Similarity of literature, culture can mitigate acrimony in South Asia
By: Anil Datta
Similarity of literature and culture can be exploited to create a peaceful and tension-free atmosphere in South Asia, especially India and Pakistan.
This was the consensus of panelists at an interactive discussion on ways and means to mitigate acrimony to the benefit of the people of both India and Pakistan on the last-but-final day of the Fifth International Urdu Conference at the Arts Council on Saturday morning.
The panel, comprising Dr Intezar Hussain, Dr Shamim Hanafi, Ghazi Salahuddin, Arshad Mehmood, Wusatullah Khan, and Ahmed Shah was presided over Dr Jaffer Ahmed, Chairman, Pakistan Study Centre, Karachi University.
Dr Jaffer pointed out that a sixth of the world’s population lived in South Asia yet, despite its massive potential the region was riddled with problems. Trade among the countries of the region was a mere 2 percent of the global trade. He attributed this to the air of unwarranted hostility and acrimony that had engulfed the region.
Referring to historical commonalities between the two countries Dr Intezar Hussain said that the Muslims’ greatest contribution to India were the Taj Mahal and the Urdu language.
To this, Dr Hanafi added the Diwan-e-Ghalib. He said that both countries had a rich common cultural and historical heritage and it must be preserved. He said Urdu was not just a northern Indian phenomenon and said that the Diwan-e-Ghalib had also been translated into Tamil. He said that it was the same with art and music and said that intellectuals on both sides of the divide were burdened with the responsibility of helping wipe off the bickering and acrimony.
Noted columnist Ghazi Salahuddin said that literature could be used as a means of communication. “There have to be open channels of communication”, he said, and pointed out that Ghalib’s works had been translated into English by Vikram Seth. He underscored the need for greater travel and communication between the two countries.
Pointing out the cultural and literary affinity between the two countries, Ahmed Shah, President, Arts Council, said that Faiz and MF Hussain were equally popular in both countries and quoted the example of France and Germany which after being at each other’s throats for hundreds of years were now cooperating in every field.
The first post-lunch session pertained to the mass media. Poetess Fatima Hassan, the first speaker, said that it was difficult to draw a line of distinction between the media and literature as, upon examination of history we’d find that it was litterateurs who had founded newspapers. She said the departure from this trend came in the days of Ayub Khan and later Ziaul Haq when the two removed litterateurs from the papers and replaced them with intellectually deficient sycophants. Then even bigger blunders were committed by another dictator, Pervez Musharraf.
Ghazi Salahuddin lamented that quality media were decreasing in the country and owing to the present worldwide trend whereby intellect was a commodity that had been greatly relegated, there were not enough intellectuals in the country to sustain the quality of the media. Asif Jilani recounted the metamorphosis of the Urdu language press in the UK.
Later in the evening there was a session titled, “Azeem Manto ki sadi”, pertaining to the literary giant of the sub-continent, Saadat Hassan Manto. Speakers discussed the contributions made by Manto in highlighting the distortions and contradictions in the social value pattern.
Later, a group presented readings from Manto’s works. This was followed by a launch of three books on Manto and a Mushaira.