After several star speakers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, including CP Surendran, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat, among others, have been accused of sexually harassing multiple women, on the sidelines of the popular lit fest, the organisers, in a cautiously worded one-sentence tweet, on October 18, have supported the rising tide of the #MeToo campaign in India -- but questions still remain.
"The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival unequivocally stands by the women who have courageously spoken out for equity and dignity and is committed to supporting and amplifying their voices," the official handle of the JLF said in a tweet on October 18.
The statement came two days after a petition was started on www.change.org by writer-editor Rajni George, asking its organisers to support the #MeToo India and stand up "against sexual harassment".
"We write today regarding the serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment made recently against a number of men in and around the literary world, as part of the MeToo movement in India.
"We, the undersigned, are dismayed, saddened and angered by these accounts. We admire the work that the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) undertakes. As India's largest and most recognised literature festival, we believe JLF is ideally placed to take the lead in addressing this urgent issue," George's petition said.
JLF's response in the one-line tweet is general and does not specifically mention whether any of the allegations that have now surfaced were earlier brought to the notice of the organisers.
It also does not make it clear whether the doors of the festival will remain closed for the accused in its future editions, or not. It further makes no comment whatsoever on several instances that are said to have taken place on the sidelines of the annual event.
Notably, many of the accused have featured in prominent sessions at what is described as the "greatest literary show on Earth", and, in many instances, the festival has been instrumental in increasing their popularity as well as readership.
On its part, JLF, produced by Teamwork Arts, headed by Sanjoy K. Roy, and with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore. In fact, the 2018 edition of the festival in January this year had come to a close with a hard-hitting debate on #MeToo, long before the campaign gained momentum in India.
Many in the literary circles feel the benchmark that JLF has itself set over the course of its journey, its coming of age and gradual but distinct shift from controversies to substance in the recent years, its fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned.
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