Home Lead Story Day 2 of AMU Litfest focuses on threats to literature and democracy

Day 2 of AMU Litfest focuses on threats to literature and democracy

Shoaib Daniyal and Mahtab Alam with others

Sharjeel Usmani for TwoCircles.net

The Cultural Education Centre (CEC) of the historic Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on the second day of the AMU Literary Festival 2019, 9th March, witnessed a prolific panel with Zia Us Salam, Shoaib Daniyal, staffer at Scroll and Mirza Asmer Beg, Professor at AMU.

Speaking on majoritarianism and its threat to democracy, the panel stressed upon the basic principles of democracy.

“To live and to let live has always been the concept of secularism in India” said Shoaib Daniyal. Shedding more light on the secular ethics Zia Us Salam pointed that “our democracy in the past was more inclusive, more tolerant, your religion or language was not paramount”.

He justified his words quoting the example of a Hindu mythological movie ‘Jai Santoshi Maa’, the rituals shown in the movie were followed by the Hindu women who took the help of their Muslim counterparts to understand the language. Back then even the posters of the movies would be in printed in Urdu but now Urdu has been relegated to the background because it is considered as the language of the Muslims.

Daniyal also said that we should stop watching those tv channels that propagate hate if we want to bring a change.

Author Ziya Us Salam and journalist Shoaib Daniyal

Taking the discussion further Professor Beg, on the democratic values stressed upon the fact that the citizens must respect the democracy and not use it in a way so as to use it to harm anyone. “If you don’t deserve democracy, democracy is going to be counterproductive” he stated.

Ziya Us Salam, then recalled how in 1992 when the Babri-Masjid was demolished, the VHP goons would come near his house and shout slogans harassing the Muslim community. He said in comparision to the neighbouring country Pakistan, Indian democracy is far better than that of Pakistan because India’s democracy is based on the values of secularism and tolerance.

At the same time he hailed the Pak PM Imran Khan for sacking a minister for his comments allegedly hurting the sentiments of the Pakistani Hindus. He advised the Indian counterpart to show the same kind of respect to the disadvantaged classes. A PM who mocks a person with a medical problem should get himself a medical check-up” he said in reference to the PM Modi’s joke while talking about dyslexic children.

Ziya Us Salam also spoke on his latest book ‘Lynch Files’. He began his lecture with a question – Why Akhlaq. He went on to say that lynching has become a new normal in our country, further stating that people are not allowed to question lynching. He claimed, “In lynching you are not accountable for the murder and also inflict maximum pain to the victim”.

He quoted Rahul Gandhi’s words at the AICC meeting that “ the more you are anti-government, you are seen as anti-India”.

 Similar statements have been made by journalist Ravish Kumar, actor-turned politician Prakash Raj, editor and journalist Siddharth Varadarajan among others. The speaker alleged that 97% of lynchings have been reported after 2014.

Author Jerry Pinto with others

Ziya Us Salam, questioned the ruling party’s strategy and said, “You can’t give jobs, can’t give prosperity, can’t eliminate poverty so just divert the topic”. He emphasised that the lower class and minorities are always victimised. Expressing his grief on hate crimes against already marginalized sections of the society, he recalls that he has been a witness to some of the killings in 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms.

“The idea is clear, you kill a Muslim, your body will be wrapped in a tricolour flag”, said the speaker. He also said “In lynching, the attackers are powered enough to film what they are doing”. Quoting the observation of the Supreme Court he said “we need a special law to tackle lynching cases”.

Answering a question from the audience, Ziya Us Salam, said that lynchings are a reflection of parallelism between the German Nazi and India. He says “When a common man doesn’t speak, it’s extremely disturbing”.

Another author who spoke at the event was bestselling author Nazia Erum. She spoke on the stereotyping of Muslim women in all strata of society.

Author Nazia Erum

The second day of the festival began with a panel discussion on the threat to literature in the age of social media where noted author and journalist Jerry Pinto said, “If a country will not save its language, it will have no future”.

The Aligarh Muslim University Literary Festival is known for having discussions which otherwise are overlooked by other corporate backed mainstream literary festivals held across India. The festival was started in 2015 by the students of AMU, and has been held annually ever since.

Sharjeel Usmani is a student of AMU