The term South Asian writers gained popularity after some Indian writers, particularly a Punjabi fictional writer named Ajeet Court, took it upon themselves to form an organization with that name around the turn of the century. This article is a brief study of what happened to this organization, and what it means to use this nomenclature today when the main organization of states itself is in the throes of angst, to quote the point. term of the vocabulary of existentialist writers. Literary writers organized under the name of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (ASACR) are meeting again as the main organization itself has almost blocked all of its activities. Writers, including those from Afghanistan which became the eighth member of SAARC in 2007, have remained active. The second online conference is currently taking place with the full participation of the authors. The story goes like this.
A Punjabi octogenarian fiction writer and arguably South Asia’s strongest literary activist, named Ajeet Court called me out in her small, shaky but very determined voice from Delhi a few months ago. She was calling on me to participate in the SAARC Writers and Literature Foundation South Asia Online Literary Conference held this year in tandem with the Sahitya Akademi of India from October 6-9. The appeal of this octogenarian writer reminds me of the history of literary activism of the last half century in South Asia. My records show that I attended his historic first South Asian Writers’ Conference in Delhi in 1987. It was probably the first time that an organization or individual brought together South Asian writers into one. place.
Buddha wall painting
Court first created a base for this organization through dialogues with South Asian writers. Eventually, she was able to organize the SAARC Writers Foundation with herself as president. It was approved by the SAARC Secretariat located in Thamel of Kathmandu in 2002. One can see a beautiful fresco of Buddha made in Gandhara style by the daughter of Ajeet Didi, a prominent painter named Arpana Court outside the wall of his building. I wrote about the genesis and style of this mural in my piece titled “The Buddha SAARC” in Kathmandu Post (August 18, 2019). The participation of Nepalese writers in all SAARC conferences is increasing every year. In a lengthy essay published in the November 2014 issue of a Nepalese literary magazine titled Madhuparka About this organization, I presented its history and its growing popularity in the South Asian region. My purpose was to introduce Nepalese writers to this organization, which has existed for more than a quarter of a century.
The question of literary leadership and initiative becomes intriguing at a time when the organization of SAARC countries is struggling due to bilateral issues that dominate the policies of the organization. From our perspective, SAARC and its charter generally ignore literature and the arts. Member countries are aware of this and want to do something, but somehow they are not doing anything significant in this direction. Ajeet Court and some of his friends from the SAARC countries stepped in to correct this elision with limited resources and enormous zeal and fire. But it has become more difficult because of the contentious issues that dominate the modus operandi of countries in the region.
We should also see how the colonial past remains in the political subconscious – an expression used by the American philosopher Frederick Jameson for the title of his book and his philosophy of South Asia. This “political subconscious” plays a role because of the impact of the colonial rules of Great Britain on the countries of this region, with the exception of Nepal and Afghanistan. What’s remarkable is that writers have found a different method of bonding with each other. They focused on the need to foster the spirit of the literary community. Ajeet Court has used part of its own modus operandi to link writers in the region with each other.
I want to recall an interesting episode which happened in Dhaka when Samsur Rahman, the national poet of Bangladesh, received the literary award from SAARC in 2001. As the poet could not come to Delhi due to his heart problem, SAARC Writers’ Foundation and Literature organized that year’s program in Dhaka. Addressing poet Rahman on this occasion, Court said: “We were told that you could not attend the SAARC Writers’ Meeting in Delhi because of your weak heart. Now tell me what a good poet in the world is not a weak heart? ” I saw how much this astonishing rhetoric pleased the poet and those who attended the ceremony. Courthouse represented the allegory of the separate, intimate, non-political relationship that exists between South Asian writers. The semantics of this expression is that the relationship between the writers in this region works through the communication of hearts.
Themes other than literature like Sufi and folklore that bind writers have also been used for the lectures that SAARC Writers and Literature Foundation has hosted on various occasions. Initially, the foundation organized its programs in cities of member countries. Kathmandu has also repeatedly become the venue for the SAARC Writers’ Conference. But due to various tangible difficulties, Court started to organize them only in India, in cities like Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Chandigarh, some in partnership with Sahitya Akademi, to take an example.
I wrote elsewhere, for us “in South Asia, a thin varnish separates literature from politics”. No organization of European writers would follow the model of the European Union, for example. But then, South Asian literary traditions spanning several centuries did not follow any political model of the region to guide themselves, although they did operate under various political conditions and were influenced by them. And they don’t follow any fixed conditions today either. The Ajeet Court SAARC Writers and Literature Foundation is an allegory of the efforts of a literary crusader. It is difficult to answer whether this experience will be repeated in the future by one or more organizations while maintaining a link, however tenuous it may be, with an organization with a political and economic vocation such as SAARC. But what we can say is that South Asia has a long tradition of literary and cultural activities and links, and it will continue.