ITALIANS WELCOME BUT NO INDIANS
By Hasan Mansoor
Daily Times - Karachi
The participants of the four-day international conference, Sindh - Past, Present and Future, criticised the government for denying visas to at least 30 Indian intellectuals who were scheduled to participate and speak at the forum. Experts from Italy and other parts of the world were able to attend.
"We are happy to see Sikh pilgrims coming to our Punjab from India and they are facilitated by our authorities but it is unfortunate to see our government denying entry to around 30 of our Sindhi intellectuals and writers from India," Amar Jaleel, one of Sindhi's all-time great short-story writers, said while presiding over the first of two sessions on literature at a local hotel on Monday.
This session was divided in two parts with the second segment planned to discuss the greatest Sindhi poets and writers: Shah Latif, Sachchal Sarmast, Saami, Mirza Qaleech Baig and Shaikh Ayaz, but they were lumped into one because many of its speakers from India were not there to attend. The second session on literature is scheduled to be held on Tuesday (today).
"The government may stop politicians but not writers, poets and intellectuals because we are a small community and what we want is only to communicate with each other," said Jaleel, who commands unrivaled popularity and respect among the readers of Sindhi literature in Sindh and elsewhere.
"The rulers want to rein in fragrance, they want to restrict air within physical boundaries and chain the thoughts emanating from creative brains irrespective of geographical frontiers, and when they fail to do all this they try to stop people meeting each other, but I believe they won't succeed with either," Jaleel said. "I could not go to India because I was stopped by our government but this did not stop me traveling India in my imagination. I have traveled the entire breadth of India in my imagination and believe that whenever I succeed in crossing the border I would not find that India different what I have seen in my mind's eye."
He said the Subcontinent had seen two partitions, one which divided the region in two states and the other a recent one which had divided governments and the people of the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
"People want to meet but the governments are continuously stopping them." The writer spoke in detail on different eras in Sindhi literature and concluded that even though writers are inspired by different literary movements from outside every society still has its own problems and demands. "Take any great writer from any part of the world and you can see that (s)he is immortal because (s)he writes for his/her people," he said. "The developed world's literature is completely different from ours because its problems and lifestyles are poles apart. It is the art of storytelling, which is the only criterion and similarity through which the greatness of writing can be judged."
Qamar Shahbaz, a leading poet and storywriter, criticised the government for disallowing Indian writers at the eleventh hour and not awarding them visas despite clear instructions from the prime minister. "True. We are living in different countries but all Sindhi writers are one community and could not be separated by such tactics and restrictions," said Shahbaz.
He referred to the prime minister's statement at the opening session of the conference at State Guest House in which he had promised visas to the Indian writers with immediate effect. "But, we are still waiting to see such promises are fulfilled," he said.
Professor Saleem Memon, chief organiser of the event, said the government had given assurance that the Indians would reach on Tuesday, the last day of the conference.
Dr Fehmida Hussain, deputy organiser, told Daily Times that the Sindh chief minister had assured them they would bring the Indian delegates on Tuesday (today). "If not then we will organise another programme for them in the near future," she said.
Short storywriters Hameed Sindhi and Shaukat Hussain Shoro read out their articles on the history and different stages of Sindhi fiction while Dr Fahmida Hussain and poet Naseer Mirza read out their papers on Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Mirza Qaleech Baig.