Activism through discourse

March 27, 2022

The three-day Sindh Literature Festival featured discussions on culture and musical arts

Activism through discourse

The Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) was inaugurated by Provincial Minister for Culture Syed Sardar Shah on March 18. The organisers played a special video song about Mohenjo-Daro, and the excavation of the centuries-old archaeological site.

Naseer Gopang, the founder of the Sindh Literature Festival, says that he came up with the idea for a provincial festival in 2016. In his opening remarks, Gopang said the event addressed all of Pakistan and promoted unity.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Sardar Shah, the chief guest said Mohenjo-Daro symbolised the ancient tradition of Sindh. He said the theme of the 2022 festival was important because in 1922, Sir John Marshall and Dr Benerjee had revealed the humanity’s greatest legacy. “Sindhis are proud of their heritage in Mohenjo-Daro,” he said.

Arts Council of Pakistan president Muhammad Ahmed Shah, Sindh Literature Festival co-organiser Zohaib Kaka, writer Noor-ul-Huda Shah, Shams ul Haq Memon from the Endowment Fund Trust (EFT), Karachi Commissioner M Iqbal Memon and Mehtab Akbar Rashidi also spoke at the inauguration ceremony.

Women’s rights activists raised some pertinent issues during a session on Sindh’s Feminist Movement. “Countries where women have equal rights have developed immensely while we remain in darkness. There is a dire need for changing the mind sets and attitudes,” said Amar Sindhu, an activist. Sindhu was one of several speakers on March 19.

“Our campaign was considered ‘bad’ in the past but there has been a shift in attitudes. Women who marched for their rights on international women’s day at Aurat March may have been regarded by some as vulgar, but they are everyday citizens,” she says.

Sindhu states that women who speak about freedom in their homes and at demonstrations are feminists. “They raised their voice for their freedom which is a fundamental right for Pakistani women,” she says.

Classical dance exponent Sheema Kermani, Sindhu and activists Qurrat Mirza, Aliya Bakhshal and Aisha Dharejo were the main speakers at the session on women’s rights.

“We have always raised our voice for the rights of people,” said Mirza. Mirza said feminism also focused on issues that affect men. Kermani said, “Women like Zareena Baloch have played a vital role in the women’s rights movement in Sindh. The movement has a long history.”

There was a session on the relationship between Sindhi and Urdu on the second day of the festival. Arts Council president Muhammad Ahmed Shah, writer Noor-ul-Huda Shah, Mazhar Jameel and Dr Qasim Bhugio took part in the discussion.

Shah said, “Intellectuals from Sindh have played a vital role in introducing Urdu to the region. Hazrat Sachal Sarmast wrote Urdu poetry during the Talpur period. The relationship between Urdu and Sindhi is quite old.”

“Mirza Kalich Baig’s books in the pre-partition period and GM Syed’s books after the emergence of Pakistan have played a vital role in changing the thinking of the people of Sindh.

Noor-ul-Huda Shah said such festivals were important for the survival of languages. “The purpose of this festival is to convey a message to the people that their languages are mediums of harmony and peace in society. Shaikh Ayaz has conveyed the message of Sindh in Urdu,” she said.

“The people of Sindh warmly welcome every religion and ethnicity in their land,” says Dr Qasim Bhugio. He says English is not the sole focus in Sindh as people have also accepted Urdu, Persian and Arabic.

At the end of the second-day, Qawals Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad presented sufi kalam. Popular singers Ahmed Mughal and Aslam Faqeer sang folk songs in brilliant performances.

A novel by Professor Sahar Gul, titled Ishaq Tamam Birih Tamam was also been launched at the event. Bakhtawar Mazhar moderator the conversation.

Speaking on the occasion, Mehtab Akbar Rashidi said that the book was an eye opener. “The writer has used a letter writing technique. Ladakh is mentioned and the book touches upon Buddhism and its followers,” she said.

Rashidi added that the reader needed to connect the dots and think about why the writer had mentioned certain events. “In the beginning, the readers has to be patient with the content. Eventually everything connects to the main character’s journey,” she said.

Writer Amar Jaleel, who joined the session through video link, stated that he had enjoyed reading the novel. “Going through this book has been a spiritual experience. I am a student of Gautam Buddha. I am in awe. All our writers should learn from Ms Gul,” he said.

“Nirvana is achieved only after death; however, enlightenment can be sought in this life,” said Jaleel. He said the book introduces Buddhism in an interesting manner.

Author Madad Ali Sindhi said Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetry had always had a great impression on the lives of people in Sindh. “Mirza Kalich Baig’s books during the pre-partition period and GM Syed’s books after the emergence of Pakistan have played a vital role in changing the thinking of the people of Sindh,” he said.

Speaking at a session titled Books have a great impression on English society, Sindhi also praised the work of Ibrahim Joyo. The session was moderated by Dr Sehar Mehrani.

Mumtaz Bukhari said literature in diverse genres had made major impacts in Sindh. “Poetry is a form of storytelling,” he said. He said Shaikh Ayaz had made a major contribution through the literature he produced.

Intellectual Jami Chandio said popular books do not always have a lasting impact. “However, the works of Shaikh Ayaz and Ibrahim Joyo have stood the test of time.”

On the third day, there was a session on Pakistan’s foreign policy. The speakers included Dr Huma Baqai and Jamil Ahmed Khan.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. He can be reached on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5

Activism through discourse