Towering personalities to debate burning issues under the theme, ‘Elements of Unity and Division in India’.
Religion, nationalism, education, especially related to teaching of history, and security form the core of the discussions.
The Jaipur Dialogues was launched last year with the objective of furthering a self-confident narrative of Indic values, without erring on the side of jingoism. The first edition in 2016 was an unqualified success, in spite of launching with just eight speakers and spanning over just a day and a half. It generated an uncommon interest among the people, especially in the social media and the community of intellectuals. The ultimate tribute was paid by the online publication Scroll.in, when it tried to assail the effort for daring to breach the left-liberal stranglehold on the intellectual narrative of India.
Within Jaipur, The Jaipur Dialogues became a talking point, and more and more people joined the initiative through the course of the past year. As envisaged, the Jaipur Dialogues Forum proceeded to root the dialogue in the intellectual milieu of the city by conducting an inter-college debate on the very same topic that is slated for the main event – ‘Elements of Unity and Division in India’ with four sub-themes of religion, nationalism, education and history, and security. In the history of literary events, and dialogues, this is probably a first-of-its-kind initiative. Over 20 college teams participated, generating a buzz among the youth of Jaipur.
This year’s topic is a burning issue today, more because of manufactured outrages than due to any spontaneous outpouring. A section of opinion has sought to present certain essential elements of any nation as elements that divide the country. ‘Award Wapasi’ and ‘Not In My Name’ campaigns have been carried out to protest ‘intolerance’, and a section has even gone to the extent of protesting compulsory singing of the National Anthem.
A section of liberal intelligentsia is sponsoring a new brand of identity discord in the name of post-modernism, even as the leftist political class protests the new political realities – not by introspection, but by blaming the electorate for having been misled by a post-truth paradigm. Some even went to the extreme of framing India’s internal and external security apparatus of India as a divisive force.
It is in this backdrop that The Jaipur Dialogues decided to debate ‘Elements of Unity and Division in India’ by underlining religion, nationalism and education with particular reference to teaching of history, and security as the sub-themes. It is around these sub-themes that most of the debate has been centred in the media space, even though most of it has generated more noise than light.
Some of the best minds have been invited to discuss these issues. In keeping with the emphasis on Indian cultural values, the event would be inaugurated on 18 November with a Saraswati Vandana by Jaipur’s most famous emerging classical singer and my gurubhai, Mohammed Amaan of the Agra Gharana, grandson and disciple of Ustad Amir Mohammed Khan.
The debate on religion will feature towering personalities as Dr Sonal Mansingh, Professor Narendra Kohli, Dr David Frawley aka Vamadeva Shastri, and Arif Mohammad Khan. Sanjay Dixit, author of the soon-to-be-launched Krishna Gopeshvara, will moderate this session.
The debate on nationalism is likely to be the most contentious and heated. Shekhar Gupta, Alok Mehta, Sushil Pandit, and Raghav Awasthi are the stars of this session. Sandeep Balakrishna, the author of Tipu Sultan – Tyrant of Mysore, will moderate the session. These two sessions would be held on 18 November. Next two sessions are scheduled for 19 November.
The session on education and teaching of history is the biggest of the event, featuring as many as seven speakers. Prof Narendra Kohli, Mohandas Pai, J Sai Deepak, Prof Makkhanlal, Sankrant Sanu, and Sunil Sharma will form the large panel in this session. Prof Manoj Dixit, vice-chancellor of Awadh University, Ayodhya, will moderate this session.
The session on security will feature Lt Gen Ata Hasnain, Sushant Sareen, Sushil Pandit, and Abhijit Iyer-Mitra. The noted security expert, Yusuf Unjhawala, will moderate this session.
The valedictory session on 20 November would form the overarching centrepiece of the event. This session would have Dr Subramanian Swamy, J Nandakumar, and R Jagannathan, and Tarek Fatah will join the debate from Toronto through Skype. Shefali Vaidya will moderate this session.
Two book launches by Bloomsbury India are adding flavour to this year’s event. On 18 November, a soft launch of Sanjay Dixit’s Krishna Gopeshvara is scheduled. The post-launch discussion would feature the author along with Dr Frawley and Sandeep Balakrishna.
On 19 November, the much-acclaimed The Monk Who Became Chief Minister by Bloomsbury would be launched by its author, Shantanu Gupta. There would be a post-launch discussion featuring the author, Dr Frawley and Shefali Vaidya.
The event will aim to highlight through the debates, issues that impinge the unity and integrity of India directly, and it is in this respect that it hopes to have a salutary impact on the nation’s discourse.