Friday, April 17, 2009

Grievance against All India PEN Center

Grievance against All India PEN Center
West Bengal PEN chapter of All India PEN center expresses it's grievance against All India PEN center, Mumbai, and this grievance had been brought to the attention of International PEN, secretariat, London on last 11 february 2009.But there is nobody to answer till today.
Our grievances:
We can trace back the legal participation of West Bengal PEN Unit as active and participated in the International PEN congress Buenos Aires , Argentina 1936, since then many personalities were active and worked for all India PEN center of International PEN.

But somehow for last two decades, All India PEN center is avoiding west Bengal chapter mysteriously . India is big country, from All India PEN center, Mumbai to Kolkata , West Bengal is about 2000 KM distance, it is not possible to keep contact traveling physically, The center do not answer postal letters or emails.
We understand the evil design of suppressing a community of writers are also in International PEN and other centers, otherwise we do not see any reason to avoid West Bengal, not only all India PEN center but it reflects also on International PEN, London.We doubt such ill intention is dangerous for writers community all world wide.
We wrote a mail begging an advice on 11 feb 2009 to International PEN that what we should do please direct us, but it seemed they are discouraging us from joining .
West Bengal PEN has more than 100 members, 60 life members, and every Wednesday in the afternoon a regular meeting on literature.
We demand an independent center of International PEN in West Bengal. And a recgnition with full support

We are waiting to hear from any PEN center and International PEN.

This is posted by Albert Ashok on behalf of PEN West Bengal, kolkata

The following document we sent to All India PEN center and to International pen on last 11 Feb 2009 we have no response



International PEN

Frank Geary
International Programmes Director
International PEN
Brownlow House
50 / 51 High Holborn
Tel: +44 207 4050338
Fax: +44 207 4050339

Dear Frank Geary and all,

Thank you for your reply on behalf of ‘International PEN’ , International PEN
Brownlow House, 50 / 51 High Holborn, LONDON WC1V 6ER.

From our Part, West Bengal chapter of All India PEN Centre, first we express our solidarity with international community of writers that is International PEN, London. Our due respect to everybody hold position in International PEN, and Indian Pen Center( we are sending same copy to Indian PEN center also)

You told us to liaise All India PEN Centre, Mumbai, which is about 2000 KM away from kolkata, and I am not sure how many members are actively working there and who are responsible for disconnecting the link with west Bengal Chapter, and what is their motive/ plan to avoid writers in P E N in west Bengal chapter which started in early stage of all Indian PEN in 1933. It’s a record.

You can not deny the history and involvement of West Bengal PEN chapter. Now, I can give you the proof in electronic medium that Mr. Ranjit Hoskote, the secretary of All India PEN Centre , is acting somewhat strangely, all he is doing is avoiding us, You ask him why? I understand error is human nature, but planned error is gross offence. I do not know How the International PEN looks into such matters.

We have been writing to Mumbai for last decades but they never cared for us. And we are really very much offended and frustrated . I myself have taken the initiatives to connect All India PEN Centre and bridge between west and east, what is the result you will find in this mail. And you insist to liaise with All India PEN Centre, do you think Mr. Ranjit Hoskote will answer! 15 mails I sent to Ranjit Hoskote and 3 mails sent to Sampurna Chatterjee. I donot know who she is in PEN except as a member, still I wrote her if there is any communication we can build up. Most mails were cc to Caroline M. the executive director of International PEN.

We are eager to know What International PEN thinks about West Bengal chapter which has more than 200 writers officially and their future as PEN member. The reply is very much Important to us. We see Mumbai, All India PEN Centre has violated the PEN charter ( last paragraph) already. Our humble request is please, do not put Mumbai and Kolkata in any embarrassment and enmity. Mumbai Pen center , Mr. Ranjit Hoskote already told us to create our own independent Pen Center, We also want West Bengal as independent PEN center and a member center of International PEN center.

We do not know whom to ask/ address, how to ask and what is the procedure, so, anybody in International PEN help us sooth our wound. It is quite a humiliation to us , you push to all India PEN center and All India PEN Center is denying its liability. What is it ? Is it the community that defends Freedom of Expression and a solidarity with world writers? we are not beggars that we want money, we are writers and cherish a solidarity with writers association which we think is in International PEN. We pray international PEN will understand our problem, the underlying frustration, and the frustration other writers group or individuals are undergoing in other countries.

In the beginning, in thirties, when Mrs. Sophy Wadia started All India Pen Center, West Bengal was a Chapter, we had communications, we had journals, it was nice. And this communication ( through postal document) lasted till Nissim EZikiel The famous poet was general secretary. I do not know when exactly Mumbai, All India PEN Center had stopped the communication with West Bengal. I don’t blame any body in Indian PEN center in Mumbai. Blaming is not our purpose our demand is our status in International PEN, We are not new, a long regular organized body and actively promoting literature in the state and neighbouring states and following ideal of International pen.

Now , its going to be decades that we have no communications, till it is 17 july 2007 when Caroline McCormick, Executive Director International PEN, forwarded my mail to Ranjit Hoskote, he replied.

(We understand, everyone who run voluntary organizations have their own families and other responsibilities, sometime they can not communicate due to such pressure. West Bengal chapter had sent many postal document since Nineties, but we did not hear one response from it. As a main center Mumbai , all India PEN Center , never followed its responsibilities, and it has been reflected when Ranjit Hoskote , secretary , All India Pen Center replied my mail in july 2007. )

Ranjit Hoskote feigned he was completely unaware of West Bengal Chapter. Read below Ranjit Wrote me on 17 July 2007:

Dear Albert Ashok,

Caroline McCormick of International PEN has forwarded us your recent emails -- we would be happy to initiate a dialogue with you on the subject of membership of the PEN All-India Centre (I will add your email address to our e-mailing list in any case, to keep you updated on our events: we hold an average of two readings/ lectures/ discussions a month; sometimes three or even four).

Please write to me with the following details about your group, and we can take the dialogue forward:

1. When was your group founded?
2. How many members do you have?
3. What is the periodicity of your meetings?
4. Do you already have an administrative structure; or
have you preserved a refreshing informality?
5. Do you have a journal, or any other publication?
6. We would be very interested in the profile of your
members -- are they young writers, published authors,
literary activists?

Details of this nature would help us enormously to
help you.

With best regards,
Ranjit Hoskote

Then he admits our existence in his second mail:

Thursday, 19 July, 2007 9:16 PM

Dear Albert,

I am very glad that you have established a line of communication with us. I have to say that -- to the best of my knowledge; it is possible that some papers are missing -- we have not found any previous communication from you.

And tell me, have you had no contact, in all these years, with the West Bengal Branch of the PEN All-India Centre? Our President, Annada Sankar Ray, used to preside over its periodic meetings; but he passed away some years ago, at a very advanced age, and we have subsequently had no communication from the West Bengal Branch either.

Do write again with more details, and let us take this forward. And please convey my warm personal regards to Sunil-da.

With very best wishes,

His mail encouraged us , we thought a long and suspended frustration had got an end. But soon we have understood that we should have an independent center, we should not oil them anymore. Mumbai center do not like west Bengal chapter , They will be neglecting us and we shall be complaining against it -- its an embarrassing situation. I sent Ranjit 15 mails since then , he wrote me only 4 mails, two mail are above and two mails below as it is.

He expressed what suited him.

Dear Albert Ashok,
Thank you for your email and for the link to your post. Since you have copied your mail to a wide array of recipients, I have addressed this response to them as well -- and apologise to those on the list who might quite justifiably regard this exchange as unsolicited mail.

We at the PEN All-India Centre, located in Bombay, have recently begun to sort through our large collection of files -- including records, correspondence, and PEN All-India Centre annual conference proceedings -- which date back to the early 1930s. An American researcher, who is working towards a PhD in the area of late-colonial Indian history, has offered us invaluable support in this endeavour. She regards our material as vital and even impressive: an opinion that vindicates the constancy with which we have held on to our files through the vagaries of shifting, lack of financial support, and other difficulties.

With some luck, time and support, we should soon be able to organise them into a proper and coherent archive -- this would go a long way towards addressing the lacunae that you have indicated in your post.

While many of the details that you have put together in your post are common knowledge to PEN members in Bombay, Lucknow, Chennai and elsewhere, I can well imagine how you must feel to be so cut away from this lineage in the West Bengal Branch. I also sympathise with the fact that you have suffered because of a problem of transmission between generations, and perhaps you were not as fortunate as us in Bombay, who have had the privilege of inheriting a clear succession from Madame Sophia Wadia through Nissim Ezekiel and Ramesh Sirkar.

At the same time, I would most collegially request you to avoid a persistent solipsism in your account of your situation -- in your post, and on previous occasions, you have resorted to the suggestion that, since you did not hear from the PEN All-India Centre in Bombay for many years, it is somehow defunct or non-existent. Unfortunately for your line of argument, the PEN All-India Centre is not only alive and well, but has been flourishing. It has rebuilt a network of contacts, exchanges and discussions across India, while also opening up a range of conversations with colleagues and institutions internationally. Given the difficulties that we faced in the late 1990s and the early years of the 21st century, this has been a demanding and onerous, but ultimately productive task.

Since this matter has arisen before, let me re-state my position on it clearly: If you wish to establish your own separate PEN Centre in West Bengal, please do so by all means, and good luck to you.

However, I will add a note of caution that I have refrained from sounding before, despite your repeated provocations: Please establish your Centre on your own merit, and not by trying to discredit the activities of a flourishing literary community in another part of the country, and of individuals who put in an enormous amount of work on a completely voluntary basis to sustain it.

With very best wishes,
Ranjit Hoskote

The PEN All-India Centre

Dear Colleagues,

A brief post-script to my previous email; and once again, my apologies to those on this list who might regard exchanges on this topic as intrusions into their e-space.

This is just to set the record straight, since I am offended by Albert Ashok's claim (one he has made before) that the PEN All-India Centre did not respond to his letters and emails, until one was forwarded to us by International PEN.

I have just gone back over my correspondence, and find the very first reference to Albert Ashok in an email from Caroline McCormick, dated 1 July 2007 and forwarding an email written to her by him (in which, of course, he claims to have written to us over a ten-year period with no response). Since this was the first time we were hearing of him and his group, we were naturally interested to know more, and wrote to him at once.

With best wishes,
Ranjit Hoskote

About 2000 KM from Mumbai to Kolkata. It is quite impossible for members to keep in touch with centers. And If anyone wants to avoid the call of members residing faraway then what the members would do? Have international PEN ever looked into such problems?

How many PEN organization in UK? How many in Canada? How many in USA? How many in China? India is big country. 28 states. And number of population is next to china. Take an Indian Map and see where Mumbai is! It is not in the middle of India, it is western part of India.

West Bengal Chapter is very much active in literature and promoting literature to young generation. We have about sixty senior life members, and over hundred young writers and weekly meetings.

Please read carefully , and help us stand on our own legs — an Independent Center of International PEN.

With best wishes

Albert Ashok

Kolkata, West Bengal, India.

Following links supports original facts of west Bengal chapter of Indian PEN center.

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