26, 27, 28 March, 2010, New Delhi

Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, SAARC Apex Body,organized the SAARC FESTIVAL OF LITERATURE, on 26, 27, and 28March, 2010, at the India International Centre, New Delhi. Followed byInteraction with students of JNU and Blue Bells School on the 29th.The Theme of the Festival was : Literature, Environment And CulturalConnectivity in the SAARC Region.Poets, Authors, Scholars, Artists, Mediapersons, Social Activists andEnvironmentalists from all the SAARC countries –Afghanistan,Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka –came together at New Delhi, with the common purpose of understandingthe environmental threat, and the way in which the creative fraternity ofthe SAARC region could help in tackling it.They discussed how nature and environment had always been keyconstituents of literature, as well as visual and performing arts sincetimes immemorial.The core programme of the Festival was a series of Academic Seminarson Environment and Nature, and their relation with literature, art,architecture, heritage, health,reconnecting to myths and legends aboutenvironment, environment and globalization, tribal perspective onecology, and civilizational links among SAARC countries.Of course, they realized that environmental degradation was not a newphenomenon. Ever since man got it into his head that ‘Development’ washis goal and first priority, things have been going awry. Rivers are beingblocked, hills are getting denuded, forests are being savaged,innumerable tribals and forest-dwellers are uprooted, with nowhere to goand nothing to sustain them.As a natural consequence, environmental degradation is breathing downour neck. Pollution of every kind is assuming alarming proportions. Theair we breathe in is suffused with gaseous pollutants, the water we drinkis full of harmful chemicals, the noise level is rising dangerously, theominous threat of electronic waste is staring us in the face. All in all,human existence is at stake. Not only human beings, in fact, all livingcreatures are hurtling towards the inevitable nemesis : the total collapseof the tenuous ecological balance which has sustained the world so far.The gathering knew that Gas Emissions, Climate Change and GlobalWarming were mere symptoms of the malaise afflicting our existence.Roots of the problem are much deeper.The authors realised that the situation was desperate and we could notafford to leave its solution to politicians or their dubious collaborators, theCorporate Houses. Who doesn’t know that it is their rapacious Greedwhich has brought the world to the brink of disaster !Hence, the writers, intellectuals, environment specialists, andmediapersons of the SAARC region deliberated upon SAARC literatureand cultural connectivity in the context of environmental threat. Theydiscussed various possible ways of changing the disastrous scenario.They believed that it was the duty of the writers and thinkers to reach outand unveil a glimmer of hope in this darkening milieu of gloom anddespair.

The authors knew that there was no short-cut to the presentenvironmental impasse. Awareness at the grass-roots level and aconcerted campaign to combat and unmask the mischievous doings of

Dr. Karan Singh, President ICCR, floating rose petals in the urn :Inaugurating the Conference

the nefarious agents of Avarice, ought to be our immediate priority. The authors, artists, media persons and activists from the SAARC region deplored the anti-environment misdeeds in the name of’ Development. ‘They called such wrongful actions, a heinous crime against humanity which must come to a halt. Now !
26th March, 2010

The SAARC FESTIVAL OF LITERATURE got a rousing start, with its Inauguration by Dr. Karan Singh, the towering intellectual-statesman, who also happens to be the President of Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR).

The Welcome Address by Ajeet Cour was a soul-stirring oration of unforgettable distinction :

“Nobody wants to remember that the whole cosmos was created in a

very subtle but very fragile balance. If man cannot disrupt the orbits

of sun, earth, moon, stars, galaxies, because they are too far away,

why should he pounce upon and destroy whatever is closer at hand?

Who has given him the right to destroy what he did not produce, and

Mr. Gulzar floating the rose petals in the urn.

On the dais from left : Ms. Nosheen Saeed, Member Parliament, from Pakistan,Mr. Hamid Mir, eminent journalist from Pakistan, Dr. Karan Singh, President ICCR,Dr. Abid Hussain, eminent diplomat and scholar, Mr. Gulzar, eminent poet,Mr. Virendra Gupta, Director General ICCR,Dr. Nihal Rodrigo, Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka

can in no way replace after destroying it?

How can he dare to disturb the subtle balance of earth which is the home of all living species?

If forests are destroyed, not only the tigers and other animals, not only the adivasi tribals and birds will be exiled, but also the bees and the butterflies, the little and the large ants.

Is anybody even aware that without the bees and butterflies, who marry all the fruits and crops and vegetation by carrying the pollen from one to the other, all the crops and vegetables and fruits will disappear!

I can visualise the day – and it is no science fiction ! – when people from other planets will come and explore our barren earth, wondering if any living thing ever existed here!

Ms. Ajeet Cour delivering her Welcome Address

If industrial gas emissions are causing danger to ozone layer, let us also articulate the danger to our own village ponds, wells, pokhars and bawlis which are drying up, and the water-level which is going down deeper and deeper.

I don’t know, but does anybody ever talk in International Conferences about our women who walk for tens of miles every day to fetch drinking water?

Do we talk about the chemical waste which affluent countries bring in their ugly ships, and offload in our seas, mostly near our coasts?

Does anybody remember that poor little penguin, shivering