Kashmir, freedom of speech figure on first day of Dehradun Litfest

Dehradun, April 22 (IANS) The vexed issues of Kashmir and the muzzling of freedom of speech predominated on the first day of Dehradun Literature Festival, which began on Friday.

Author Omair Ahmad said that the role of the writers is to defend freedom of speech and no governments can stop them from delivering their duty.

Ahmad, author of “Jimmy the Terrorist” and “Encounters”, said that it is the duty of the government to protect the lives of people. “There shouldn’t be a curb on what we eat or what we think. People should not kill each other in the name of religion,” he said.

Noting he had studied political science to understand the psychology of violence, he said: “I have seen riots and my relatives being stabbed. I dropped my science course and took up political science to study the behaviour of violence. It is happening all over the world and it’s just not acceptable.”

Kashmir is a painful memory for author Humra Quraishi, who has penned books like “Kashmir the Untold Story” and “Meer”. Quraishi, who has done extensive reporting on Kashmir since 1990s, compared the situation of the state “like a woman with make-up”. “I have seen Kashmir in close quarters. When I was reporting from Srinagar for the newspaper ‘Tribune’, it was like a warzone. I have seen people being shot down and scores of dead bodies in front of me,” she said.

She said most of the ‘mohallas’ have graveyards and half of the women in the state are “half-widows”. “Massive human right violation happens in the state. Half of the women are still waiting for their husbands who are being picked up for interrogation, never to come back. It is quite a depressing situation,” she said.

The day also saw discussion on “Why imagination is more powerful than knowledge?” participated by Ranjit Lal and Dev Lahiri and discussions on “Literature and History”. The Art of Story Telling was deliberated by author Ashwin Sanghi later in the evening.

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