Karnataka Sahitya Sammelana

Anger over attack on freedom of expression resonates in speeches

Presidential address: Chandrashekar Patil speaking at the inauguration of the 83rd Akhila Bharata Kannada Sahitya Sammelana in Mysuru on Friday.  

The opening day of the 83rd Akhila Bharata Kannada Sahitya Sammelana provided a platform to condemn the “attack on freedom of expression” by almost every guest on the dais — from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and sammelana president Chandrashekar Patil to the previous president Baragur Ramachandrappa.

They condemned attacks on rationalists, writers, and intellectuals. The murder of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh set the tone for this line of discussion.

The Chief Minister, in his inaugural address, condemned efforts to undermine freedom of expression under the pretext of patriotism and nationalism. Calling himself “a firm believer in freedom of expression”, he said literature, music, painting, and the media are all different faces of freedom of expression which were increasingly under threat.

Mr. Ramachandrappa sought an answer from the congregation on whether they want a country “where people are victimised for questioning and airing their opinion and recording their dissent” or “a pluralist nation which stands for secular and democratic values”. He said, “The murders of Gauri Lankesh and M.M. Kalburgi have raised questions on whether we need a ‘supari culture’ or harmonious culture where people engage in debate over a controversial issue.” Underlining the need for the community of writers and cultural icons to respond to the “present crisis”, Mr. Ramachandrappa said intellectuals need to play the role of an “anti-hero”.

He recalled the way progressive forces united and opposed the Emergency in the 1970s, and said the country was now moving towards “cultural dictatorship”.

Launching a more direct attack, Mr. Patil, in his presidential address, questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the killings of Gauri and Kalburgi.

He sought to know the reason behind not condemning attack on freedom of expression.

“Modi is not the Prime Minister of one political party, he represents hundred-plus crore people in the country,” he said.


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