Eastern Times, Kolkata : The fourth prestigious People’s Literary Festival, organized by Bastar Solidarity Network, was held on 20th March at Birendra Mancha in Shyambazar.
Keeping true to its traditions, the literary festival focused its attention on the discussion of literature and writers who are often, consciously, looked over by the mainstream literary festivals owing to their penchant for political correctness. There are no such boundaries at play when it comes to a literature festival for the masses; consequently, the panels composed by the organizers and the artists invited to the meet expressed their common disdain for fascism and its Hindutva revival in India.
The entire program was broadly divided into three panel discussions, musical performances by Lal Lanthan and the Punjab cultural team and a photographic exposition underlining the brutality of fascist oppression on the battlefield.
The introductory speech, in the memory of Raja Biswas, was delivered by Mousumi Bilkis. She was the voice of the event for the day. The first panel discussed upon the topic of ‘prison literature’. The panel was named ‘Thundering voices defying shackles’, and its members were Nilanjan Dutta, Rupesh Kumar Singh and Krishna Bandyopadhyay. They shed light upon their experiences in the cell during their prison days; coupled with Prabuddha Ghosh’s insightful inputs as the moderator, the session gave an enriching start to the event.
The next panel – Keep the sickle sharpened – centered around literature based on farmer’s movements. Manash Ghosh moderated the session; the participants were Lenin Kumar, Lutfor Rahman and Supriyo Choudhury. Apart from discussing issues ranging from the farmer’s movement to farmer’s literature, the session proceeded into the domains of a debate that sought to lay bare the vast cultural differences and differences of perception between urban and rural India. The session made the viewers question whether they could really bridge the almost million-year gap that had formed between the people living in villages and those who lived just three hours away from them in the city.
Ronny Sen, photographer, exhibited photographs on the subject of global conflicts and killings; his session was on ‘Art and artists against fascism’. Most importantly, he mainly referred to women photographers who were risking their lives on the line of work. It helped engender a statement against photography as a gendered discourse.
In ‘Tunes from the resistance ground’ the cultural team from Punjab composed of Jagjit Kaur (Nikki-E-Nik), Ankit and Arpan rendered their voices to songs that are emblematic of people’s protests. Lal Lanthan joined in the musical performance as well. The entire venue was reverberating with pulse-beats of resistance.
The final session for the evening was a panel discussion that aimed to discuss anti-fascist literature. The panel had been named ‘Crushing the fascist with the sea of resistance’. The participating members were Nodeep Kaur, Sadique Hossain and Avishek Jha. Aritra Chatterjee moderated the discussion as it touched on the social aspects of fascism, how fascist attacks reveal which side of the class war a person is on to the importance of consciously relegating refined language and mediocrity as a necessary precursor to resisting fascism.
The event can be summarized in the words of Sagarika, one of the spectators, who stated, “I have been to another notable literary festival in the city before, but I have never experienced something so wholesome such as this. All I can say is that corporate funded literary festivals put the mainstream authors and litterateurs on a pedestal where it is impossible for the general public to reach; however, a literary fest funded by the people erases all such boundaries.”