BENGALURU: The first day of the two-day Bangalore Literature Festival was marked by attempts to define and understand ‘intolerance’. The word came up in many contexts, such as the keynote address by novelist Shashi Deshpande and the poetry sessions. Kannada writers took offence at being pushed to a non-prime session during the two-day festival. They were given time during the lunch break, which they alleged was unfair. Delivering her keynote address, Shashi Deshpande asserted that returning awards was a legitimate form of protest. “However, it has been turned into a confrontation between different sets of writers,” she said. She took offence to the term ‘award wapsi’, describing it as disgusting. “Returning awards is not a form of disrespect. It is a sacrifice,” she said. Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar said it was the responsibility of writers to protest against intolerance.
For writer-journalist Aakar Patel, the debates raging in the country reflect the deep chasms in society.
In a session titled ‘Sirigannada — Hindhe, Indhu, Mundhe’ (Rich Kannada — Past, Present, Future), writers wondered why they had been given a slot during the lunch break. Writer Narahalli Balasubramanya advised the organisers to invite at least one Kannada writer to each session so that questions pertaining to are discussed in a proper setting. Scholar Hampa Nagarajaiah asked whether the organisers had any concern at all for Kannada. “They should ensure a forum to discuss literature in both languages in subsequent editions,” he said. Jnanpith laureate Chandrashekar Kambar lamented that governments were sidelining regional languages.