When Pune hosts its first Vishwa Punjabi Sahitya Sammelan (World Punjabi Literature Festival) in November, it won’t see participation from Punjabi litterateurs from Pakistan. The reason apparently is the strained relations between the two countries at present.
The literature festival has been organised by city-based organisation Sarhad with the support of the Maharashtra government and that of Punjab.
While conceding that it’s impossible to talk about Punjabi literature without mentioning Pakistan and contribution made by Pakistani writers and poets, especially those hailing from West Punjab that later became a part of Pakistan, organisers say they were compelled to take the decision in the larger interests of the nation.
“Just like India, Punjabi literature is popular in Pakistan too. There are several Urdu writers and poets who write in Punjabi as well. Pakistan is a major stakeholder when it comes to Punjabi literature,” says Sanjay Nahar, founder of Sarhad, adding that initially Sarhad had plans to invite renowned poets, writers, critics and journalists from Pakistan.
The organisation had also written to the authorities concerned in the capital, including the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), informing them about the event. “We had got a good response from the PMO also. However, considering the current Indo-Pak relations, we decided to go ahead with the festival without Pakistan’s participation, although we would have loved to host Pakistani writers and poets at the festival. Language is a medium that brings people and countries together, but some of the recent incidents have left people with a sour taste and hence in the interest of the nation, we thought it would not be the right time to host them,” says Nahar, adding that the decision was taken after discussion with the chief patron of the festival and NCP president Sharad Pawar.
In April 2015, Sarhad had organised Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan (All India Marathi Literary Conference) at Ghuman in Punjab where Pawar and Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping, had announced the World Punjabi Literature Festival to mark 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh. “The two states, Maharashtra and Punjab, have a strong and special connection. While Sant Namdeo, a famous poet-saint from Maharashtra, spent considerable time at Ghuman, a place that houses his shrine, prophet-guru of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh, spent last days of his life at Nanded in Maharashtra,” says Nahar, adding that the three-day festival at Ghuman saw participation of nearly 7,000 poets and writers from across Maharashtra and almost 20,000 from Punjab.
The highlights of the Punjabi literary Festival are a discussion on the relation of Punjabi language with other languages, a kavi sammelan, discussion on works of Guru Gobind Singh and so on.
The president of the festival is Surjit Patar, a renowned named in the field of Punjabi literature in Punjab. Other than Pawar and Gadkari, the festival is being supported by political figures such as Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, former union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis.