"We, the writers, artists, thinkers, journalists and social activists of SAARC countries, view the present scenario of Terrorism and hateful animosities with alarm and deep concern.
We know that Terrorism is a man-made problem which can be solved, and has to be solved, by the society if it wants to survive.
It is in this context that the writers, artists, media people and socially conscious intellectuals of the SAARC countries have come together to understand and realise the ferocity of the menace of Terrorism to all the SAARC countries and the humanity at large.
Terrorism is a phenomenon that cannot be tackled by arms and weapons alone; the society as a whole has to become alert to this grave danger, and chalk out a positive programme of reaching out for reconciliations.
We, the writers of the SAARC countries, hereby pledge ourselves to the struggle against Terrorism anywhere in the world and we commit ourselves to work ceaselessly towards fulfillment of the avowed Pledge."
The above is the Agra Declaration, issued at the end of the annual SAARC Literary Festival in Agra, India from February 13th to 15th, 2015, organized by the Foundation Of SAARC Writers And Literature (FOSWAL). Writers and poets from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka gathered as one family, to share their thoughts and their writings. The Theme of the conference this year was "Beyond Borders - Bridging Historical Traumas, and Moving Towards Reconciliations, Leading to Peace and Tranquility in the Region".
One victory we achieved on Feb 15th, was that almost every Indian and Pakistan writer attended the conference, instead of remaining at the idiot box to watch the India-Pakistan match. Literature won over cricket, in a cricket-mad world.
The Agra Declaration is important to us because writers and journalists and mass media are contributing today to a large extent to the spread of hatred and resulting violence around the world. Today the most popular fiction and films are about violence. Today there is hardly any difference, very often in the mindset of a terrorist and some of our thriller writers. That is why I used the term "noverist" for such thriller writers in this column. (Life into Arts, 02-02-2011)
At the Agra conference some issues that came up were based on violent, inhuman deeds, which had happened around the world in the recent past even though such acts were mentioned to draw attention to the violence and hatred and to suggest ways to overcome them. One incident was the burning alive of a person, which had been videoed and shown on mass media and social media sites. Those who did this crime or the one who filmed the scene could not be considered human beings. But who could be so unfeeling and inhuman to broadcast this on mass media, could we consider them, and those who watched this on their television sets, or their mobile phones, as human? Could we consider those who broadcast, those who posted them on social media, those who enjoyed the gory details as human?
We have a very fertile imagination. We have highly evolved languages and advanced technology. It is not necessary for the mass media to show all the violence, all the cruelty, in all its bloody detail. If they say a man was burnt alive, or a group of helpless men were beheaded, that should be more than enough, if the media wanted to report them. The visual media are aware that what they are showing is not easy to watch. That is why they post "Warning, Extremely Graphic video." But they still show them, because it improves their "ratings", it increases their viewer base, which in turn improves their profits through advertisements. That is the bottom line, all they want is profits, and more profits, by catering to the lowest forms of entertainment.
By making all these acts newsworthy we are also giving prominence to the terrorists, encourage them to more and more such acts, because the terrorists need to draw the world's attention to themselves, to their deeds. Our media are giving them free publicity. To recruit more followers, to encourage others to commit such sins.
We had our own experience, during the thirty years of the ethnic conflict. Our own media were complaining that foreign media were reporting only the violence and the atrocities occurring in our country, and ignored all the happy and good incidents. We found that again during the recent elections, when our people were reminded of the death and cruelty, blood and pain, over and over again.
Man has been conditioned to watch and enjoy violent and cruel acts, for many millennia. The ruling classes used it to make the mind of their soldiers to enjoy violence. Religious organizations used violence and torture to bring fear into the minds of mankind. By describing hell, perhaps these priests enjoyed a sadistic pleasure in describing what happens in hell and in our part of the world, in 'narakadiya'.
It is this human weakness that was first exploited by historians writing for their rulers, and then writers, playwrights and film producers. That is why we have all the violence and cruelty in our history books, fiction and films. That is why novelists began to think and plot like terrorists, and terrorists began to learn from the novelists. The first suicide bomb was not an idea of a terrorist, but that of a British novelist, Craig Thomas described in his 1976 novel 'Rat Trap'.
Instead of popularizing violence and sadism, instead of starting to think like terrorists and sadists, writers can play a major role to bring love, compassion, empathy, reconciliation, harmony, among the seven billion human beings and bring into their hearts and minds loving kindness towards all life on earth. Then terrorism will disappear from the face of the earth.