This time, SAARC literature fest will be peace pilgrimage

February 8th, 2009 - 1:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, Feb 8 (IANS) With the Mumbai terror attacks scarring people’s sensibilities, the 29th SAARC Festival of Literature here next month could well turn into a peace pilgrimage for the 100-plus literary figures from South Asia who are set to attend it.

For the first time, Agra will play host to the annual festival from March 12-17. The conference will close in Delhi.

The Foundation of the SAARC Writers and Literature (Foswal) is organising the festival in the backdrop of high expectations from the creative fraternity and right-minded peace activists in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

“The sensitivities of creative people from across the SAARC region, particularly in India and Pakistan, are shaken and bruised,” Manoj Kumar, a spokesperson of the foundation, told IANS on phone from Delhi.

The conference will be held at Grand hotel. Literary personalities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and of course India - the countries that make up the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) - will attend the event.

The festival will cover a wide range of themes - from the role of wordsmiths in times of terror to its impact on popular culture, prevailing conditions of chaos and confusion, exploring history, resolving ethnic angst. It will involve poetry recitation and short story readings.

Delhi-based Ajeet Cour, an eminent short story writer and author, is the driving force behind the festival. She has been trying hard over the past couple of months to transform the occasion into a “peace pilgrimage”. She is the founder president of Foswal.

“The meeting of minds in these difficult times will give a fresh impetus to the process of peace and confidence building measures, which vested interests want to derail. Let us not allow them to succeed in their nefarious designs,” she says.

The SAARC Festival of Literature will facilitate a flow of debate and diversity. Authors, musicians and artists taking part in the festival in the past have been inspired by the free spirit of the occasion.

“It will be a great way to celebrate the diversity of South Asian literary culture, yet underlining the ancient civilisational links, throbbing and alive since the Indus Valley civilisation,” says Cour.

The festival has always been more than just a literary gathering. Peace campaigners, journalists, social activists, historians, musicians, folklore artists, film and theatre personalities, human rights activists and political philosophers have always been part of it.

It’s only right that the festival is being held in Agra, the city of the Taj. The gathering of eclectic minds of creative expressions will be a tribute to the crowning glory of Indo-Islamic civilisation, in the aftermath of the tragic attacks on Mumbai which claimed over 170 lives in November last year and which India has blamed on terrorists operating from Pakistan.

Says Cour, “Writers will deliberate over the trauma of terrorism at multi-dimensional levels, and its impact on creative ideas and society. The role of writers in these times of terror, ethnic conflicts and fundamentalism has got to be more eloquent and assertive.

“Foswal has conceived the agenda to engage participants on a single platform in order to reach a common ground as to how writers and creative people can articulate such conflicts in their creative and journalistic stories, and in poetry, in films and theatre, in paintings and sculpture, carving the paths leading to reconciliation, compassion and good-neighbourly relations.”

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at

-Indo-Asian News Service


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