Myths about the Urdu language

Published: February 4, 2012
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The writer is a former consulting editor, The Friday Times, and can be found on Twitter @RazaRumi

The writer is a former consulting editor, The Friday Times, and can be found on Twitter @RazaRumi

Urdu has been a controversial language in Pakistan despite its official and holy status. The Bengalis rejected it way back in the 1940s when Jinnah, advised by a bureaucracy, with imperial moorings declared in that it would be the official language. Subsequently, Sindhis, Baloch and Pashtuns have also resisted the one-size-fits-all Urdu formula. Admittedly, in the past few decades, Urdu has emerged as a functional lingua franca that connects the various federating units of Pakistan but its conflation with Islam and Muslim ‘nationhood’ remains the paramount narrative in Pakistan.

It takes arduous scholarship and infinite courage to author a book like “From Hindi to Urdu: A Social and Political History” (Oxford University Press, 2011). Dr Tariq Rahman ironically has worked as the Director of the National Institute of Pakistan Studies at the Quaid-i-Azam University and therefore his challenge to the mythical dimensions of ‘Pakistan Studies’ comes from within and not as an outsider. Sixty-four years after the creation of Pakistan, we have not arrived at any conclusion about our ‘national’ or cultural identity. Dr Rahman’s book if anything shatters the myths that we have built around Urdu; and therefore presents a valid alternative to Goebbelsesque tone of our official history.

Urdu, according to Rahman, evolved out of the various mutually intelligible dialects across India. Muslims who landed in India as soldiers, merchants, mystics, and camp followers enriched the native dialects. Especially the one that was spoken around Delhi called Khari Boli. A language known as Hindi, Hindvi or Dehlavi came into being. It spread towards the south and by the 18th century it was called Rekhta and Hindustani, among other names. The elites of Delhi Persianised it and renamed it as Zuban-e-Urdu-e-Mualla (the language of an exalted city).

Far from being a separate identity marker, Urdu represented the complex Hindu-Muslim exchange during the 13th-18th centuries. Therefore, as Rahman rightly says, Urdu is a common heritage of Hindus and Muslims for at least 500 years if not more. By undertaking detailed research into subject, he shows instead of being an elitist language it was the language of common men and women. Urdu language essentially is rooted in the Indian soil and a manifestation of osmosis between Hindus and Muslims. Rahman also shows that Urdu was not born in military barracks as a resut of Muslim invasions.

One cannot disagree with Rahman that ‘modern’ Urdu is a deliberate Muslim cultural product, which came into being through the linguistic reform movement during late 18th century. This was the same time when Hindu reformers started to clean up and removed Persian and Arabic words in favour of Sanskrit.

My own views, largely based on what the patriotic Pakistani scholars wrote, were challenged as Rahman disproves the faux theory that locates Urdu in geographical areas now constituting Pakistan. However, the most illuminating part of his study relates to the prevalent myth in Pakistan that somehow the British deliberately promoted Hindi against Urdu i.e. the Muslims. To the contrary as Rahman tells us the British showed partiality towards the development of Urdu rather than Hindi and made public investments into the language.

Of course, such narratives cannot be popular in a country where Hindi-Urdu controversy of 19th and early 20th century is cited as the basis of Muslim separatism. Unfortunately, we have little room for the kind of scientific research that Rahman has undertaken. Half-truths and invented ‘facts’ enable the construction of nationalisms. We have used Urdu as a political instrument to articulate the hegemony of the key classes that led events to Partition. Furthermore, imposition of Urdu at the expense of regional languages has further compounded its status. Thus we have isolated ourselves from centuries of a cultural identity, and also alienated the various peoples of Pakistan ‘reinventing’ Urdu as an Islamic thing. It has led to reactions across the border where a similar ‘Muslim’ stamp is affixed on a people’s language that was essentially secular and plural.

Pakistan is a reality now. We can still correct our future if we give up the pastime of hating our heritage and admitting that all the weapons and propaganda cannot falsify history. One hopes that Dr Rahman’s book is translated for the Urdu readers soon.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2012.

 

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Reader Comments (68)

  • frank
    Feb 5, 2012 - 4:49AM

    Urdu’s original and correct name is ‘Hindustani’. It is unbelievalbe how some Pakistani Punjabis have managed to convince themselves they own Urdu. They do not and cannot. 

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  • Sarkish
    Feb 5, 2012 - 6:02AM

    Dear Raza,
    Are you advocating removing Urdu as the national language ? If so, please suggest an alternate as well. Or, you’re just advocating removing the islamic and muslim cultural and religious notions from Urdu? Please clarify.
    Lastly, Dr.Rahman’s book is no doubt ground breaking in Pakistan, however by no means the final word. It would’ve been beneficial if you had included some alternate point of views, perhaps even from some scholars from across the border.

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  • Mustafa Moiz
    Feb 5, 2012 - 6:15AM

    You haven’t moved beyond trying to dismiss the case for Pakistan as nonsense, have you? I used to enjoy reading your perspective a few years ago, but being stuck on the same topic for years gets kind of boring.

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  • Fawad
    Feb 5, 2012 - 8:32AM

    This is a shoddy review of an ostensibly scholarly book. I admire the author’s courage in his various popular writings to challenge Pakistani conventonal wisdom and stand up for democratic liberal values. However, questions that require serious scholarly and historical inquiry should not be used to grind a political axe. Random assertions are made here with no factual backing on who actually believes them (e.g. which remotely knowledgable person locates Urdu in the areas that constitute Pakistan today?).

    The auhtor of this review seems to have only one point. There is a lot of mythmaking about Urdu in Pakistan and this is intimately tied up with many of the other founding myths of the country. That is fair enough and how Urdu was used (or misused) after partition for cultural hegemony or imposing an artificial uniformity are important questions but completely distinct from the actual evidence of Urdu’s evolution, its connection to Hindi and their divergence overtime. The critical question of different scripts and the role they played in the language polarization is not even mentioned. I sincerely hope Tariq Rahman’s book is not as confused, meandering or purposeless as this essay. This topic is historically extremely interesting and important and deserves to be treated seriously, not as a political polemic.

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  • Nadeem
    Feb 5, 2012 - 11:40AM

    If Omer Qureshi is reading these comments. Do you remember, I told you some times back, “Let us talk about poetry” :P

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  • MilesToGo
    Feb 5, 2012 - 12:36PM

    Urdu is a product of Hindi, Persian and Arabic. All three are foreign to Pakistan.

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  • Kashmiri Chilgoza
    Feb 5, 2012 - 12:50PM

    Urdu is basically a basterized and confused form of hindi.

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  • Kazmis
    Feb 5, 2012 - 12:54PM

    Urdu is not the national language in fact. All provinces have their own languages. Why we insist that Urdu should be National language? 65 years have passed we have been trying and aspiring a wrong concept that all our provinces have similar culture and their should be a single Pakistani Culture. Pakistan is a multicultural country and in my opinion all people can not mix together because they have different mental status. for example see Lahore and Karachi, both cities have well-off people. Recommend

  • sam
    Feb 5, 2012 - 1:00PM

    Urdu’s basic name is Urdu Not Hindustani.thats how it was known from very begining.It is language of all muslims.It is above geographic and ethnic limits. No one can claim more right on it.It is sweet and soft language.Anybody who likes it can speak eat.From Culcutta to Mazar Sharif (Afghanistan).

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  • Ishtiaq Ahmed
    Feb 5, 2012 - 2:18PM

    Urdu is no doubt a beautiful language and is the lingua franca of Pakistan. Yet it does not find a geographical basis in Pakistan where every province and region has its’ own language. Both India and Pakistan should own this language and shed all biases which surround it.

    For the promotion and future of this great language, scholars of Urdu should think about adopting the Latin alphbets without discarding the Arabic script.

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  • Feb 5, 2012 - 2:39PM

    there’s nothing ‘Islamic’ about Urdu as Javed Akhtar asserts here; http://vimeo.com/19107689.. Hindi-Urdu needs to be reinvented as its real value and significance is in being the “Desi Lingua Franca”..

    http://www.HamariBoli.com

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  • MUNIB
    Feb 5, 2012 - 2:42PM

    ” It is language of all muslims “??
    lol how come it became a language of all muslims ? and muslims are NOT one unit they are different people with different cultures and different histories. People in mazar sharif are least interested in urduRecommend

  • BlackJack
    Feb 5, 2012 - 3:53PM

    @Kazmis:
    While I agree with you, in a country where education is a limiting factor, you need a common language to interlink the disparate parts of the country. So although the elevation of Urdu to an Islamic symbol is merely another sign of the confused identity of this nation, the basic premise that an official language of the Federation is required cannot be faulted. India, given its greater diversity (only 42% of people in India speak Hindi, and there a large number of people who have never spoken Hindi in their lives), also tried to force Hindi on the southern states resulting in the anti-Hindi protests in the 60’s – but finally had to back off. Today, with greater employment opportunities in the South and migration of the Hindi speaking population, the South Indians are more accepting of Hindi as a language of currency – and not a foreign language imposed by North Indian rulers. Pakistan needs to figure out the balance as well.

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  • Ali K Chishti
    Feb 5, 2012 - 4:11PM

    What a good piece by Raza Rumi. There had been many myth’s attached with a lot of things and Urdu is one of them. Unfortunately as a Mohajir in Pakistan we own Urdu dearly and had imposed it on others which is absolutely wrong too …

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  • Shiraz Hassan
    Feb 5, 2012 - 4:31PM

    Beautifully expressed.
    Urdu is one of its own kind of language. It is given as the status of our national language but most of the Pakistanis had their own languages. Bengali, Sindhi, Punjabi Balochi and Pushto. Today Punjabi has vanished from the scene hay Urdu has taken over its position.

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  • Feb 5, 2012 - 4:50PM

    Looking at this from ‘outside’ – Utrecht, The Netherlands, Europe – it seems to me that Urdu is part of a shared past and present, i.e. a past and present which cannot and in my opinion should not be claimed “one-size-fits-all” by one group – whichever it may be – as opposed to another. To me, Urdu is not the language of all muslims, at the same time it’s scope is wider than the country which is now Pakistan. This conclusion may mean the end of a myth, but it can be a new source of inspiration as well, if properly dealt with. That will depend on us, the living generation.

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  • Feb 5, 2012 - 4:51PM

    @Ishtiaq Ahmed, exactly!

    Romanization is the only solution to bridge the Hindi-Urdu divide.. doing just that -and more- at http://www.HamariBoli.com

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  • Sadia Mahmood
    Feb 5, 2012 - 4:55PM

    So what is the point? One can always promote regional languages and cultural dialogue in Pakistan. The author has missed the point that Urdu as a national language has flourished in Pakistan and has connected people unlike India where people from different regions speak English in order to converse with each other. It does connect people who do not speak or share regional languages. Also, Bengalis did not ‘reject’ Urdu, they asked for an equal ‘status’ for Bangla which was ignored by Jinnah. Hence we arrive at yet totally a different issue. Urdu is also a South Asian product -if not endorsing it, why reject it? And by the way- what is a scientific research and correcting the history? I travel to different places in Pakistan and can communicate to people in Urdu. In different provinces not everyone can read, write and speak English as the author does writing in English therefore maintaining superiority and hegemony of English as the medium of expression of elites in Pakistan. I enjoy the local accents and versions of Urdu with regional additions to it. Learning regional languages would take me a century to communicate with people and do my work. There is a positive aspect to it too. Recommend

  • Sadia Mahmood
    Feb 5, 2012 - 5:00PM

    And by the way , the last sentence of the article was perhaps not very well thought out by the author: ‘One hopes that Dr Rahman’s book is translated for the Urdu readers soon’. Why not he said in Pashto , in Seraiki and in Brahvi etc?

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  • Feb 5, 2012 - 5:03PM

    absolutely @blackjack

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  • @aamir_khan82
    Feb 5, 2012 - 5:16PM

    Urdu was never ever regional language where we are living right now and called Pakistan. There is no doubt Urdu does have significant influence on Muslim culture & heritage but it has created conflicts between other ethnicities living in Pakistan. Future of Urdu become controversial when it was trying 2 impose on Bengalis which were 55 cent of total Pakistani population. Its time to avoid further mistakes and give true respect and dignity to other regional languages of Pakistan should get status of National Languages along with Urdu.

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  • Feb 5, 2012 - 5:43PM

    As a country which is having an identity crisis, it’s important to look at the basis of this identity problem. Urdu as the writer mentioned wasn’t the language of people of Pakistan, but now it has evolved as a language which somehow helps in connecting the people of different provinces/areas. I look forward to read the book of Dr Tariq Rahman. I would also like to appreciate the writer as the article was informative and well written.

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  • Husham Ahmed
    Feb 5, 2012 - 6:22PM

    Looking forward to get a copy of Dr. Tariq Rahman’s book after reading your review, Raza. I fancy a fascinating read. Really hope the book is available to a wider audience soon in other languages.

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  • Feb 5, 2012 - 6:46PM

    Most of the commentators have taken a hostile view of this article. The the point made by the article has been missed. It is because the people of Pakistan have developed a canny habit of denying every thing that does not fit into their perceptions and beliefs created from 1946 onward. Impartial thinking and an open mind for fresh thoughts is some how diminishing.

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  • edgewalker
    Feb 5, 2012 - 7:02PM

    talk about MYTHS! the very title “Myths about the Urdu language” reaffirms the mother of all myths, that ‘Urdu’ is a language on its own, whereas it’s only a Standardized Register of Hindi-Urdu (the erstwhile Hindustani).. same goes for Hindi..

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  • Nadeem Khurshid
    Feb 5, 2012 - 9:51PM

    Wonderful insight Mr. Rumi…Despite the crucial debate over decades in a society of diverse culture and regional languages about accepting Urdu as national language / medium of instruction, no one could deny its acceptability and utility by masses in every part of Pakistan as a common medium of communication. One must think beyond geographic boundaries in the era of cross-cultural invasion around the globe. Historically, all languages went through continuous emergence and transition over the time and same has happened to Urdu and those acting anti-change finally abolished by merciless time. As a matter of fact it is the only medium understood in all geographic parts of Pakistan, most of our literature had been written in it. Urdu. In most psrts of the world, Urdu is acknowledged by the work of icons like Ghalib, Iqbal, Faiz, Manto and many more……so we would be left truly SPEECHLESS without this marvelous literature asset. Let’s, finally own and promote our cultural legacies (even in regional languages) whether we ourselves, as a nation of just 64 years of historic age, developed them or not.

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  • Hassan Naqvi
    Feb 5, 2012 - 11:07PM

    Very Thought provoking and quite well written.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Feb 5, 2012 - 11:18PM

    @Azad: ” … Romanization is the only solution to bridge the Hindi-Urdu divide.. doing just that -and more- at http://www.HamariBoli.com … “

    No Romanization of Hindi please !! You are free to try that with Urdu. If you really want to bridge the gap, use Devnagiri script.

    The Devnagari script is intelligible to people of all languages – North, East, South, West. I would hate to see Roman characters replace Devnagiri – and I say this as a person whose mother tongue is not Hindi. We want our indigenous scripts to thrive.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 6, 2012 - 12:49AM

    Every one of indian and pakistani want to teach there children english then why we bothers
    with local languages is there any reasons.

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  • azam
    Feb 6, 2012 - 2:35AM

    @frank:
    is that true? can you give reference?

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  • wasim
    Feb 6, 2012 - 3:09AM

    The author admits that Pakistan is a reality but fails to understand that Urdu is also a reality whether it was reinvented as an islamic invention or not its been there for centuries and is the sole medium which connects the people of Pakistan. our future is within the geographical boundaries of Pakistan and not outside of it, not sure if the author has other ideas., The other side of the border doesn’t like and accpet a lot of other things about our existence an easier way to peace would be if they accept us as a reality rather than expect us to voluntarily reverse history. We can only move forward and fllourish peacefully if we accept each other the way we are.

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  • Paragon
    Feb 6, 2012 - 7:53AM

    Unfortunately, whatever Javed Akhtar has said in that video link posted in one of the comments, is true to a large extent. I’ve read extensive corpus of old and modern Urdu ghazal and it has always been anti-religious.

    This is why, despite being a Pakistan, I stopped using Urdu language. None of my children know how to speak Urdu.

    I’ll stick to English language. Moreover, I’d stick to Punjabi, which had more sufi elements in it, than Urdu could ever accommodate. Recommend

  • Feb 6, 2012 - 8:27AM

    @MilesToGo:
    **”Urdu is a product of Hindi, Persian and Arabic. All three are foreign to Pakistan.”**

    That abundantly explains your intellectual capacity.Recommend

  • Homa
    Feb 6, 2012 - 9:54AM

    @azad
    @arijit
    One of the many reasons why indians have superior cognitive skills and sharp intellect is because of sanskrit rich languages and scripts which they use. Hindi/devanagari script exercises both hemispheres of the brain (unlike other scripts) and activates more circuits/area of the brain than the roman script. Lot of new research is being carried out in this field and evidence is available and the results are very interesting. Indians have every reason to be proud of devanagari and to stick to it. Arijit is right.
    Here are the research reports:
    http://www.nbrc.ac.in/faculty/nandini/in_news.html
    Neuroimaging research project: http://www.nbrc.ac.in/faculty/nandini/language.html
    Learning hindi is good for your brain: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/Learning+Hindi+is+good+for+your+brain/1/69218.htmlRecommend

  • Saad Durrani
    Feb 6, 2012 - 10:25AM

    Isn’t this all turning into a “being there, done that” like situation? I remember this issue was covered very much in detail when the book was first released.

    Furthermore, people need to check the following link out:
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/horde

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  • Garuda
    Feb 6, 2012 - 11:40AM

    @azad: Feel free to romanize urdu for improving the intellectual and psychological condition of pakistani masses. Indians are not interested in romanizing and dumbing down our rich culture and languages. We are not interested in your retrogressive proposal. Why not adopt devanagari for pak languages if you are truly passionate about brindging the gap.

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  • Feb 6, 2012 - 12:02PM

    @Homa:

    You are right, that’s the reason why China, Japan, Korea etc are at the verge of extinction.

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  • Homa
    Feb 6, 2012 - 12:19PM

    More published results about how language study/hindi affects our brain. http://www.nbrc.ac.in/faculty/nandini/in_news.html
    (The speech and language lab at NBRC– national Brain research centre.)

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  • Homa
    Feb 6, 2012 - 3:03PM

    @Abid P. Khan:
    The correct expession is “on the verge” not “at the verge”.
    Im baffled by your remark. Whats the connection? We are talking about the rapport between cognitive skills, scripts / languages. The evidence is clearly there that the hindi script enlivens more areas of the brain than some of the other/ linear scripts when neuroimaging studies were done. Its a proven fact that learning languages makes the mind sharp and stops mental degeneration and decline associated with ageing. Learning any new language makes you smarter but some languages are more effective in stimulating intelligence because of their particular structures. Why get offended by science?

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  • Homa
    Feb 6, 2012 - 3:17PM

    @Abid P. Khan:
    For roman, chinese, japanese and korean (primarily activation of left hemisphere of brain) in comaprison to hindi (activation of both hemispheres of the brain) read this article from the journal Current Science: http://www.nbrc.ac.in/faculty/nandini/pressreleases/downto_earth.pdf

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  • A J Khan
    Feb 6, 2012 - 4:23PM

    Urdu had always been controvertial. It lead to west – East Pakistan right at the out set. it lead to the Sindhi- Urdu controversy in 1974. Recommend

  • Arif
    Feb 6, 2012 - 4:24PM

    @frank:
    Utter non-sense. I am sure most people remotely connected to the language URDU know that the Turkish word URDU means (Lashkari Zaban, i.e. language of the army). It is correct that the language’s birth-place is central India; and the Mughals “developed” it into a language (based upon the court language, Persian) which was developed into a lingua franca for the whole of India (as a “local” language), by the secular king Akbar (declaring Deen-e-Illahi), to provide a handy communication instrument in the diverse Indian cultural/linguistic setting. By the way, the same URDU was also adapted by the British rulers, and used as Roman-Urdu (not Hindustani)!

    It is another matter that today Dr. Rahman and others desperately try to diminish the important role played through Turko-Persian (not entirely “home-grown” )culture on not only Pakistan but today’s India. Just check the menu in an Indian restaurant, more that 90% dish names are still Persian!!

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  • Arif
    Feb 6, 2012 - 4:38PM

    Continued from above ……/…..
    URDU’s development and wide usage was no doubt “encouraged” by the Mughal rulers of India; but it is by no means a “muslim” language. However, it is perceived to be a “muslim” language by the non-muslim majority of India (who always thought that the language was “imposed” upon them by the “outsiders”. That is the reason, today most Indians and their English” patterns are even reluctant call the language by its actual name “URDU” and rather jealously insist on calling it by other names including “Hindustani”.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 6, 2012 - 7:27PM

    @Homa ji
    I used to have friend from Hoshiar pur East Punjab and his father and uncles every body was
    reading and writting in Urdu and they told me before partition there was no lang problems and
    even in Mughals times every body read and write in Urdu untill Ebglish sneak in ….

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  • Deb
    Feb 6, 2012 - 9:16PM

    The irony of it all is that the ultra nationalist on both side use the same excuse (but differently) that this is a foreign language and not indigenous.To hindu nationalists it’s a muslim language (if only they knew how much of it’s origin can be traced to sanskrit) and for many Pakistani it’s a language born in a place which is today in India and not the natural lingo for any of the Pakistan provinces.Is it too difficult to cherish such a beautiful language by all Indians and Pakistan as part of our common heritage.Recommend

  • Feb 6, 2012 - 9:31PM

    @Homa:

    This article is about challenging certain precepts about the formation of Urdu, not script.
    I am sorry to point out that you interjected a dubious and unconvincing hypothesis in the debate, presumably a “scientific” one. Some serious research carried out in institutes located in places that do not use Devanagri, if referred to, would provide more meat on the bones.
    Will be regarded as more reliable if it was not using circular logic.

    Nandini does not refer to works of other’s, that show the effect of learning on the brain, say weree it Chinese or Arabic. Does it or does it not enhance your brain capacity if it is not Devanagri? Is Devanagri the sole script that activates your brain?

    Disagreement with your claims is not necessarily a proof of annoyance.

    Thanks for reminding me. Darn, I keep forgetting that English is not my mother tongue. .

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 6, 2012 - 9:44PM

    Urdu in Arabic/Persian way did help us in understanding our reliegen Islam thanks to Great Muslim Scholars second thing English is busniss language and should stay as it is.
    & third thing is chinese, Arabs & persian speaking peoples are more Racist in there lang than
    any one one can imagine. the same Hindus for love of indian land also..

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  • Feb 6, 2012 - 10:06PM

    @Deb:

    Is it too difficult to cherish such a beautiful language by all Indians and Pakistan as part of our common heritage.

    Dear Deb,

    The only thing we have in common any longer is hatred. Call me a pessimist.

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  • Ahmed
    Feb 6, 2012 - 10:50PM

    Imposing Urdu on an unwilling population of Bengalis, Sindhis, Baloch, Sindhis, Pastuns, and Punjabis has brought much grief in Pakistan and sowed the seeds of its disintegration. No wonder Bengalis wanted to leave Pakistan seeing the murder of their language and culture by an Urdu speaking minority.

    For over 50 years, Urdu was promoted on PTV at the expense of Pakistan’s national languages. In any case, Urdu has fast become irrelevant in the 21st century as it is neither the language of science, technology, engineering, medicine, law, or Quran.

    Urdu emerged from the brothels of Hindustan is now used for conversing with illiterate servants. Such is the fate of Urdu, condemned to irrelevance forever.Recommend

  • Deb
    Feb 6, 2012 - 10:51PM

    @Abid P. Khan

    Dear Abid,

    No.I’ll not call you a pessimist,’cause I don’t think you’re one or at the least you don’t want to be one.
    I understand and share the pain and frustration that led you to post the comment you did.
    I don’t know much about Pakistan, but in India there are are people who are doing their bit to raise awareness among the uninitiated about the intrinsic beauty and importance of this beutifull language that Urdu is.
    Just google search ‘Markandey Katju + urdu language’, you will find it quite an enlightening experience, I hope.

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  • John B
    Feb 6, 2012 - 10:54PM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    For your info, in mogul times everyone wrote in middle Persians in all official documentations and even notices of local events were screen printed(yes, screen print!) in persian. I have a collectors piece written in persian advertising about local drama (actually Ramayana, held in islamic mosque ground of Allahabad, approximate age1721 AD, August,) suggesting at least the local Hindu populace can read Persian , very likely Muslims also.

    Urdu evolved during this time as spoken language only but very little literature was ever written in Urdu. The language’s maturity and usage is determined by the trail of literature it leaves behind.

    Persian was the official language almost until late 1800s and then it was switched to English when E.India company was taken over by the British. Urdu was widely used in spoken form and had even attempted persian and Sanskrit scripts for a while. Have few leaves of the old books written in parchment.

    I have an old document written in 1732 in Persian script but in mixture of Persian and Urdu phonology (vocabulary, middle persian grammar) with an official seal describing the transfer of property from Hindu name family but professing Islamic faith and transferring the property to a Buddhist merchant from Kashmir. -the document lists a whole lot of genealogy and transfers the property along with cows to the seller, witnessed by four, one of them is a women, one witness is the imam, one witness is the document scribe, and the other is the official registrar. The woman witness is the previous property owner, who is married, and likely Jain ) and the Buyer gives back one cow as a gift to the seller, as it was custom ( as stated). The uniqueness of the document may be clear to the people who are interested in the subcontinent history.

    The document is written in silk , likely manufactured in Kashmir, ( definitely not China, as fiber is different) with black ink (India ink?) mixed with powered silver( now oxidized) and preserved with thin coat of honey.

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  • Junaid
    Feb 6, 2012 - 11:15PM

    Pakistan should learn from the example of Canada where English and French coexist peacefully. French is the mother tongue of a small minority and yet is tolerated by the English speaking minority.

    Pakistan’s case is more complex where Urdu speaking minority’s mother tongue has been imposed on a diverse population with its own national languages. This diverse population includes Pashtuns, Bengalis, Baloch, Sindhis, Gujaratis, Sindhis, and Punjabis.

    Urdu speaking minority should show large-hearted attitude and learn to accept Pakistan’s native languages instead of seeking to murder the culture and language of its population.Recommend

  • Arijit Sharma
    Feb 6, 2012 - 11:34PM

    @Ali Tanoli: to @Homa … ” …. before partition there was no lang problems and
    even in Mughals times every body read and write in Urdu untill Ebglish sneak in
    …. “

    Talking about sneaking in, there were indigenous local scripts in use before Arabic/Persian sneaked in. So why do you have a grudge about English sneaking in ?

    But you are right – English is the language of business and Education, and English can co-exist with local languages and scripts which are essential for the enjoyment of Art and Culture.

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  • let there be peace
    Feb 6, 2012 - 11:55PM

    Whether you call that thing Urdu or Hindi or Martian or Jupitarian, it is an INDIAN product.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Feb 7, 2012 - 12:06AM

    @Junaid: ‘ …. Urdu speaking minority should show large-hearted attitude and learn to accept Pakistan’s native languages instead of seeking to murder the culture and language of its population. …. “

    My impression is that the Urdu speaking folks are not to blame for this. The Pakistani establishment appears to be more keen on forcing the use of Urdu as a common language in a bid to keep the Federation together – at the expense of other languages.

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  • Zeta
    Feb 7, 2012 - 12:22AM

    I don’t care what any one these insecure indians say about Urdu. Fact is that it was groomed by Muslims majority of whom migrated to Pakistan.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 7, 2012 - 12:27AM

    @Arijit sharma
    u can say this but thank u
    @John B
    Thank u for correcting me and i enjoys it reading your comment and allmost went to seventeen century… thank u sir.

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  • BlackJack
    Feb 7, 2012 - 2:10AM

    @Homa:
    By that logic, South Indians must be dumber than North Indians as they do not use Devnagari script – what a load of tripe! While I have great regard for patriots in general, these ridiculous arguments cause even your (few) redeemable posts to seem unworthy. Where is the data to substantiate the superior cognitive abilities of Indians; and if presumed true, how do you decide that it is because they learnt Hindi/ Sanskrit? It could be the diet, the multiple languages you learn, the tough competition from early childhood, a strong imagination from reading Amar Chitra Katha or any number of factors – correlation is not causation (these are rhetorical questions btw). Being Indian, I am just happy if anyone thinks we are smart, especially after reading your posts. Urdu is a highly cultured, mellifluous Indian language, and does not deserve to be ghettoized – regardless of our reverance for Sanskrit and her progeny.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Feb 7, 2012 - 2:39AM

    I love Urdu and now we know what happend in 18th century how the one lang of Hindu/Muslims divided in two by reliegous peoples from both sides but thank to Bollywood
    movies and songs writers we still and will have even untill next unification of the whole india.

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  • Feb 7, 2012 - 5:31PM

    Unfortunately, this article as well, suffers from lack of rigour, resulting in blatant inaccuracies. Urdu was a product of Moghal era? Moghal rule was established after the final battle at Panipat, where Ibrahim Lodi lost, that would be around 1525.

    Sultanate of Delhi was run by Seljuks not Moghals. Amīr Khusrow (also Khusrau, Khusro) Dehlawī wrote couplets both in Persian and Hindavi. If you bother to read
    Khusrow,

    with a little effort, you will be able to understand major part of his works. He died about 200 years before the events at Panipat. Urdu/Hindavi was already taking shape several centuries before the arrival Moghals on the scene.

    (Wikipedia is in need of revamping.)Recommend

  • Homa
    Feb 7, 2012 - 7:58PM

    @BlackJack: My my. First of all im really flattered you track my posts. I didnt know i had such a dedicated following in the (telugu) troll community. Anyway, do read carefully what i wrote, muster your amar chitra katha level interpretation skills, and then ponder on the given text with sincere effort. I said “sanskrit-rich languages and scripts.” What does that mean? If you had read that with a calm mind you would have figured out that the description encompasses not just hindi but the languages and scripts of the south too. In your insecure zeal and touchy righteousness you are seeing ghosts where there are none. And I also said “among the many reasons….” not my fault if you choose to read it as “the one and only reason.” By the way, i agree Hyderabadi urdu sounds mellifluous (much sweeter than telugu) even though you yourself do not provide any “data to substantiate” that observation. Finally, Hindi does use the same script as sanskrit (which is really cool) and the NBRC study was on Hindi in particular. Voila.

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  • Feb 7, 2012 - 9:18PM

    Dear All: Most encouraged by the comments here. Thanks.

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  • Feb 7, 2012 - 9:19PM

    For those who are disturbed/offended by this piece – please read the book and then make your generalisations. Thanks.

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  • Homa
    Feb 7, 2012 - 9:50PM

    @Raza Rumi:
    You are very welcome. Since you are an aficionado of all things lahore, thought this might interest you, in case this is material you haven’t already discovered: http://www.sacw.net/partition/june2004IshtiaqAhmed.pdf
    If i ever visit pakistan, would like to come and meet you. I enjoy your photopgraphy and writings about india quite a bit.

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  • Feb 8, 2012 - 9:37PM

    Homa: Many thanks for the comment; and the excellent link. I was trying to look for it and thanks to you I have the link. Will read it and also write a post on Lahorenama. cheers, R

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  • Homa
    Feb 9, 2012 - 10:17AM

    Swell! Thanks. Glad you find it useful. Look forward to reading you again, here or there. I also hope you will parley this debate about the politics of urdu, languages and scripts into another artcle soon.
    Meanwhile, Here’s another link for you on the exodus from Lahore: http://www.apnaorg.com/columns/ahameed/column-27.html
    I get censored by the modertors sometimes over here so I hope this message reaches you and the public. Namaste from America.

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  • Sadia Mahmood
    Feb 9, 2012 - 6:02PM

    @ Ali Tanoli: not everyone knew to read or write during the Mughal era. There weren’t many government primary schools then;) Persian was the lingua franca of the officials and the elites.Rest was all awam, allowed to do whatever they liked to do! Yes, along with introducing English, British also promoted and legalized some scripts: such as Sindhi. South Asia was much more at ease not having strong regional linguistic politics which unfortunately is promoted through this article. Jinnah wanted to have one national language to bring up one nation. The author should re visit his opinion in the light of many US politicians scolding Urdu. Think!

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  • Pak Hindu
    Mar 4, 2012 - 2:05AM

    A real language is the one that people adopted around the world without even knowing they did.
    Urdu is one of that language. It’s Urdu that made Indian Nationalists to force a generically named language as Hindi on all Indians which backfired and so we are seeing result of that as attacks on Urdu. The word “Hind” is derived from the province “Sind” that outside world refer to when mention India(Indus-Sindhu-Indies). From Alexander to Sindbad the traveler that mystically used to traveled on the winds that open shipping trade season with India. Almost 70% of the people of the world know or understand atleast one word of Urdu. There are 300 plus languages in India and none of them was called “Hindi” before partition. The “Hindi” language was unsuccessfully forced upon those other languages of India (riots erupted and so the idea was partially applied)as a counter to Muslims Urdu as mentioned in Indian Nationalist Leaders Archives. In the End who can deny the world-power of English in a news paper article?

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