FOURTH CONFERENCE—INDIA, 2001

The Fourth SAARC Writers Conference organized by the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, was inaugurated by the President of

India, H.E. Mr. K.R. Narayanan. The Conference was held in the India International Centre in New Delhi on December 13, 14 and 15, 2001 and was divided into 9 Working Sessions besides the Inaugural Session and the Closing Session.

India, H.E. Mr. K.R. Narayanan. The Conference was held in the India International Centre in New Delhi on December 13, 14 and 15, 2001 and was divided into 9 Working Sessions besides the Inaugural Session and the Closing Session.

The Conference witnessed the participation of more than 500 writers, scholars, mediapersons, academicians and diplomats.

The eminent participants included :

Mr. Khushwant Singh, noted writer and President of the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, the SAARC Literary Wing of Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, Ms. Mahasveta Devi, noted Bangla writer and social activist, Late Mr. Bhisham Sahni, eminent Hindi writer, Mr. V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister of India, and Chief Advisor of the Foundation,

Literary Wing of Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, Ms. Mahasveta Devi, noted Bangla writer and social activist, Late Mr. Bhisham Sahni, eminent Hindi writer, Mr. V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister of India, and Chief Advisor of the Foundation, Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral, former Prime Minister of India, Mr. Jagmohan, then Union Minister of Tourism and Culture, Mr. Jaswant Singh, then Minister of External Affairs, and eminent writers of all Indian Languages.

In the Inaugural Session, the then President of India H.E. Mr. K. R. Narayanan, conferred SAARC Literary Awards to four eminent writers : Zaheda Hina (Pakistan), Dr. G.N. Devy, Maitreyi Pushpa and Laxman Gaikwad (India). The awards, carried Rs. 51,000, a shawl and a citation.

The deliberations at the Conference were structured along thematic lines, the main themes being :

• SAARC Writers and Intellectuals : Peering into the Abyss of the Future. The theme was discussed in all its aspects by Mahasveta Devi, Bhisham Sahni, K. Satchidanandan, Harish Trivedi, Namwar Singh, Reoti Saran Sharma, Gopi Chand Narang, Asif Farooqi and Shafi Ahmad Taludar. All after-lunch sessions were lively with readings of poetry and short stories.

In the poetry session, Ahmad Faraz, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, Kishwar Naheed, Sitakant Mahapatra, Sitanshu Yashachandra, Fazal Shahabuddin, Anamika, H.S. Rissam, J.P. Das, Munnoo Bhai, Mohanjeet and Al Mahmud shared their poetic expressions with fellow poets and writers.

• Human Trauma of Strife and the Process of Truth and Reconciliation: Intellectual Values and Colossal Human Tragedy and Suffering All Around. The theme was discussed by M.P. Bhandara, Mahasveta Devi, M.A. Baby, Dambar Bir Thapa, Laxman Gaikwad, Indira Goswami, Abul Khair, Ram Kumar Mukhopadhyaya and Anisuzzaman. In the afternoon-evening poetry session, Al Mahmud, Nirmalendu Goon, K. Satchidanandan, Nida Fazli, Surjit Paatar, Vimal Kumar, H.S. Shivprakash, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Ashley Halpe and Fazal Shahabuddin read their latest poems.

• The Concerns of Writers, Intellectuals, and Sensitive Political Philosophers in the Present World of Gross Injustice and Turmoils. The theme was discussed by Ashley Halpe, Ganesh N. Devy, Manfred Haack and Tissa Abeysekara, while poetry was read by Nida Fazli, Kusum Ansal, Sharan Kumar Limbale, Banira Giri, Arvind Sharma, Ruby Rehman, Pankaj Singh, Ramnika Gupta, A.K. Rashid, Ms. Pratibha Nandkumar, Mr. Sheo Narain Singh Anived, Ms. Atiya Dawood, Uday Prakash, Sheila Gujral, Namdeo Dhasal, Sheshendra Sharma and Nemi Chand Jain.

• Gender-oriented issues in SAARC Literature, right from folklore, mythology and myths to the contemporary literature, and need for their global dissemination. Perception of women in literature: how we have been going on dwarfing them and curtailing their potential throughout our history, and what is the status and position of women in modern literature. The theme was discussed by Varsha Das, Mridula Garg, Ashley Halpe and Banira Giri, while poetry readings were presented by V.P. Singh, Kunwar Narain, Abhi Subedi, Ahmad Faraz, Dasho Karma Galey, Ali Shareef, Al Mahmud, Anamika, Banira Giri, Ashley Halpe, Nida Fazli, Manglesh Dabral, Utpal K. Basu, Kedar Nath Singh, Ashok Vajpeyi, Namdeo Dhasal, Paul Kaur, Jagtar, and others.

The SAARC writers participating in the Fourth SAARC Writers Conference condemned “all violent acts and activities, which infringe upon human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy, tolerance and respect for diversity”, and denounced “all acts and practices of terrorism wherever and by whomsoever committed.” They also resolved to ensure that the collective voices transcend geographical and linguistic barriers and gender biases. The writers solemnly resolved to respect the otherness of others.

The writers declared that their pens, ideas and ideologies would be instrumental in disseminating truth both in the region and in the world.

The creative fraternity of the region were also enjoined to recognize the importance of mainstreaming the gender perspective in literature and highlight the plight of the marginalised who are still living on the fringe of society : dalits, adivasis, nomadic and denotified tribals.

The writers pledged to “strive for social justice and human dignity in the region whenever freedom of expression is thwarted anywhere in the seven countries.” They finally expressed “support to the Foundation’s Programme of literary interactions and initiatives through a constructive, dialogue-based approach with objectivity and impartiality imagination and creativity, and compassion as the guiding principal.”