Reflections On The Jaipur Literature Festival
January 20, 2011: Incest is a reality but perhaps all civilizations have been wary of it. Jaipur Literature Festival that began as ‘civil society’ initiative in 2006 has developed into a DSC Limited sponsored festival of literature for the last five years.
It is time one ponders over the public relations exercise and the facade of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of companies that sponsor and partner for this festival. If one examines the credentials of some of the sponsors of the festival briefly, it presents a disturbing picture:
In the inspection of scam ridden Commonwealth Games, Central Vigilance Commission had observed that DSC Limited as having been awarded 23% higher rates
Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third- largest mining company has been deemed guilty of collusion with fascist and racist regimes and faces allegations of human, labour and environmental rights violations around the world and over decades
Shell Oil Company, the largest energy company and the second-largest company in the world in terms of revenues has been deemed responsible for the death of Ken Saro Wiwa, the Nigerian author and environmental activist
Is it possible for the delegates at the festival to give voice to their moral outrage and support the message of National Union of Ogoni Students dated 4th January, 2011 issued to mark the 18th anniversary of the UN declaration of the “year of the indigenous peoples” appealing to the Dutch Parliament to break its silence by making the Shell Oil Company liable for the exploitation of Ogoni people, their environmental and its role in the destabilization of Niger Delta communities and its demand that the Shell Oil be expelled from Nigeria?
Isn’t literature interested in truth? Or does it not seek opportunities to allow itself to be co-opted by powers of all ilks so that they can facilitate the maintenance of that power?
Is literature interested only in lies that create a make belief reality and conceptual gymnastics about people’s interest while serving commercial czars?
If writers at the festival believe that a better life is possible and should be achieved, it would be germane for them to ponder how being complicit in promoting status quo is contrary to their beliefs?
Is it not possible that a literature festival supported by unethical and immoral business enterprises is an exercise aimed at ‘clinical manipulation’ masquerading as a feel good event akin to be an ‘act of hypnosis’?
Do this festival and its participants have the emotional and intellectual depth to fathom the cognitive ramifications of 'full spectrum dominance' ideology on the present and future generations?
The writers at the festival must ponder over: what is the immoral equivalent of taking sponsorship from the killers Ken Saro Wiwa, the Nigerian author and environmental activist who was posthumously elected to the United Nations Environment Programme's, Global 500 Roll of Honour for advancing environmental protection? Saro Wiwa said in his closing statement to the Nigerian Military appointed Tribunal that condemned him to death: “Shell is here on trial…the Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come…The crime of the Company’s dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished.”
Will a literature festival that gets sponsored by Coca Cola Company be saved from the moral responsibility to consider the fact that the Company’s water-intensive bottling plants in Plachimada, Kerala and Kala Dera, Rajasthan have dried up groundwater and local wells, forcing residents to rely on water supplies from outside the areas? The same situation is witnessed in and around the areas of some 52 water-intensive bottling plants of the company in India.
Will a literature festival that gets sponsored by those governments which are involved in genocides, civil wars, war crimes, aggression, occupation, protecting despots and fraudulent financialization have the conscience to examine as to why there are some 702 military installations of world’s super power throughout the world in 132 countries along with 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads?
How is possible for the literary minds to probe the psyche of ‘infantile insanity’ if it allows itself to be inundated by it?
“A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection - unless you lie - in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician”, said Harold Pinter while delivering his speech at the award of Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. He added, “...to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.”
One hope the Jaipur Literary festival will pay heed to Pinter’s advice and undo its unwitting acts of Faustian bargain before it is too late.
Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties, Mb: 9818089660, Email:
Prakash K Ray, Jawaharlal Nehru University Researchers Association, Mb: 9873313315,
*The list of partners and sponsors of Jaipur Literature Festival click here.