed more disappointed in the ‘ABVP’ whose protest only fuelled the notorious student leader’s publicity.
However,a certain Missy Baba ( whose name we cannot disclose due to her extensive list of fallen , bloodthirsty bourgois enemies) swept into the discussion to represent the left (and demand the representation of the political left) in the literary discourse.
She expressed her disappointment at the intolerance and elitism seeping into public forums and pointed out how literature exists in a political context, and how the public would benefit from direct engagement with political discourse as opposed to the distorted narratives of the mainstream media, drawing support from abheek singh, who said that literature represents society, and Kanhaiyya is ostensibly a part of society. Tazeen hussain and Swati Singh echoed this opinion, although the silence of the usually verbose Rajat Shubro Mukherjee was quite likely due to his engagements on other posts where he supported the move,like a true comrade. Chiriksha Prakash, meanwhile, questioned the ever evolving definition of literature, and left us with some food for thought while remarking on the subjectivity of literature.
The rest would have been history if a comment about John Milton’s role in the beheading of Charles 1 and Andrew Marvell’s active role in polity could justify Kumar’s presence, but it was quickly countered by Mr Shukla’s astute observation about propaganda claiming to be literature ( or, according to yours truly, literature being called propaganda, depending on who’s in power) when certain news outlets like DNA reported that the district magistrate of Lucknow had cancelled the festival due to the disturbance caused by the protesters.
Amid these heated discussions, Divyanshu Tripathi chose not to jump into the fray but on his personal handle, expressed surprise at the absence of outrage at the presence of poltician Shatrughan Sinha( thus signalling the nadir in the career of the man now known only as Sonakshi Sinha’s dad )
As the discussion veered towards the overratedness of formal education, LBC president Dr Manoj Kumar Singh emerged the only person unscathed and unrefuted, after he argued with facts rather than rhetoric and posted a video of Asaduddin Owaisi talking politics sans literature at the controversial event.
Whether or not the organizers are justified in their stance remains debatable and while the war of words continues on several social media fronts, it cannot be denied that intolerance , nationalism and democratic representation are at the forefront of public discourse . LBC is attempting to take on these issues by broadening our perspectives through the Regional Literature Series starting November 25th, and will begin #LBCtalks with a discussion where members share the stories of their first tryst with regional/ vernacular writing. Tolerance stems from empathy, and the more we expose ourselves to different points of view, the better equipped we are to accept diverse narratives and learn from them.
the Regional literature series isn’t just about the stories we learn from the length and breadth of the country, but celebrates our diversity and encourages members to embrace it.
So as the season of literary festivals kicks off with a lively start, LBC can now scream, as Pradipta ji put it, ” Zinda Hoon Main”