Tamil Nadu has a big problem with dissent: T.M. Krishna at Lit for Life 2018

Chandan Gowda, Hyeonseo Lee, Sadaf Saaz, T. M. Krishna, and Teesta Setalvad in conversation with N. Ravi at day 2 of Lit for Life in Chennai on Monday.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Chandan Gowda (Professor, Azim Premji University); Hyeonseo Lee (North Korean defector), Sadaf Saaz (women’s rights advocate), T. M. Krishna (Carnatic music singer) and Teesta Setalvad (educationist and activist) in conversation with N. Ravi discuss the 'Freedom to Dissent' on the second day on The Hindu's Lit for Life 2018.

Chandan Gowda on personal dissent

"We have an extraordinary lifestyle to live extravagantly but at the same time we have traditions that look down upon it. Will a certain rights based activism help?," says Chandan Gowda on personal dissent.

On Hyeonseo Lee

A quick aside on one of our speakers Hyeonseo Lee, a refugee from North Korea. Ms. Hyeonseo was a speaker on the first day of the Lit for Life 2018 and she spoke about her harrowing experiences in North Korea. “So many people disappeared in the middle of the night (in North Korea),” Ms. Hyeonseo noted while drawing attention to the prison camps in her country. Recalling the times of her defection, Ms. Hyeonseo said that there was a time when dead bodies were seen rotting on the streets.


“ I come from the most ridiculous country in the world,” she says referring to North Korea and referring to lack of freedom.

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T.M. Krishna on dissent

T.M. Krishna has been vocal about  a lot of issues over the last few years, including being inclusive in all forms of art. "Dissent seems to have a negative connotation and if they think of dissent, they think of some kind of hurting. Tamil Nadu has a big problem with dissent and even I wouldn't have had the guts to say this five years ago," says T.M. Krishna 

Sadaaf Saaz and Teesta speak

"There is a whole range of opportunities for literature, poetry and theatricals in Bangladesh". To which Teesta has a reply,"if we discuss the murders of bloggers in Bangladesh we can't ignore the lynchings of Muslims in India."

"How do we call it social media when it performs such anti social acts?" questions Ms. Setalvad.   

Day 1 of LFL

While we ponder on what our speakers have told us on dissent, here is a small recap on what happened on the first day of The Hindu's Lit for Life fest.

1. Our mystery speaker was Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen who participated in an impassioned session on how she will not be silenced.  “Why don’t governments support freedom of speech? I will never be silenced. The worst kind of censorship is self-censorship,” she said. "I know I might be killed but I am not afraid," said Ms. Nasreen whose books like Lajja and Dwikhandito have attracted the ire of Muslim fundamentalists.

2. ‘Why is India’s Secular Nationalism Under Attack?’ was the hot topic of discussion between Ananya Vajpeyi (author), Manu Joseph (commentator and author), Prayaag Akbar (journalist) and Swapan Dasgupta (MP). And a hard-hitting statement was made at the end of the session by Ms.Vajpeyi:  “We are living in a regime that seeks to replace secular nationalism with religious nationalism”

3. It was a full house when Karan Johan shared his story with Baradwaj Rangan on being the 'Unsuitable Boy' and his journey in Bollywood and most of all, of being a father.

Rounding it up


N Ravi, drawing evidences from laws from around the world, set the stage for an informative debate. Chandan Gowda expressed his concerns regarding issues like fascism and the value of work. He emphasised on looking for solutions to concerns facing the country, including the overuse/misuse of power.

In her account of North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee threw light on the atrocities that she faced as a refugee. Freedom of Speech, if non-existent, obscures the idea of Freedom to Dissent, she said.

Sadaf Saaz recounted a series of attacks on writers and foreign nationals in Bangladesh, and talked about the history of public movements expressing dissent against the State’s functioning.

T. M. Krishna commanded the crowd’s attention by commenting on the lack of dissent in Tamil Nadu, with regard to its political situation. “The greatest form of fear is the fear implanted in one’s heart,” the Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning musician said.

Teesta Setalvad defended the freedom to dissent with a series of constructive criticisms. She opined that while the media might seem insensitive to certain problems, it was under tremendous pressure. “This is not the India of our streets, this is not the India we want. If we think it is, it’s a fool’s paradise… Equality is the base of every citizenship, not religion.”

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 11:33:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/lit-for-life/is-the-freedom-to-dissent-now-under-pressure-day-2-of-lit-for-life-2018-kicks-off/article22441717.ece

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