The second Pt RughonathVaishnavi Annual Talk was held in Srinagar on Saturday.
Author and academic Prof SuvirKaul was the key speaker at the event. He gave his lecture on "Of Gardens and Graves: Bearing Witness in Two Kashmiri Poems."
"Poems, like other forms of performance, can be mobilized to serve very different political ends; many will read each poem as testimony of forms of suffering that are not shared by all Kashmiris but are in fact exclusive to one community or the other. Narrations of the traumatic past can of course be shaped to generate not greater openness and mutuality but to cement exclusionary identities," he said.
He said: "It is, however, my argument that these poems themselves refuse such exclusions. They do so precisely because they speak powerfully to their moment and preserve it, not as inert or past, but as the living precursor of ours, and as a necessary, living component of the future."
Prof Kaul is the A.M. Rosenthal Professor of English at University of Pennsylvania, and the author most recently of "Of Gardens and Graves: Essays on Kashmir, Poems in Translation."
The event began with a brief talk by rights defender ParvezImroz.
Author and academic Prof Mona Bhan was also present on the occasion.
Talking about PtRughonathVaishnavi, she said, "For him, the prison was as an embodiment of how the history of an entire nation that had been imprisoned, its creative impulse stifled. It stood as a poignant yet persistent reminder of Kashmir's long quest for freedom."
Srinagar-based photojournalist Javed Dar, whose photographs are part of Prof Kaul's latest book, presented a slide show of a collection of his work during the ongoing conflict.
Playwright and language activist Amin Bhat recited some of the poems from the book in the original Kashmiri.