FIRST SAARC WRITERS CONFERENCE, INDIA, APRIL 2000

The first-ever SAARC Writers Conference organised and hosted by FOSWAL, held in New Delhi from April 28-30, 2000, was like a miracle! The most brilliant creative minds of the SAARC region and Afghanistan came together for a common quest for peace and cultural connectivity. One single dream binding their imagination and hearts together! Beyond borders ! Beyond governments ! Independent, creative, fearless minds !

Poets from Afghanistan were invited as guest participants.

The Conference was adopted by UNESCO as the “Flagship Event of the International Year for the Culture of Peace.”

This first Conference focused on the theme:

‘Writers, Peace and Culture of South Asia’.

Thirty-nine distinguished writers and poets from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka : and also from Afghanistan and different states of India, representing different languages of their countries, and writers representing about twenty languages from all over India, attended the Conference and exchanged their writings, their views, their concerns, and celebrated their coming together for the first time ever!

From Delhi more than 120 writers, intellectuals, poets, critics, playwrights, translators, mediamen, academics, political philosophers, peace and human rights activists, visual and performing artists, publishers and the literary cognoscenti participated

The Conference was inaugurated by two eminent poets from Pakistan and India: Ahmad Faraz and Gulzar. Our former Primer Minister Mr. V.P. Singh, a prominent poet and painter, closely associated with the dream of FOSWAL,lighted the inaugural lamp and spoke very emotionally and lyrically about this unique initiative. Former Prime Minister of India and the architect of ‘Gujral Doctrine’ for the SAARC region,Mr. I. K. Gujral,welcomed the participants.

Ahmad Faraz, poet from Pakistan, and Gulzar, poet, fiction writer and film maker of India, symbolising and representing the best of creative literary minds in the SAARC region, lighted the Inaugural Lamp of the First-ever SAARC Writers Conference, April 2000

The President of the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, Khushwant Singh, in his Keynote Address, delineated the significance of the initiative, and underlined a common endeavour for the writers of the region: ‘Write without fear! Nothing is more important than your words.’ Mr. Jaswant Singh, Union Minister for External Affairs, addressed the Conference.

The Founder President of FOSWAL, Ajeet Cour welcomed the participants and expressed the need for nurturing such creative dialogue for peace in the region, saying: “We are mad dreamers, but dreamers do make miracles happen.” Late Mr. Kamleshwar delivered the Thanks giving Address.

All the eminent writers who had come from great distances participated by exchanging their ideas, presenting papers, reading their poems and short stories. Poets from Afghanistan sang their poems in Dari and Baluchi.

Eminent participants included: Prof. Anisuzzaman,Mr. Syed Shamsul Haq, Dr. Syed Anwar Hussein, Prof. Kabir Choudhury, Mr. Nirmalendu Goon, Mr. Belal Choudhury, Ms. Selina Hossain, Mr. Abul Manju Sarkar from Bangladesh; Ms. Ashi Kunzang Choden Roder from Bhutan; Mr. Ali Shareef from Maldives;

Khushwant Singh, Chairman of Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, and President of Academy of Fine Arts and Literature, and Ajeet Cour, Founder President, FOSWAL. Mr. R.P. Perera of UNESCO looks on.

H.E. Shri Krishan Kant, Vice President of India, Mr. Khushwant Singh, Chairman of FOSWAL and President of the Academy, and Mr. V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister of India and Chief Advisor of the Academy and of Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature

Mr. Madhav Prasad Ghimire, Mr. Mohan Koirala, Mr. Dhuswan Sayami, Mr. Kamalmani Dixit, Mr. Tulsi Diwasa, Dr. Abhi N. Subedi, Mr. Kali Prasad Rijal, Ms. Toya Gurung, Dr. Usha Thakur from Nepal; Mr. Ahmed Faraz, Ms. Kishwar Naheed, Mr. Jameeluddin Ali, Mr. Fakhar Zaman, Ms. Fahmida Riyaz, Dr. Syed Akhtar Hussain Akhtar from Pakistan; Mr. Simon Nawagaththegama, Prof. Parakrama Kodituwakku, Prof. S. Sivasegaram, Dr. M.A.M. Nuhman from Sri Lanka; Prof. A.K. Rashid and Dr. G.M. Lalzad from Afghanistan, because FOSWAL realized that SAARC spirit extends to Afghanistan and Myanmar too, both having age-old civilisational links with the SAARC region.

Afghanistan joining SAARC in 2007 as the eighth member underlines FOSWAL’s sensitivity and prophecy. We know FOSWAL’s efforts of welcoming Myanmar on board one day, will also materialise ! Writers and intellectuals do have a third eye, a vision which extends beyond the visible universe.

From India: Mahasveta Devi, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, Namwar Singh, Krishna Sobti, Joginder Paul, Dr. Indira Goswami, Sitakant Mahapatra, Jayanta Mahapatra, J.P. Das, Sheshendra Sharma, Ashok Vajpayee, Surjit Paatar, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Kamleshwar, Dilip Chitre, Amrik Singh, Krishan Baldev Vaid, Shiela Gujral, Keki N. Daruwalla, Sayeeda Saiyidain Hameed, Manohar Shyam Joshi, Ramakanta Rath, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Gopi Chand Narang, Vishnu Nagar, Pankaj Singh, Anamika, Paul Kaur, and many others.

Devinder Satyarthi, the eminent writer who, more than fifty years back, travelled all