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Intolerance row: Writers withdraw from Bengaluru literature fest

Unhappy with the festival director’s criticism of the trend of writers returning their awards to protest intolerance in India, two prominent Kannada writers have withdrawn from the Bangalore Literature Festival (BLF) 2015 scheduled for December 5 and 6.

Writers Dayanand TK and Arif Raja shot off angry letters to the festival organisers recently in which they questioned the political leanings of BLF director and author Vikram Sampat who described writers returning awards as “sheep” in a recent opinion piece in the Mint.

Sampat said in the article, “It is intriguing that the writer community was largely silent when books were banned, authors attacked, and rationalists killed. Why the selective outrage, as though apocalypse has descended on us as far as freedom of expression is concerned? Intolerance and violence against a contrary opinion is not a sudden phenomenon in India.”

In his letter, Raja said Sampat’s comments were “politically motivated and childish”. Challenging Sampat’s argument that writers were speaking only now, he said many Kannada authors had fought against the emergency.

Shivaram Karanth had returned his Padma award and Chandrashekar Patil (Champa) had lost his job because he opposed Indira Gandhi, he said.

Dayanand, who also criticised Sampat’s stand said in his letter he had misgivings about some of the sponsors of the event.

He also said he did not want to be part of a literature fest whose principal organisers don’t understand the sentiment and the “feeling of terror” that forced the country’s intellectuals to speak out.

Coming out in support of the Raja and Dayanand, famous Malayalam writer K Sachidanandan, said he too refused to be part of BLF this year because he found the event “right-leaning and commercialised”.

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