Organisers keeping their fingers crossed because of “delicate situation”

Bibliophiles may not be able to purchase books of their favourite Pakistani authors like Urdu short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto at the nine-day-long “Delhi Book Fair” which opens at Pragati Maidan here on August 23 because “book publishers from the neighbouring country are facing visa problem”.

Speaking to The Hindu, Federation of Indian Publishers’ spokesperson Sudhir Malhotra said: “Though FIP, as organiser of this book fair, has made all efforts to ensure that Pakistan participates along with other countries like China, the United States and Iran, we are non-committal over participation of Pakistan.”

Two publishers, who have been participating in this book fair since its inception, have not got visas so far. “But others from countries like China have got visa clearance. We are keeping our fingers crossed because it is a delicate situation.”

On Friday, Vishwa Hindu Parishad vandalised an exhibition in Ahmedabad in which the art works of Pakistani artists were on display.

The right wing fundamentalist group has been active in disrupting events in which Pakistani artists are participating ever since the skirmish on the Indo-Pak border resulted in the killing of five Indian soldiers. Another casualty was a concert by noted Sufi and folk singer from Pakistan Sanam Marvi which was cancelled at the eleventh hour at India Habitat Centre on August 8 even though the singer had arrived in Delhi.

According to heritage activist Firoz Bakht Ahmed, who has been reading Urdu books of Pakistani authors, said: “Urdu books sell like hot cakes at the Delhi Book Fair. So this year it will be a disappointment. Indian readers are keen to go through the works of Sadaat Hasan Manto, Kishwar Naheed and Fazle Haq Qureshi.”

This year, the theme of the fair will be “Libraries andReadership”which will dwell on the role of libraries in the growth of readership. Public libraries have a central role in propagating the book reading habit. The National Knowledge Commission, set up by the Prime Minister, in its report to the nation made recommendations on libraries and in pursuance of this, a National Mission on Libraries has been set up. Steps are being taken by the NML for improvement in the library sector including up-gradation of the existing public libraries, school and college libraries and use of school libraries as community libraries.”

Pointing out that 40,000 public libraries exist across the country, Mr. Malhotra said these are being underutilised. “So this year, we will encourage bookworms to visit these libraries. To create interest in these libraries, we must have book related events like authors meet and such lively activities.”

This year, the fair will see the participation of Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation, which is supporting a network of 30,000 libraries in different States, and National Library Kolkata.

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