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Youth in Indian-controlled Kashmir fight for independence with art

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Several writers and academics joined prominent Kashmiri writers who spoke out against the event in an open letter on the Internet. The festival might give a false impression of normalization in the region, they said, expressing wariness about organizers’ ties to the Indian government.

How could a literature festival be held in a state where people are not allowed to freely speak their minds? they asked.

But will it hurt artists?

For writers such as Feroz Rather, a shaggy-haired, reflective young man just beginning to cut his teeth in the literary world, the cancellation of the festival is not likely to slow him down.

Growing up in one of the most violent villages in Kashmir, Mr. Rather continues to grapple with how to write about the disturbing events he witnessed. One of his most recent short stories was about his neighbor who was forced by the Indian Army to lick antiestablishment graffiti off a brick wall.

“After the Army made him lick the wall, bruising his tongue, they beat him severely, and the next day he left for Pakistan to become a militant,” writes Rather.

Though he had few resources growing up in Kashmir during the conflict, he says he found his writing voice through the words of James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."

“The novel shattered me and made me cry like a little boy,” Rather says, who is now earning a master of fine arts in fiction at California State University, Fresno. “It vindicated my belief that I will cease to exist the moment I subscribe to the grand-national narratives of India or Pakistan.”

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