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Mahasweta Devi's inaugural address sets the tone for five-day Jaipur Lit Fest
India's mood of discontent, wanting answers from its government and trying to figure its way out, was reflected at the beginning of the Jaipur Literary Festival (JLF), which kick-started with a rousing speech from Mahasweta Devi. The octogenarian writer said, 'The right to dream should be made a fundamental right.' This set the tone of the entire session, which was introduced by Naveen Kishore, who has published most of her seminal works in English translation at Seagull.

The festival is in its sixth year and last year it saw a major controversy surrounding the visit of Salman Rushdie and his works. The organizers have said that they cannot be coerced this year and they have scheduled bold subjects for their sessions such as Sharia law, gay and lesbian literature and the 18th century sexual revolutions.

Among the prominent faces seen on the first day of the festival were Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore, Urvashi Bhutalia and Kiran Bedi. On the one hand Mahasweta Devi talked about how she got into writing, 'middle class morality being a sham' and her favourite pharse, 'Body phele debo', retired Dalai Lama , on the other hand, talked about crime against women and how he tries to learn new things each day.

The organizers said their guests were “most cerebral, intellectually-stimulating and high powered”. Books on 9/11, Latin American literature and literature from the Arab world would also be hosted in the festival. Pakistani authors Nadeem Aslam and Mohammad Hanif would also be introduced to the Indian audience in the biggest Asian literary festival. However, Hanif has pulled out of the festival, apparently due to personal reasons. But many people believe that he might have faced some visa issues, apparently fallout of the LoC controversy between India and Pakistan.

Co-director of the fest and an imminent author himself, William Dalrymple said, “It's going to be absolutely extraordinary five days and only wish it were possible to clone oneself so that one could attend five sessions simultaneously,” India Today reported.

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