LAHORE - Rich tributes were paid to Amrita Pritam, poet of the historic lyrical poetry of Aj Akhan Waris Shah Nu, at a conference arranged by the World Punjabi Congress here on Tuesday.

Prof Dr Rawail Singh paid tribute to Amrita and said she had written unmatchable and historic poetry on the Partition woes of 1947. Travelogue writer Mustansar Hussain Tarrar said in his keynote speech that Punjabi language and land of Punjab has produced some of the greatest personalities and the way Amrita portrayed the Partition woes was matchless.

A documentary made by Basu Bhattacharya was also screened on the occasion. An audio recital by poet Gulzar was part of the documentary.

People from all walks of life were present and they appreciated the effort to bring people together to pay tribute to the celebrated writer. Amrita’s interview to Rajya Sabha TV was also screened. The speakers highlighted how a woman from Punjab absorbed so much pain in her soul that a masterpiece like Aj Akhan Waris Shah Nu came out of her poetry and became part of the history.  They said that Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, who published Amrita’s poems in his magazine, had said once that people of Punjab keep this poem in their pockets and recite it and cry when they recall the Partition and the loved ones they had lost along the way.

Towards end of the event, the World Punjabi Congress (WPC) passed the Lahore Declaration under which peaceful marches will be held in Lahore and other divisional headquarters every month to press for revival of Punjabi language. Speakers said that injustice was being meted out to Punjabi language and culture.  According to the Lahore Declaration, protests will be staged outside the Punjab Assembly if the authorities don’t heed the peaceful rallies.

In his keynote address, WPC Chairman Fakhar Zaman said that Punjabi was not being given the due status and primary education was not being imparted in Punjabi language. He called for establishment of a Punjabi university, a radical change in the curriculum at college and university level, employment of more than 10,000 Punjabi degree holders and enforcement of Punjabi as language of the Punjab Assembly. He said the Punjab government and its anti-Punjabi bureaucracy were badly treating the language of great Sufi poets, cultural ethos and heritage.

A large number of writers and intellectuals, including Baba Najmi, Mustansar Hussain Tarrar, Zubair Ahmed, Mudassar Butt, Neelam Bashir, Dr Nabila Omer, Prof Saeed Bhutta, Dr Naheed Shahid, Dr Ismatullah Zahid, Hafeez Sheikh, Parveen Malik and Dr Qaisar Iqbal were also present.