BENGALURU: Javed Akhtar, well-known poet and Bollywood lyricist, is a new addition to the list of writers giving the Bangalore Literary Festival a miss.
Film journalist Bhavna Somaaya and literary historian Rakshanda Jaleel are also staying away from the fourth edition of the festival, slated for Saturday and Sunday at Hotel Royal Orchid.
The organisers say these developments have no connection with the protest withdrawal of three Kannada writers. “Akhtar and the others have cited personal reasons,” said Shinie Antony, co-founder of the festival.
The withdrawals have prompted rescheduling of the sessions. A new programme was announced online on Tuesday.
Akthar was scheduled to take part in the inaugural ceremony and some other sessions. Rakshanda Jalil was to participate in a session with him on the second day.
■ Irked by the remarks of Vikram Sampath, one of the founding directors of the festival, two writers had opted out of the festival on November 25.
■ According to Dayanand T K and Arif Raja, Kannada writers, Sampath’s comment on the ‘award wapsi’ campaign was in poor taste.
■ Literary critic O L Nagabhushana Swamy had withdrawn a day later.
■ Former minister Jairam Ramesh and Malayalam writer Sarah Joseph are also among the invitees excusing themselves from the festival.
■ The withdrawals prompted Sampath to step down as director of the festival. However, he will participate in panel discussions.
■ Shinie Antony said Akthar had written to the hosts saying something important had come up, preventing him from attending the festival.
■ “Till the festival ends, we cannot say for sure who will or will not attend,” she said.
Ramachandra Guha Backs Sampath
Well-known writer and historian Ramachandra Guha has described the protests as an “ill-judged boycott by writers who had previously agreed to speak.”
“To agree to speak and then pull out because one does not agree with the views of one of the organisers is to close off debate altogether. It displays, to use a word in vogue lately, intolerance,” he has said in a letter to the festival organisers.
He will speak on ‘Eight Threats to Freedom of Expression’ at the festival on Saturday.
He says he had declined the invitation to the event since he was at work finishing a book. “However, the organisers have now renewed the invitation, and I have accepted,” he says.
His statement explains his decision: “Writers have always had differing views; we should welcome this. I disagree with some things Vikram Sampath has said or written; just as he surely disagrees with some things I have said or written. It is to further the spirit of debate and free enquiry that I shall be speaking on Saturday.”