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Revolt-hit Kashmir to hold literary festival

Indian-administered Kashmir will host a major literature festival this September in another sign of easing tensions in the revolt-hit Himalayan territory.

The event is to be staged in Srinagar, Kashmir's main city, by the organiser of Asia's biggest literary festival, held each January in India's "pink city" of Jaipur.

"We want it to be a success and also an opportunity for Kashmir literature to flourish," said Namita Gokhale, an Indian writer and a co-founder of the Jaipur Literary Festival held in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

Plans for the new event, to take place from September 16-18, came after the Jaipur festival earlier this year gave pride of place to Indian Kashmir, whose literature has been marked by more than two decades of rebel violence.

To be called the Harud (autumn) Literature Festival, "it will be an apolitical dialogue concerning literature. We will be discussing English, Urdu and Kashmiri literature," Gokhale said.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has a rich literary tradition dating back to the 14th century, but few outside readers are familiar with its beauty because little has been translated.

But now a growing number of Kashmiri works are appearing in English as reader interest in a region beset by a separatist insurgency since 1989 is growing.

The three-day event will be marked by book readings, interactive sessions with authors and cultural programmes.

It was not yet clear whether the organisers will make it an annual affair.

Among those likely to attend are young Kashmiri writers including Basharat Peer, who wrote "Curfewed Nights", Mirza Wahid, who authored "The Collaborator" and Kashmiri Hindu writer Siddhartha Giggoo who wrote "The Garden of Solitude".

The insurgency against Indian rule has claimed more than 47,000 lives. But police now say violence is at its lowest since the start of the separatist revolt.