The Second Edition of Mangaluru Literature Festival kicked off with the inaugural ceremony, ‘Genesis’, on November 29 at Dr. TMA Pai Hall in the coastal city. Genesis was inaugurated by Jnanpith award winner Dr. Chandrashekhara Kambara. Dr M. Chidananda Murthy, Dr N Vinaya Hegde, Dr B.V. Vasanth Kumar and M.S. Chaitra were the dignitaries present on the dais. The event began with the traditional lighting of the lamp, rendition of Sanskrit slokas and an enthralling Yakshagana performance.
Kannada poet, playwright, and folklorist, Dr. Chandrashekara Kambara addressed the audience and spoke about how British rule in India led us into aping their culture. Not only India’s wealth but also its rich heritage, knowledge and values were altered to suit their agenda. “The day we started obeying the Westerners, we had already lost the battle”, he said. He added how Indian writers sought inspiration not from the West and not from our Indian poets and novelists. “In an era, where people are slaves to modern technology and western culture, it is high time to pause, reflect and think. It is important to teach our future generation about our past writers”.
Dr. N Vinaya Hegde, Chancellor, Nitte University, said that the younger generation must have its own identity. Every religion deserves respect and loyalty to the country is of utmost importance. “Any person that preaches violence has no place in our country”, he said, adding that quest for peace shouldn’t be seen as weakness.
M.S. Chaitra, an Ecologist, and Director of ‘Aarohi’, in his address elaborated on how colonial mindset had impacted our lives and said that what India can offer to the world is something that everyone can learn. He opined that India does not need 65,000 psychiatrists but effective institutions that give happiness.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. M Chidananda Murthy was awarded Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to literature and lifelong research. Dr B.V. Vasanth Kumar, President, Karnataka Sahitya Academy, introduced Dr. M Chidananda Murthy as a persona who can sacrifice everything for uplift of our culture, heritage and literature of the country. A biography on Dr. Chidananda Murthy, ‘Satyam Shodham Nirbheetam’ was also launched during the session.
(From L) Prof. ND Nalapat, Shri Anand Ranganathan and Syed Ata Hasnain at the Fest
In his address, researcher and historian, Dr. M Chidananada Murthy thanked God. He said God is the ultimate truth and that Bharat is the real name of India.He added that the term ‘Dharma’ is not merely confined to religion but it is also not translatable to any other language”. Bharat has never invaded any country nor has it imposed its way on others. However, Bharat has been invaded by many and been target of physical, geographical and intellectual assaults over centuries. Fighting back to protect Dharma and truth is not wrong, he said.
Mother and Motherland are beyond heaven. We have to love and respect our Motherland, he said. He applauded the move to abrogate Article 370 by the Government and also praised the State Government for stopping Tipu Jayanti.
The lit fest was held in 31sessions spread across three arenas—the Chavadi, Two Sides and Manthan. The sessions disucssed Ayodhya, prominent persons who embraced Hinduism, bias in media, and Islam were the focus of the fest.
Excavating the Truth
Dr. KK Muhammed, former Director of Archeological Survey of India, shared his journey as an archaeologist throughout the Mandir-Masjid issue to an eager audience in the session ‘Excavating Truth’ at the fest.
He said, “During the first excavation they found 12 pillars which belonged to Hindu architectural practices”. However, he later added that a reputed historian stated in the media that there were no temples. In the second archaeological survey, which he was not a part of, there were findings which reinstated the existence of a temple before the mosque. He added that “the current SC judgment is based on these findings”.
He further said that the Muslim community should now voluntarily come forward to hand over Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi and Krishna Janmastham Complex in Mathura to the Hindus. They missed a good opportunity to do so at Ayodhya thanks to the influence the Marxist historians had on them, KK Muhammed said. “Hinduism is a tolerant religion and India is truly secular only because it is a Hindu majority country. We need to adopt Indian heroes such as Lord Ram, which even Muslim countries have done,” he said.
The session ended with the release of the Kannada version of the book ‘Njanenna Bharatheeyan’ by Dr. KK Muhammed translated into Kannada by Narasimha Rao.
A session on “India Calling” was held with Maria Wirth and Henrietta Lucy Guest and moderated by Ravi Iyer. Maria Wirth brought out the irony in her life, talking about how she did not like India during her first visit and how she vowed to never return. However, she fell in love with the culture and philosophy after her second visit and has not left in 39 years.
During her second visit, Wirth visited Swami Vivekananda’s memorial in Kanyakumari and bought two of his books, after reading of which she felt she had found the truth she had always been seeking. On her way to Himachal, she was suggested that she pass through Hardwar and visit the Kumbh Mela, which was a turning point in her life.
Henrietta Lucy’s journey to seek out infinite energy in the universe began when she was young. She recalled how an incident with nuns at her Christian school triggered her to question “Who Am I”. To seek answers, she joined a Meditation group and came to India. She had decided to stay for a few years but has stayed on for 20 years now, she said.
Noted archaeologist Shri KK Muhammedduring the Lit Fest
Wirth said that Hindus are not aware of Christianity and Islam, and what they actually are. “Once a conversion happens, Indian Christians and Muslims are more strongly indoctrinated”, she said. Lucy said that there is a lack of knowledge on Bharat and Hinduism in the West. “Bharat means that which is joined by Light, Light being knowledge. Hinduism is not a religion. If one seeksinfinite consciousness, light and knowledge, one becomes Hindu by nature”, she said.
Is Media Biased?
A panel discussion on whether the Indian media was biased was held at the ‘Chavadi’ stage of the Lit Fest. Atul Kulkarni opened up the discussion on bias in media stating, “The difference between news and advertisement have been blurred”, adding that today online news portals are headed by the ‘Big Daddys’ of older media.
Smita Prakash, Editor-in-Chief of ANI, began the conversation arguing that the media can’t be homogenized as the preferences of each of the regional media, traditional media and national media are different. She compared Doordarshan to the head of the family, as everyone would obey and follow. But today there are enough choices; people need not follow one media house; instead they could explore and rely on several media sources. Smita further said, “Believe what you want to believe and make an intelligent choice”.
Barkha Dutt, in her response, elaborated on how dynamics of control happens in media. The tyranny in media, according to Barkha, is, “The tyranny of control in state media whilst tyranny of market in private media and tyranny of the algorithm in web portals, amidst these tyrannies the person who is crushed is the reporter”. On media bias, she argued that there exists a ‘conformationbias’ where people won’t accept the negative opinion on the content which they already believe in. Putting forth her own experience, she said: “If all sides of ideologies attack, then your story is good”. She further added, “The constant labellingof media as bias is exaggerated!”
Responding to Barkha’s argument on ‘conformation bias,’ Smita argued that ‘conformation bias’also exists among journalists and that they vouch for stories according to their bias.
Islam in India
Governor of Kerala Shri Arif Mohammad Khan sat down in conversation with R Jagannathan over ‘Islam in India’ at the Lit Fest. In his address, he traced back to the inter-religious differences which existed in Islam. “There existed a sharp division even among the different schools of thought from the early days of Islam”, he said. He explained the differences in religious practices among the Muslims in Northern and Southern part of India and claimed that the Southern part of India accommodates enormous harmony among the religious communities, due to commonality in language, food and culture. He opined that Islam in North India was mostly introduced through the foreign Invaders whereas in the South it was introduced by the Arab traders.
“Religion is medium to establish the relation between the creator and creation,” Khan said.“Between creator and creation no third party should be allowed to interfere,” he said.While talking about Islamic Jihad, he said he was staunchly against the military expedition of the caliphates and considered these as a means to expand their dominance rather than the true cause of religion.
He urged us to restore harmony among the various religious communities, whilst quoting several verses from the Qoran, Tulsidas, and Swami Vivekananda. He concluded the discussion by quoting Maulana Rumi “The purpose of religion is to bring people together and establish harmony”.
The second session of Two Sides on Day 2 was a talk by Vikram Sampath on the life and legacy of V.D. Savarkar. Sampath is the author of “Sarvarkar: Echoes from a Forgotten Past”, which details Savarkar’s life and his ideology before and after Independence.
Sampath started by describing Savarkar’s idea of Hindutva as an inclusive social order based on geography rather than religion. In his version of Hindutva, past injustices of the society are subverted for equality and harmony in society. According to Sampath, Savarkar’s ideology of Hindutva came as a response to the politicisation of Islam by Gandhi and his allies during the Khilafat movement. There was further discussion on the differing ideologies of Gandhi and Savarkar.
Savarkar’s role in the freedom struggle was discussed at length with emphasis on his passivity during the movement itself. Hindu Mahasabha couldn’t ally with the Muslim League. Savarkar himself believed that the Congress’ pandering to the minorities was unsustainable for the formation of an equal society. Sampath argued that Savarkar’s role during the Independence struggle was to give an ideological and intellectual base to it. He concluded that many aspects of Savarkar’s Hindutva ideology differed from the mainstream Hindutva ideologies prevalent today and that his broad vision for India has come to fruition.
A Peep into Kashmir Future
The recent developments in Kashmir Valley and the future of the newly formed Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh were discussed at the Lit Fest. Anand Ranganathan opened the discussion with a brief history of Kashmir issue starting with the post-Independence period to the revocation of the Article 370 and 35A. He shed light on discrimination against migrants who were brought from other parts of the country to do menial jobs in Kashmir.
Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, in his opening remarks, said, “We have only heard about the ISI and not about Pak’s ISPR that’s propagating an anti-India narrative”. India is in dire need of good PR and media game in the international forum. He added internet connectivity was the main problem in the valley. Violent protests were organized using mobile internet against the state. As there was a connectivity black out, no such incidents took place this time.
When asked about how political leaders thrived on separatist ideologies, Prof MD Nalapat said, “The more trouble you create in Kashmir, the richer you get. It is profitable to be anti-Indian”, he said. These leaders go to Gulf countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia to seek funds for extremists.Treating people differently, which started in 1947 just because they are Muslim, is the root cause of all our problems we see today, he said.
Dr Waeil Ahmad, a native of Syria, opined that, “People of Kashmir are victims of separatism. J&K is an integral part of India”. Integration of the valley into India can be done by assuring of them being part of a progressive democracy, he said.