The first edition of the Pondy Lit Fest (PLF) 2018 has sparked a row with critics questioning the motive behind organising an event with no prominent names from the world of literature.
After the schedule of the estival was put online a few days ago, social media has been flooded with criticism that the organisers packed the panels with speakers who have right-wing leanings. The issue has resonated even in France where a section of the media had carried articles critical of the decision to host the event at Alliance Francaise, one of the members said.
However, at a press conference on Friday, the organisers refuted the charge that the literary festival was a propaganda platform.
To a question on the online flak for the event, Partha Hariharan, organiser and Director of Indologue Events and Ideas Private Ltd., said the festival had nothing to do with politics or any stream of ideology. “The event is exclusively to project cultural, artistic and literary features. All the participants are noted thought providers and researchers,” he said.
However, whether the reassurance will cut ice with critics remains to be seen.
Tamil writer Ravikumar said that a majority of the panellists were associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or its affiliated organisations. “And where are the literary personalities in the list of panellists. There are only political commentators and columnists,” he said.
He criticised the organisers for not picking any literary personality from the host State. The Union Territory has a number of award winners, he told The Hindu .
Echoing similar sentiments, treasurer of Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association S. Ramachandran alleged that the event looked like an effort to help the RSS get a foothold in the Union Territory.
“They have tried unsuccessfully in the past to whip up communal sentiments, especially to rake up issues related to a certain religious centre. Now, they are trying to influence public opinion in the garb of a literary festival. That is why they have ignored local born literary figures such as Ke Rajnarayanan or Pa Jayaprakasam,” he said.
Mr. Ravikumar and Mr. Ramachandran urged Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy to skip the inaugural event.