Mysuru: Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram wondered why the Mysuru Literature Festival was not called Cauvery Literature Festival.
Delivering the valedictory address at the First Mysuru Literature Festival organised by the Mysuru Literary Forum Charitable Trust and Book Clubs 2015, at Wind Chimes here yesterday, Chidambaram, in his nearly 40-minute address, stressed on three words – power, accountability and tolerance and also talked about liberty and freedom of expression.
He said that he was delighted to be in Mysuru after travelling the whole day attending a wedding in Madurai, visiting his constituency Sivaganga (from where he was elected seven times) and reaching the city by road.
Quoting Mussolini and his thoughts on liberty, Chidambaram said that a similar ideological practice was seen in Germany and in countries like Turkey, Russia, many African countries and Venezula. “However, the liberty of the individual should not violate the Constitution or the laws upheld by the Courts.”
Having served the Parliament and the Court, he said that he had seen sometimes, both overstep their limits. The worst time was when Emergency was imposed. Taking a dig at the disturbing trend seen in the country today, Chidambaram said, “Today everything is being monitored. What should one read, not read, who should one love, not love, what to eat and what not to eat.”
It is time to pause and consider what is happening. “Let me give you a few examples which will shake you to the core,” he said and gave the example of Rohit Vemula suicide and said “In a way Indian society has not changed very much. First Vemula was excluded and then expelled. Take also when the Dalit boys were beaten up for not removing the carcasses of cattle. It is like damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
It all boils down to power and accountability. “Ultimately as elected representatives, they are accountable. When they win elections they promise under the rules of law that they will protect the voiceless, poor and downtrodden,” he said and added, “They have to be held accountable.”
There is multiplying social degradation.”What is happening? I cannot talk to my own 16-year old granddaughter directly. The children do not talk to the parents, because there is so much of conflict. Instead of asking how many marks you got, ask who is your classmate? Go to her house, have lunch, find out what she eats, invite her to your house,” said Chidambaram.
Bringing the Kashmir issue to the forefront, he said, “It is a controversy you can’t duck. Article 370 is as much a part of the Constitution as any other Article. Everybody was in power in Kashmir. Over the years resentment has built. When asymmetric devolution of power is given to Nagaland, Mizoram, why not to Kashmir?”
Recalling how he led an all party delegation to Kashmir after the 2010 riots as the Union Home Minister, he said, “A young college girl came to me and asked, ‘Why is the army in Srinagar at my doorstep? I did not have a direct answer. I asked her, ‘Where do you think it should be?’ She replied, ‘Send it to the border.’”
Taking on the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, on the current financial status of the country, Chidambaram said, “Agreed that any PM or FM can only do so much. If not every day, every other day you should look at three or four numbers as Finance Minister.”
He asked the audience gathered, “What is the additional capital investment in the last 12 months?” And when the reply was in the negative, he said, “Investment has declined.” Then, “Who is getting credit? The small and medium industries are not getting it. Only a few corporates are getting. It is the lowest in 40 years. When there is no lending, there is no borrowing too,” he said.
“I was passionately fond of Rajiv Gandhi. Both of us were of the same age and we got along very well. I am a great admirer of Indira Gandhi, in spite of a few excesses. But the greatest Prime Minister according to me is our first PM Jawaharlal Nehru,” he said and added, “Because he saw India through the lens of history.”
A lively question and answer session followed.
Earlier, Indira Brunner Chandrashekhar introduced Chidambaram.
Panel Discussions: The panel discussion titled “Defence Stories-Protecting India Within and Without” in which Air Marshall K.C. Cariappa (retd) and K. Vijaykumar who wrote on “Veerappan—Chasing the Brigand,” moderated by Aroon Raman, a fiction writer, was lively and engaging.
Book lovers also participated in other panel discussions like Kannada Women Writers on the portrayal of women in the media, literary fiction, crime fiction and royal biographies.
The curtains were finally drawn and the first Mysuru Literature Festival organised by the Book Clubs’ ladies was a success. And according to the audience, Mysuru should host more such lit fests and not only the public but also the academia should participate.