Progressive Writers Association protests denial of visa to 34 Pakistani writers
At a time when the Indian Government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have been talking of continuous high-level engagement with Pakistan, 34 Pakistani writers and poets were denied visas by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to attend the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Progressive Writers' Association now on in New Delhi.
The three-day event began on Thursday and concludes on Saturday. The PWA said it had applied well in advance for the writers and were hopeful that the Pakistani delegation would make it to the celebrations. Yet, the Pakistani writers were told by the High Commission that the clearance had not come.
The PWA alleged that this was the second time that Pakistani writers were being denied visas to attend a PWA event. “In October last, we had a 75th anniversary event in Kolkata. We had invited 25 Pakistani writers but they could not get visas. After the event was over, I received a fax message asking the writers to proceed to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad for their visas. What mischief is this? I am expecting a similar thing happening this time too,” said Urdu writer and Delhi University professor Ali Javed, who is also the general secretary of the PWA.
“We protest this strongly. Our Government says it wants to ease tensions but in reality, look what they are doing. Such events help cultural relationships get stronger. The apathy of the Home Ministry and Indian High Commission officials must end,” Prof. Javed said.
A number of delegates from other countries were granted visas for the anniversary event. According to poet and PWA member Vimal Kumar, a Pakistani writer Babar Ayaz, who had applied for his visa in his individual capacity and not as part of the delegation, had been granted visa. “The PWA was formed in 1936 and even today it is as much a movement of Pakistani writers as it is of Indian writers. It is ironic that this happened in the same week that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was given a warm welcome by India,” said Mr. Kumar.