CHANDIGARH: Its theme is ‘Breaking Barriers’ but the current Indo-Pakistan tensions have cast a shadow on the fifth Khushwant Singh Literature Festival which got off at Kasauli today. No writer from the neighbouring country has felt safe enough to participate in the festival this year.
Pakistanis writers were popular participants in each of the previous four editions of the festival, held in honour of the late writer and editor Khushwant Singh. Despite the bitterness in relations between India and Pakistan since the attack on the Uri Army base last monoth, a few invites did go out to some Pakistani writers, such as art historian Fakir, Faiz Ahmed Faiz ‘s daughter Muniza, and former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri. But none chose to dare the present dark mood in the country against anything Pakistani.
The last named would only too well remember the treatment meted out to him and fellow dignitaries during the lauch of his book in Mumbai in October last year. The Shiv Sena kicked up a fuss and smeared black paint on the chief guest Sudheendra Kulkarni.
Although Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh, which used to be Khushwant Singh’s summer getaway, is far removed from the Sena’s Mumbai, it is not inured to the present nationalistic fervor sweeping the country. And in keeping with the mood of the moment, two minutes’ silence was observed during the inaugural for the soldiers who died in the Uri attack.
Started in 2012, when Khushwant Singh was still alive, the litfest is the only such event named after an individual and also the only literary festival held in Himachal Pradesh.