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Jashn-e-Rekhta, the festival to celebrate Urdu, wraps up amidst controversy and chaos

Jashn-e-Rekhta, a festival held to celebrate the spirit of Urdu, stirred multiple controversies last weekend. According to reports, celebrated Pakistani poet and feminist, Kishwar Naheed left the festival midway due to some ‘confusion’ while writer-speaker Tarek Fatah was heckled by a group of young men. The festival is organised annually in the Capital by the Rekhta Foundation.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED?

According to news reports, Pakistani writer Kishwar Naheed boycotted the festival after learning that she’d been called to ‘attend the event only as a guest’ and not as a ‘participant’. “I assumed they wanted me to come and recite my poems. That’s how free flowing such festivals are or are supposed to be. (sic)” Naheed told The Telegraph. Naheed, fondly called Naheed ‘Apa’ in Pakistan, was the Director General of Pakistan’s National Council of the Arts. Born in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, in 1940, Naheed moved to Lahore after the Partition of 1947. She is well-known for her bold views on women and strong opinion against religious fundamentalism.

Kishwar Naheed

Kishwar Naheed

TAREK FATAH GETS INVOLVED IN A FRACAS

Tarek Fatah, the Canadian writer of Pakistani origin, sent social media into a tizzy after a video surfaced online, showing a group of young men manhandling the author. The incident took place at the festival last Sunday. Ultimately, cops were called to escort Fatah away from the mob.

Tarek Fatah

Tarek Fatah

While the organisers said that Fatah came on his own for the event and expressed their grief and concern on the turn of events, Fatah claimed that it was a ‘well-orchestrated plan’ to throw him out of the event. The writer, who hosts a TV show Fatah Ka Fatwa on Zee News, expressed that the ‘liberal Delhi Muslims’ which include the Rekhta organisers, couldn’t tolerate him and hence such treatment were meted out. Some attendees even alleged that he had made provocative, anti-Islam remarks and instigated the men by calling them ‘jihadis’. Fatah has, however, denied such claims.

A video of Fatah being heckled by the mob had emerged on Twitter on the same day.

A DELIBERATE MOVE TO INVITE PAKISTANI ARTISTS ONLY AS GUESTS

Unlike previous editions, Jashn-e-Rekhta didn’t encourage participation of Pakistani artists. In an interview with The Telegraph, Sanjiv Saraf, the founder of Rekhta Foundation, said that the decision was “in the light of the prevailing atmosphere in the country”.

BLAME GAME

An official statement was given by the organisers on Twitter. It stated, “Mr. Tarek Fatah came to #JashneRekhta on his own. On learning about the altercation, we requested the police to ensure peace and harmony (sic)” Another tweet followed mentioning, “It pains us to see that a genuine effort to promote language and culture is being politicised.”

Fatah was quick to retort back saying, Really? If @Rekhta truly wants to feel ‘pain’, then come down from your ivory tower ‘ashrafi’ kothas and face a Muslim mob of howling hyenas (sic).”

Read the full report here!

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