The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is the world’s largest free literary festival. This year was the seventh, and there were a record number of visitors, close to 220,000.
The five day Festival, free to the public, brought 240 authors to the events, including Amartya Sen, Jonathan Franzen, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gloria Steinem, Ashok Vajpeyi, SR Faruqi, Ved Mehta, Reza Aslan, Samantha Shannon, Ganesh Devy, MT Vasudevan, Nair Mahesh Dattani and Narendra Kohli.
The mega gathering event of literary enthusiasts began on Friday in Jaipur with a keynote address by the nobel laureate Amartya Sen. 14,700 hot meals and 1,800 nights in Jaipur hotels were arranged for the 240 authors.
The Festival closed on Tuesday with a rousing debate over democracy and freedom of expression. This often controversial festival ended with no major incidents. At one point, police ejected a protest group that said a TV serial portrayed their culture in a bad light.
The festival was opened by Margaret Alva, the Governor of Rajasthan. 14 different languages were represented.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen Keynote
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen delivered the key note speech, called “A wish a day for a week.” His message was that people should read more books. The seven wishes he spoke about were about strengthening India, promoting a classical education, improving government by a secular right-side party with no religious bias, left-side parties that take care of marginalized people, an improved court system, better resource use, improvements to schools, and a better and more responsible media.
This festival has seen a number of controversies in past years. For example, in 2012, the controversial writer, Salman Rushdie canceled his visit after some religious organizations protested against him, and Rushdie withdrew, fearing for his life.
At the opening, one of the Festival producers said the organizers want to ensure freedom of views is possible at the prestigious festival.
“We haven’t done anything to avoid controversies, we just want to ensure that freedom of being able to present different views exists,” Festival producer Sanjay Roy said.
On day one, the Festival hosted Gloria Steinem, Irrfan Khan, Jonathan Franzen, Raj Kundra, Ved Mehta, Urvashi Butalia and Antony Beevor amongst many other writers from Rajasthan and across India.