Winter is the season for festivals celebrating literature, art, culture – trend-setters that tell us what one must read/ watch/ see and how. Publishers use the platforms of literary festivals to publicize their books, showcase their authors and boost their outreach; corporates fund these spaces as part of their social responsibilities to wash their hands off the blood of the people, and states watch on, encouraging and supporting these enterprises to whitewash histories of oppression, brutalities, and structural inequalities.

In the meantime, forests and lands of the adivasis get grabbed and looted in the name of ‘development’, army tanks get stationed at ‘conflict zones’ at the cost of human rights to ensure ‘national security’, differential accesses to livelihood, rights, justice get more institutionalized in accordance to one’s position – caste, class, gender, religion, sexuality, ethnicity, politics, and writings on these issues get awkwardly enveloped and museumed as ‘voices from the margins’ and eventually tamed into ‘order’.

At this juncture when a monolithic idea of nationalism is being shoved down our throats, it becomes all the more important to orient literature to its critical social function, to bring in the voices that challenge these structures and those that are simply not known because they have failed to find room in this system. To do this, to destabilize and disrupt the grand narrative being woven by the corporate festivals, we need to listen to and engage with the dissenting voices, to the cacophony that bears the potential to interrupt this narrative, question, and make dents in the structure.

The People’s Literary Festival is to lay siege to this narrative.

So we are bringing to the fore literature which recognizes the power structures around which our world is built and tells stories – of the jutemill worker whose mill shut down three years ago, of the dead farmer whose loans weren’t written off because she wasn’t Ambani, of the 65-year-old labourer at a construction site whose farmland was taken at gunpoint for ‘development’, of the little Dalit students who clean the plates after the mid-day meals, of the housewife whose dreams and emotions are trampled upon by every member of her family, of the local shop that shut down, of the confused youth with a degree but without a job, of the tired youth without a degree who work fourteen hours in sweatshops, of the patient whose family went broke paying for his treatment at a hospital which was built on land acquired from the government for 1 rupee, of the person who could not ‘love’ the way their parents and their culture wanted them to, of angry women in Manipur and mass graves in Kashmir, of those who rebelled, of the imaginations that scare the ones who want the have-nots to remain that way.

We wish to identify and destroy the structures that create ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, caste and gender roles and other social hierarchies that should have no place in our world. This requires articulation of experiences, thoughts, and imaginations which the ‘mainstream’ that is designed to serve the power elite cannot accommodate or co-opt.

With this in mind, this literary festival is our attempt to start a conversation with writers who have rebelled against these structures in their own ways. And we want to do this without any form of corporate sponsorship.

We ask you to join us, on 24th and 25th March, 2018 at Sukanta Mancha, Phoolbagan, Kolkata, in imagination, in resistance, in solidarity and rage, to listen to this cacophony, to participate, question and together try to make sense of these times.

We will be sending detailed schedule soon.

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Please find attached poster for the event and invitation to the event.

Bastar Solidarity Network (Kolkata Chapter)