The state government today banned Rai from delivering the Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi Annual Talk, organized by the well-known human rights body, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS). According to the Hindustan Times (HT) the ban was imposed by invoking Section 144, which bans the assembly of more than four people.
“This is appalling that my voice was silenced along side with other speakers. It’s ludicrous. An academic lecture does not fall under Section 144. It was a simple conversation with people here,” said Rai, the HT further reports.
Under the law, there is no requirement for any permission for holding such an event at a private venue. The stench of sabotage is potent. It fits in with a string of oppressive measures to repress cultural and academic freedoms in the valley.
The annual talk is a platform for scholars, journalists, writers and filmmakers to unleash their creative energy and showcase their ideas about the everyday struggles of living in a militarized conflict. A statement issued here by the Organizing Committee of the talk takes note that “the necessity of such an annual talk was perhaps again most strongly felt on a day on which the State sought to suppress voices of dissent.”
Following a press conference, Rai delivered her talk at another private venue, which addressed a more limited audience. There, she spoke on “Languages of Violence, Languages of Justice: the State and Insurgent Kashmir.” Ironically, Rai says her “lecture indeed was referring to the fact how the greater violence is to ensure that voices are not heard, which in fact happened today,”
The Organizing Committee took the government ban and subsequent response of civil society to proceed with the talk in their stride. They said that the final culmination of events was a testament to Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi’s life of resistance.
“I will never be silent,” Rai told the audience during her hour-long talk.