Though all Pakistani writers invited to the annual Jaipur Literature Festival except Mohammed Hanif made it to the event, the writers complained that they got their visas very late. Meanwhile, there is no clarity on the reason why Hanif pulled out of the fest at the last minute. While organisers said that it was “due to personal reasons”, some writers said there could have been a visa issue.
Some said Hanif was unwell. Festival director and writer William Dalrymple said there was a death in his family. However, other Pakistani invitees said they have not heard of any bereavement.
Pakistani feminist poet Fahmida Riaz said she received her visa a day before the event.
“The visa arrived very late for most of us. Last year I was denied a visa to attend the festival. This year too I thought I would have to miss it,” she said. On the protest against Pakistani invitees, she said, “It is sad that artistes and writers are attacked and not politicians and bureaucrats who are responsible for the worsening relations. Politics should not overshadow cultural relations between India and Pakistan.”
Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director of Oxford University Press in Pakistan, said, “It is outrageous that people here are protesting against Pakistani authors being invited to the festival. If you stop people-to-people contact then how will the situation improve?” Saiyid, who has a special SAARC visa, said that she luckily did not face any problem getting visa.
The youth wing of the BJP had threatened to disrupt the event if Pakistani authors attended the festival. Though protesters marched to the event venue at Diggi Palace on Thursday morning, the police used mild force to disperse the crowd. Police Commissioner B L Soni said, “There were protests, but the event was peaceful. There is adequate police force at the venue and will continue to be there on all the five days of the festival.”
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor in a talk with journalist Tarun Tejpal commented on the Indo-Pak relations. “With Pakistan we have all smashed our crystal ball long ago,” he said.