Celebrated Pakistani poet Kishwar Naheed was in for a surprise when she arrived in Delhi to attend the Jashn-e-Rekhta festival, organised to celebrate the Urdu language. Naheed, who was under the impression that she was a participant, left the festival midway after she found out that she was invited only as a guest, reported The Telegraph.
"I assumed they wanted me to come and recite my poems. That's how free flowing such festivals are, or are supposed to be," Naheed, 77, told The Telegraph's Anita Joshua.
The Jashn-e-Rekhta is a three-day festival, into its third year, that celebrates the Urdu language, including literature, art, and culture, and hosts mushairas and qawwalis. However, there was a big change this year — there was no active participation from Pakistani artists. The move to invite Pakistanis only as guests and keeping them away from participation in the sessions could be seen as a fallout of recent protests by far right groups against Bollywood films that starred actors from across the border.
Their contention is that unless cross-border terror attacks stop, there can be no cultural involvement of Pakistan in any events in India. However, this idea has found resistance from a section of artists from both sides of the border.
Sanjiv Saraf, the founder of Rekhta Foundation, told Telegraph that the decision was "in the light of the prevailing atmosphere in the country".
Pakistani writer Musharraf Ali Farooqi, who was also invited to the festival, told HuffPost India: "I was invited to Jahn-e Rekhta but I am at Harvard for my fellowship from Jan to June and could not attend." Saraf maintained that all the nine Pakistani guests were verbally told that they were being invited as guests.
Naheed, who was the Director General of Pakistan's National Council of the Arts, is a noted feminist poet, fondly called Naheed 'Apa' in Pakistan. She was born in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, in 1940, and moved to Lahore after the 1947 Partition. She is well known for her three decade of work on female sexuality and describes herself as a realist.
Meanwhile, in an ugly incident at the venue, Canadian writer of Pakistani origin, Tarek Fatah, was heckled by a group of attendees who began shouting slogans and asked him to leave the country. Police had to be called when the situation became worse.
A video emerged of Fatah being manhandled by protestors at the venue, amid slogans of 'murdabad'.
This was the response of the organisers.
Mr. Tarek Fatah came to #JashneRekhta on his own. On learning about the altercation, we requested the police to ensure peace and harmony.— Rekhta (@Rekhta) February 20, 2017
It pains us to see that a genuine effort to promote language and culture is being politicised. #JashneRekhta— Rekhta (@Rekhta) February 20, 2017
But Fatah was having none of it.
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