Aligarh: “A child’s need for stories is as fundamental as his need for food. Children, whatever race or ethnicity, whatever historical or geographical circumstances they are born into, represent an ongoing opportunity for hope. Books make that leap of imagination possible in children’s lives.” said Prof. Robin Davidson, Head of the Department of English at the University of Houston-Downtown, while delivering the keynote address at the inaugural session of the International Conference on “Children’s Literature: Classics to Contemporary”, organized by the Kashmiri Section, Department of Modern Indian Languages at Aligarh Muslim University.
Davidson pointed out that children worldwide are indeed our consolation in this deeply needy world—a world of perpetrators and victims, whether in the midst of war’s horrors in migrant detention centers at the Texas/Mexico border or in any of the numerous impoverished or at-risk communities across the globe.
In his presidential remarks, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Prof. Arif Nazir said he has witnessed the transformative power of children's literature. It is not just about teaching children how to read; it's about igniting their imagination, fostering empathy, and instilling a love for learning.”
The chief guest, Dr. Mohammad Maroof Shah, a noted Kashmiri writer and philosopher, remarked that “literature may be characterized as a creative activity for recreating childhood. Religion invites us to be like little children as philosophy does by requiring us to wonder. In fact, the paradise lost is regained by finding the child in us. Wordsworth wasn’t kidding that the child is the father of man. And for entry into heaven, one has to be a child. For Nietzsche, the highest stage is that of a child and not of the lion.”
In her introductory remarks, Nilima Sinha, President of the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children from New Delhi, highlighted the importance of the inclusion of Indian authors in the list of children’s book writers. As an accomplished children’s writer, she mentioned several Indian children’s authors, such as Ruskin Bond, Sukumar Ray, and others.
The guest of honor, Dr. Andleeb from the Department of Social Work at AMU, emphasized the importance of stories during childhood, especially those told by grandparents. She pointed out that “literature can be an important medium to fight oppression and injustice.”
She talked about the representation of underprivileged children in literature and mentioned the gender bias in children’s books and how they reinforce gender stereotypes.
Earlier, welcoming the guests, Prof. Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, Chairperson and Organizing Secretary, highlighted the objectives behind organizing the conference. He said around 350 abstracts were received from scholars hailing from different parts of the world, out of which 279 papers were presented during the two-day conference.
Prof. Zargar’s book ‘Khuda ke Hawaley’, an Urdu translation of his Sahitya Akademi nominated Kashmiri book ‘Khudayas Hawael’, was also released on this occasion.
Mohd Shams Uddoha Khan, Convener of the conference and Joint Secretary, of Raleigh Literary Society, conducted the felicitation ceremony, while Mehvish Saulat conducted the programme and Dr. Tahir H Pathan, Coordinator, extended a vote of thanks.
On the first day of the conference, five offline and 14 online sessions were held on the second day, a total of 127 research papers were presented during the six online sessions.
Prof. Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, Organizing Secretary, presented a detailed report of the conference during the valedictory session with remarks by Prof. Zia ur Rehman Siddiqui, Dr. Mohammad Maroof Shah, and Dr. Kamyani Kumar.
The delegates were also taken on a heritage walk covering prominent places in the university, including Maulana Azad Library, Jama Masjid, Strachey Hall, and Sir Syed House.
Earlier, five pre-event lectures were organized as part of the conference.