Pak. delegation pulls out of South Asian Jaipur Sufi Festival

In yet another fallout of India’s deteriorating relations with Pakistan, artistes and authors from the neighbouring country are set to give a miss to the South Asian Jaipur Sufi Festival beginning here on Friday.

About 25 leading figures in the fields of arts, literature, theatre and Sufi mysticism from Pakistan were invited to the prestigious event.

The event will be organised by the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, in collaboration with the External Affairs Ministry and Rajasthan Tourism. The foundation is spearheaded by Punjabi writer Ajit Cour.

Ms. Cour told The Hindu that the ongoing tension between the two countries has forced the Pakistani participants to pull out of the event. “As a strong votary of good cultural ties between the two nations, I can only regret over the decision of my Pakistani friends,” she said.

Ms. Cour, a recipient of the Padma Shri in 2006, said the members of the Pakistani delegation were concerned about their safety during their visit to India. “It is not the organisers' decision. Far from it, we were the first to fight for getting visas for Pakistani poets and ghazal singers in 1980s, when there were no cultural exchanges between the two countries.”

Recalling the first rendition of a ghazal by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali in her house in Delhi, Ms. Cour said renowned poets, such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Ahmad Faraz and writer Intizar Hussain, had set their foot on the Indian soil following efforts by a group of authors led by her.

Barring the Pakistani delegation, nearly 250 participants from the SAARC nations are expected to attend the festival, which will be a melange of Sufi dance and music performances, poetry, book readings, book launches and interactive sessions at Diggi Palace

Schedule revised

Following the cancellation of the Pakistani delegation's participation, the schedule of the event has been revised. The invitations for the event were sent in advance to the Pakistani artistes in April-May this year and their consent was received.

Last year, a dozen Pakistani delegates, including a 'malang' (mystic) group from the Data Durbar shrine in Lahore, took part in the festival that saw a total of 50 participants. This year, the event is likely to witness the participation of delegates from Turkey and the U.S. as well.

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