Education The 3-Day Aligarh Literary Festival Kicks Off Virtually

The 3-Day Aligarh Literary Festival Kicks Off Virtually

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Tuesday, 9 March 2021 marked the first day of the Aligarh Literary Festival (ALF).

The three-day virtual event is being organised by the Students Islamic Organisation, Aligarh Muslim University Zone (SIO AMU) in collaboration with the Centre for Educational Research and Training (CERT).

Inaugural session of the festival featured opening addresses by Syed Ahmed Muzakkir, General Secretary, SIO and Fawaz Shaheen, Director, CERT which was followed by the launch of the book ‘Minority Status: AMU and JMI’.

The session was hosted by Talha Mannan, Zonal President, SIO AMU.

After welcoming the audience, Tahla stressed on the importance of campuses for discussion, debate and dialogue and that ALF is a manifestation of this need.

“If I had to summarise this festival, I would say that this festival is a humble effort to know”, he reflected, pointing out that both AMU and SIO have a rich tradition of discussion, dialogue and activism. He proceeded to introduce and welcome the guests.

Syed Ahmed Muzakkir began by welcoming the audience and went on to describe the festival as a “celebration of thoughts and ideas”.

Dwelling briefly upon AMU’s rich tradition of dialogue that has existed both pre- and post-independence, he congratulated the organisers on their efforts, and expressed his hopes that, with the participants’ indulgence, the festival will be a success and will be received in good spirit by the audience.

Following Muzakkir’s address, Fawaz Shaheen took over. He remarked that India has had some vastly successful literary festivals in the past few years, but these festivals appear to be “sanitised spaces” where uncomfortable topics are censored or conveniently avoided.

Shaheen said that these festivals had turned into a commodity rather than a space for meaningful discussions.

Shaheen said that the university campuses were suffering rigorous censorship, at the cost of healthy dialogue, in the current environment.

“The remarkable feat of ALF, therefore, is that it aims to address the important topics that would otherwise be suppressed. The topics addressed at ALF will range from writing, poetry and pop culture; to fake news and technology-related privacy concerns; to the questions of identity, religion and spirituality.” he added.

Shaheen further added that the Indian identity is presented as uniform and monolithic in most academic settings, and that ALF will spark conversation about the spectrum of identities that exist within India, and will invite discussion on religious identity. This, according to Shaheen, will encourage young Muslims to reject the ham-fisted approach of tailoring the narrative in order to find a sense of belonging, or associating Muslim identity with Mughal rule; and instead to assert their identity unapologetically.

Applauding the courage of the organisers, he expressed his high hopes for the program. Commenting on the limitations of virtual events, he reflected that, despite all the inconveniences, it would probably be impossible to host such an illustrious panel of guests if the programme were to be held online.

The session came to an end with the cover-reveal of the book ‘Minority Status: AMU and JMI’.

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