Sunday, March 28, 2010

SAARC festival embroiled in controversy

Indian leaders skipped the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Festival of Literature on Saturday March 27 due to a stinging write-up in the festival’s souvenir against former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao were supposed to address writers and academics from SAARC countries at the inaugural session. But Ansari’s secretariat drew his attention to the write-up by festival co-organiser Ajit Kaur written after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 and re-published in the souvenir the Indian vice president was supposed to release.

The state-run Indian Council for Cultural Relations Chairman Dr Karan Singh, a former union minister, attended the festival as his organisation was roped in as a co-sponsor by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL). Dr Karan Singh, who is heir of the Kashmiri royal family, demanded action against Kaur for releasing the book attacking Indira Gandhi.

Ajit Kaur is a 76-year-old writer, Sahitya Akademi Award winner and president of FOSWAL, whose chairman is renowned writer Khushwant Singh while Dr Abid Hussain, former Indian ambassador to the US is the executive chairman. Kaur wrote the controversial nine-page write-up titled ‘November 1984’ and translated it to English from Punjabi. She had referred to Indira Gandhi as ‘empress’ in the write-up, which describes the ‘black and bloody days’ that stunned New Delhi on October 31, 1984.

Full report here Daily Times

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