The reason behind the first AMU Literary Festival: A Photo-feature and a Note

AMU students hold the first AMU Lit Fest

The students at Aligarh Muslim University, innaugurated the first edition of the AMU Lit fest on 20th March. The three-day festival opened with a key note lecture by Jerry Pinto who spoke on “Why we should tell our stories”. A range of panel discusisons on a variety of themes, with enthusiastic participation of students, ran parallel with sessions of the Asian Parliamentray Debate.  In the grand finale held at the Kennedy auditorium, teams from IIT BHU and Law College, Dehradun debated the topic “This House Believes that India is an Idea; not just a country”.

Sobia Abidin, a student at AMU explains what drove her and her fellow students to organize the AMU Lit fest.

A discussion on Kafkaland: Dr. Mohammad Sajjad, Manisha Sethi and Dr. Mohibul Haq in conversation. The discussion was moderated by Fawaz Shaheen
A discussion on Kafkaland: Dr. Mohammad Sajjad, Manisha Sethi and Dr. Mohibul Haq in conversation. The discussion was moderated by Fawaz Shaheen
Prof. Puroshottam Agrwal reading his new story 'NACOHAS' at the festival. This was followed by a lively discussion on the right to offend and censorship
Prof. Puroshottam Agrwal reading his new story ‘NACOHAS’ at the festival. This was followed by a lively discussion on the right to offend and censorship

The first ever AMU Literary Festival was perhaps the only literary festival in the history of literature in India, which was organized solely by students, who would ultimately be the veterans of tomorrow’s literature. Unlike literature festivals organized by corporate houses for the sheer purpose of business and money making, the AMU Literary Festival was an initiative with a different resolution. The literary festival was a bold initiave to retrieve literature from people producing art for the sake of art, and to celebrate art for the sake of life. The fest aimed at reviving the true essence of literature, which goes beyond the mere commercial tactics of profit making that corporate houses play with at their literature festivals. The idea with which students organized the festival was to resuscitate the literature that gives meaning to life, and inculcate the principles of that literature in budding writers.

An all student panel discussing pamphlets, posters and politics
An all student panel discussing pamphlets, posters and politics

The goal was formidable, but certainly not an impossible one. We as organizers made sure the guests invited to the festival also believed in the idea of literature that was behind our festival. We looked for people who were writing not simply to create a masterpiece of art, but to hold to the society a mirror with its reflection- which, we believe, is the purpose of literature.

Writer Jerry Pinto interacting with students after his key note lecture
Writer Jerry Pinto interacting with students after his key note lecture

In this process, we invited our guests carefully. We sent out invitations to people working with literature in a wide and diverse dimension, either trying to revive a forgotten form of the art or writing for a cause. This gave the festival a broader literary aspect, as was hoped by the students. The festival organised panels and conversations relating to significant and attention seeking issues and subjects of literature, culture and society. From discussions on literary topics like the Indian novel, science fiction, the importance of translation and the attempt to revive the dying art of poetry to debates on urgent societal matters like politics of counter terrorism, Muslim politics, the argument on ‘right to offend’ and the writing of resistance – the festival covered it all. The festival also widened its scope to development economics with the valedictory session, where Dr Samdu Chetri delivered a lecture on sustainable and economic growth.

Journalist Rana Ayyub on the importance of writing resistance in present times
Journalist Rana Ayyub on the importance of writing resistance in present times

Thus perhaps, the success of the festival lies in its eccentric and sincere concept. Not only was the festival successful in achieving its aim, but it also gave a platform to the aspiring writers among students to learn the art they so cherish. Literature aspirants eagerly sitting among the audience acquired not one but a hundred rules of writing, which will help them ‘break those rules’. These students, through questions and answers sessions after the panels got a chance to ask what bothers them about the subject. After each panel was over, the students also had the chance to interact with the guests in the authors’ lounge, and take a piece of advice from the people excelling in the profession. The aesthetically designed festival area, decorated with joy and love by students would trump a professional event organiser any day!

Poet Sudeep Sen signing his new collection of poetry for students
Poet Sudeep Sen signing his new collection of poetry for students

Hence it would not be wrong to say, that in spite of being the very first of its kind of literary festivals, the AMU Literary Festival was a triumph attained by the students of the university. The festival is a brilliant start of a legacy, a new chapter in the history of the university.

  • Hiba Kakul

    Very well written Sobia 🙂