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Bangalore Lit Festival: Fest chief Vikram Sampath quits amid row over ‘award wapsi’ remark

Vikram Sampath said he was stepping down due to an apprehension that his presence might lead to more writers to stay away from the event.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
November 30, 2015 2:29:59 am
Vikram Sampath, bangalore lit fest, bangalore literature festival, bangalore lit festival director, bangalore lit fest vikram sampath, award wapsi vikram sampath, vikram sampath steps down vikram sampath resign, bengaluru news, bangalore news, india news, intolerance Sampath announced his decision to step down as festival director on Saturday to enable smooth conduct of the event. (Source: vikramsampath.com)

The Bangalore Literature Festival, which is scheduled to be held next week, has run into rough weather with its founder director, Vikram Sampath, stepping down days after three Kannada writers refused to participate in the event because of his remarks on writers returning their awards.

Sampath announced his decision to step down as festival director on Saturday to enable smooth conduct of the event.

“Took a painful decision 2 step down from @BlrLitFest that i started cos of tolerance mafia,’’ Sampath tweeted Saturday, a couple of days after three writers pulled out of the festival, scheduled for December 5 and 6, citing Sampath’s views and other reasons.

The writers — Arif Raja, T K Dayanand and O L Nagabhushana — took offence to Sampath’s description of writers returning awards as “neither intellectual nor academic in spirit’’.

“I am reluctant to participate in an event organised by those who are not willing even to pause and examine the anguish of writers who have decided to return their awards,’’ said Nagabhushana. He cited low priority given to Kannada writers as another reason for staying away.

In a letter to the organisers, T K Dayananda said: “A little bit of reading about the festival organisers made me realise that they have been critical of writers returning their awards. The organisers have the right to criticise and I have the right to view the same through the prism of right and wrong.”

Sampath said he was stepping down due to an apprehension that his presence might lead to more writers to stay away from the event. “Over the past few days, I seem to have become the target of a personalised campaign that, I believe, is for two reasons. First, my personal view point on why I do not subscribe to the ‘award wapsi’ campaign. Second, was my stance on the recent Tipu Sultan controversy and a subsequent petition signed by me along with a group of eminent historians, archaeologists, epigraphists and artists on the need for recognising multiple view points and narratives in Indian historiography,’’ said Sampath in a note announcing his decision to step down.

“Several of my fellow authors and speakers have cited these two instances as reasons for their withdrawal from participating in the upcoming edition of the Bangalore Literature Festival. I now find this distressing scenario where my personal freedom of expression is coming in the way of the festival,’’ stated Sampath. He, however, offered to be a speaker at the event.

Sampath has written two books — Splendours of Royal Mysore: The Untold Story of the Wodeyars, a book on the history of the erstwhile royal family of Mysuru, and My Name is Gauhar Jaan – The Life and Times of a Musician, the biography of the first Indian classical musician to produce a gramophone record. In 2011, he won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar award for Gauhar Jaan. He founded the Bangalore Lit Fest with novelist Shinie Antony in 2012.

Prior to his decision to step down, Sampath and Anthony issued a statement asking writers to reconsider their decision.

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