Renowned feminist poet Kishwar Naheed was recently invited to Urdu festival Jashn-e-Rekhta held in New Delhi, India. However, upon finding out that she was only a guest at the event she cut her trip short and returned to Pakistan.
In an interview with The Telegraph, moments before crossing India's side of the Wagah Border to Pakistan, the poet disclosed the reason for leaving the fest abruptly.
"I was told 'We are inviting you' and since there was a mushaira, I assumed they wanted me to come and recite my poems. That's how free flowing such festivals are, or are supposed to be," she said.
Naheed immediately took up the issue with the organisers. "When I asked them why my name was not on the programme, I was told that I had been invited only as a guest. Sanjiv Saraf said, 'You are our valued guest; our aapa (elder sister)'," she said.
The former Director General of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts was due to leave on Wednesday, but left on the second day of the festival.
The three-day festival which celebrates the Urdu language through discussions on the importance it holds and also hosts mushairas, qawwalis failed to see any participation from Pakistani artists this year due to the friction between the two countries.
Rehkta Foundation founder Sanjiv Saraf explained: "We took a considered decision in light of the prevailing atmosphere in the country to not have any Pakistani participation. But, since the purpose of this festival is to promote togetherness and bonding, we thought of inviting a few Pakistanis as guests."
Saraf expanded that Naheed along with the other nine Pakistanis who had been invited to the festival this year had been told beforehand that their invitation extended as guests, not participants.
"This festival is about bringing people together and we did not want that to be taken away by some incident. We did not even apply for the permission that is required from the government whenever a Pakistani is invited as a participant at any event," added the founder.
The guest list also included Pakistani–Canadian writer Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Managing Director of Oxford University Press Ameena Saiyid, but the two chose to miss the festival.
"I was invited to Jashn-e Rekhta but I am at Harvard for my fellowship from January to June and could not attend," Musharraf Ali Farooqi told HuffPo India.
Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress and Canadian writer Tarek Fatah of Pakistan origin was also seen in attendance at the festival. However, his presence spiked anger among some attendees as they chanted slogans and asked him to return to his country.
He was manhandled by the protesters and soon the police was called to intervene.
The foundation maintained that Fatah was not part of the invitees.