Today is the last day of the Festival- already the crowds are beginning to wane and even this lovely four legged friend did not entice more people though the gates. For us of course it means an ease of movement as we wander from venue to venue and a better than ever chance of sitting down in a session.
I walked into my next session- Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms- Gerard Russell in conversation with William Dalrymple. The author brings up the destruction of monuments by ISIS and the killing of people of all faiths but particularly the ones closest to that region of fighting. This is their attempt to suppress memory and change the course of history to matters that are only of their persuasion and faith. I think of talks with my sister Anna, about the destruction of cultural heritage and how important it is that we should draw the worlds attention to these acts of war. He spoke about faiths that go back a long time and are almost in danger of being eclipsed, snuffed out. He lived in Bagdhad and spent many months finding people and documents which increased his knowledge about the Yazidis from Northern Iraq, the Maneans and the Druids, the Zoroastrians and the Khalash in Pakistan. The irony is of course that in the rise of Islam as the dominant religion most of these faiths existed in that context. Faiths have survived in these remote places, despite these terrible events but it is getting increasingly difficult and people are losing the place of their faith and their faithful. Part of the essence of this book is to make sure they are kept alive.
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We hear Tristan Hunt Labour MP and Shashi Tharoor talk about Empire. Shashi's call for reparations from the Uk for the loss of life and general losses while they attempted to rule the sub continent made headline news. His view is that British rule impoverished the sub continent and led to loss of life through famines and conflict. It goes back to the debate - should we commemorate Empire or condemn. Shashi was of no doubt that it should be widely condemned and Tristan Hunt was guarded but diplomatic in his responses. Interestingly both agree that empire is a part of history that does not appear to be taught at all in schools. Even so the institutions of Britain are replicated in Delhi which may not have been suitable for such a big and diverse country down to having fish and chips available in the Lok Sabha's canteen !
The UK of course is facing its own breakup with Scotland and the EU referenda looming. A huge response to both speakers on the subject from an eager and engaged audience.
This years closing debate Is Freedom of Speech Absolute and Unconditional - the conclusion after a heated debate was that the motion was not carried - that reasonable restrictions should be applied to freedom of speech in order to retain its sanctity. Even though this comes as a surprise there is no disputing that India has encouraged freedom of speech and expression, and recent attempts to impose censorship and constraints have been widely condemned.
Each evening I go back and contemplate all that I have heard in a room which could not be more perfect. More about that in my next blog. Sweet dreams everyone.