Writers resolve to help promote peace in region
By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: Writers from India, Turkey as well as Pakistan resolved to help promote peace in the region at a conference titled ‘Peace in South Asia and the role of writers’ at the Arts Council on Sunday.
However, before they passed a resolution, they expressed conflicting views in their speeches on the writers’ role in promoting peace.
Eminent writer Intizar Husain, who presided over the event, reacting to a couple of scholars’ comments said though there were issues related to peace in the region and despite acts of oppression (zulm) that had taken place on its soil, every time he read poets such as Kabir, Mirabi and Nazir Akbarabadi, he tended to forget all the wrongdoings.
He remarked that while there’s a history of terror and torture in South Asia, humanism had also triumphed in the form of greats like Mahatma Buddha, Guru Nanak, Kabir and Ghalib.
Noted broadcaster Raza Ali Abidi started off his speech by suggesting it was hard to achieve harmony in the Katti Pahari and Alighar neighbourhoods of Karachi, leave alone in South Asia.
He narrated a poignant story from his personal life when he was asked to do a story on the Indus River for which he went to Laddakh by plane and while navigating the river was stopped by the authorities because there were barbed wires and fences beyond which he wasn’t allowed to go. He then flew back to Delhi and from there to Islamabad and Skurdu where he came to know how army personnel from both sides faced difficulties at the expense of losing their lives at Siachen.
With a tone of resignation, he said the grudges that some people harboured were far too strong to get rid of. He said he didn’t see any chance of peace and reconciliation in South Asia in his lifetime. However, he said, for the betterment of the generations to come, the people needed a grand ambition or aspiration and new leadership to overcome the obstacles in the way of peace.
Distinguished Indian critic Shamim Hanafi concurred with Raza Ali Abidi and commented that the region had never divested itself from violence.
To support his argument, he narrated an incident when during the 1984 riots in India, people looted and plundered shops of two Sikh men and gleefully took everything from them. He lamented he himself heard someone inquiring a looter for how much he’d trade an item (a telephone set) that he’d picked from the shop.
He said writers had no value in the eyes of politicians or the powers that be. He, too, in the end, stated that while it was not wrong to feel helpless, it was also important to have the feeling of unease about the issue.
Dr Aslam Farrukhi said it had been 63 years that he’s witnessing chaos not just in Asia but in the whole world. He said the reason for it was that there was not enough respect and affection left in people’s hearts for one another — there’s something missing somewhere. He said that missing aspect could be taken care of by writers and thinkers, and it was their duty to keep reminding the people about the importance of love and respect.
Prof Sahar Ansari talked about some thinkers who helped mitigate volatile political situations in the world and opined that the significance of human beings’ blood was the same everywhere, which was why the subcontinent needed peace.
Poetess Fahmida Riaz stated literature helped understand life better.
She said it was a tradition of Urdu literature to talk about peace, and gave names such as Manto, Ismat Chughtai and Faiz who wrote about the violence that happened during partition of the subcontinent. She said if, on the one hand, there was a tradition of projecting peace in literature, (with particular reference to the Progressive Writers) on the other hand, there was a jihadi stream in literature as well.
Indian poet Azam Kohli said lack of peace affected social, economic, political and religious realms of life.
Scholar Dr Jaffer Ahmed gave an account of the economic hardships that the people of South Asia were faced with.
He said 40 per cent of the region’s population lived below the poverty line and 70 per cent of the people lived in rural areas.
He also pointed out the issue of environmental degradation and the challenges posed by globalisation.
He said writers and thinkers couldn’t keep themselves detached from all these aspects. He added war-mongering was never a solution to any problem. He concluded his paper by saying that the biggest challenge was of safeguarding our cultural heritage.
Writer and columnist Zahida Hina emphasised writers belonging to every part of the world spoke of and advocated peace, not just from South Asia. She recounted a story that when the US attacked Iraq, Laura Bush invited poets to the White House to have a literary gathering. The poets decided that theyÂ’d compose poems against the Iraq War. Laura Bush got to know about it and cancelled the get-together. Despite that the poets put their poems on the Internet so that they could reach a wider audience.
Ayub Shaikh, Ashfaq Husain, Zubair Rizvi, Taqi Abidi, Khalil Toqar (from Turkey) and Ahfazur Rehman also spoke. Naqqash Kazmi and Fatima Hasan read out their poems on the subject. President of the Arts Council Ahmed Shah presented a resolution on the steps that should be taken to achieve peace in South Asia, which was passed unanimously.