Drawn from Delhi, Mumbai and other villages and towns throughout the country, over two dozen poets on Tuesday participated in an all-India Urdu mushaira (poetic symposium) — the first of its kind in Kashmir in the last 27 years, that was telecast live for viewers in 168 countries.
Eminent Urdu poets Waseem Bareilvi and Mansoor Usmani, who presided over and moderated the uncommon cultural event, declared proudly for the enthusiastic congregation that this type of an Urdu mushaira was back after 1986. Halls and balconies of the spacious Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) were packed to capacity, notwithstanding a severe beginning of the winter and sub-zero temperature by the night.
Government officials and local cultural activists, however, insisted that two all-India Urdu musahiras had taken place in Kashmir after the outbreak of the armed insurgency in 1989.
“We organised the first in 1994 at the same venue [SKICC] but nobody turned up as audience other than the government employees putting up for the summer at the adjoining Centaur Hotel,” prominent poet and retired Director of Dooradrshan Kendra, Srinagar, Farooq Nazki told The Hindu. Mr. Nazki, who sounded proud of having attended even the first major Urdu musahira at Sher-e-Kashmir Park in 1949, observed that the revival of the literary tradition would go a long way to introduce Kashmir as a land of letters and creativity.
“Sahir Ludhianvi had turned down the invite for the post-Partition bloodshed but many of the bigwigs — Josh Maleehabadi, Asrar-ul-Haq Majaz, Sagar Nizami, Firaq Gorkahpiuri et al — came in to participate. The then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru presided over the mushaira. The then Wazeer-e-Azam of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was present at the dais along with all of his ace colleagues and Ministers,” Mr. Nazki recalled.
Journalist-cartoonist Bashir Ahmad Bashir recollected when a high-profile Urdu mushaira was arranged at the Exhibition Grounds in 1974, months before Sheikh Abdullah’s return to the mainstream. Mr. Bashir’s caricature — captioned ‘ek shair mulahiza ho’ (be mindful of this shair — a play on the word shair that means both poetry and lion) — showing former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi presenting a lion to the Kashmiris (Sheikh Abdullah, who was famous for his sobriquet of Sher-e-Kashmir — The Lion of Kashmir) was a big hit in his Srinagar Times.
The second post-1990 all-India Urdu mushaira was held at Gulmarg in 2002 by the Gulmarg Development Authority. None of the organisations promoting tourism, culture and heritage — including J&K Cultural Academy, Radio Kashmir, Doordarshan, Indian Council of Cultural Relations besides Departments of Information and Tourism — held a major mushaira in the State’s summer capital of Srinagar.
The State’s only Jnanpith Award winner Rehman Rahi and head of the Bureau for Promotion of Urdu Mohammad Akramuddin were among a galaxy of literary figures who attended Tuesday’s mushaira.