Cultures of Peace: Festival of North East
Venue: India Habitat Centre, Lodi Road, New Delhi
Dates: 28th and 29th January
Organised by: Zubaan, Henrich Boll Foundation, India Habitat Center
Press Release by Zubaan:
To say that the northeastern states are different from the rest of India in almost every way is to state the obvious, but it is important in that it requires us to recognize that these “differences” have created rifts giving rise to local insurgencies, demands for secession from the Indian State and to ears of internal conflict and simmering discontent. It is also important to recognize that this region is different from the rest of the country in a way that is inevitable in border areas taking one back to arguments made by scholars and academics, writers and potentially dangerous stance which is what New Delhi has often been accused of doing. To the people of Northeast their world is central to themselves, to “mainland India” it is a borderland but nevertheless the pattern of political violence in Northeast India cannot be seen as temporary or aberrant.
It is apparent that more and more creative writing coming from the region and in many ways the conflicts and impact of these informs the writings of poets, novelists, prose writers, storytellers from these states. Underlying all this is a desire for normalcy, whatever that may mean, and this finds expression in the richness and complexity of writing as well a s the beauty and poignancy of the art and music from the region. A notable feature of writing from the northeast is that while the writers are of all ages and genders (and here is an instance where women do not follow but form the vanguard) there are many young writers and there is a vibrant dialogue between generations through well established sahitya sabhas and literary organizations, writers groups etc. it is these groups that have kept the lines of dialogue open in the Northeast by channeling and giving space to creativity and works of the imagination. So we have a unique situation: a conflict torn region, creative cultural expression that takes this conflict as its base, is enriched by many genres of creative writing and driven by a deep concern and desire for peace and a love of the land. By sheer force this vibrant writing and cultural tradition has made its way beyond the Northeast and a key feature that has helped make it so accessible is the fact that much of the Northeast and a key feature that has helped make it so accessible is the fact tha t much of it is written in English. A festival of peace would allow for the showcasing of this writing and also at the same time look at the whole question of whether or not culture can play a proactive role in bringing about peace. Or at the very least, preparing the ground for it, and how it works. It will also allow for people, both from the Northeast and from outside to talk across borders and to learn from the experience of others, and will, we hope, open up a dialogue among people within Northeast.
Zubaan has been long involved in publishing writers from the Northeast. The publication of their work fits in well with Zubaan’s won commitment to and concern for peace (Zubaan’s list includes books from other violence torn regions like Kashmir, Bangladesh, Pakistan and so on). A festival of peace would allow for the showcasing of this writing and also at the same time look at the whole question of whether or not culture can play a proactive role in bringing about peace, or at the very least, preparing the ground for it, and how this works. It will also allow for people, both from the Northeast and from outside to talk across border and to learn from the experience of others. Zubaan has also been involved in solidarity activities with people in the Northeast: our most recent publication is a collection of poems by Irom Sharmila, to mark the 10th anniversaty of her fast.
Today’s session would start from 3pm. The complete schedule is as follows: