International conference: ‘Muslims responsible for demise of Urdu in India’

Experts discuss way forward for Urdu across the border.

Akbar Bajwa October 13, 2013
“Muslims were responsible for the demise of Urdu in India and they are the ones who must fix it now,” says Dr Shamim Hanafi. PHOTO: FILE


“I think that Urdu can only flourish in Pakistan. Its future in India seems bleak,” Dr Nasir Abbas Nayyer said at the third session of the Second International Urdu Conference on Sunday.

The theme for the session was Urdu in India. Writer Intizar Hussain presided over the session. The panelists included Dr Shamim Hanafi, Zubair Rizvi from India, Asghar Nadeem Syed and Dr Nayyer. The session was moderated by Aliya Shah. Nearly 200 people attended the session.

Dr Nayyer opened his talk by discussing the history of languages in India and the position of Urdu among them. He said the Indian government had deliberately lowered the status of Urdu after partition. There was active propaganda against the language, he said, Urdu had been removed from the school curricula and even Muslims had to study Hindi instead. “There aren’t many who can read or write Urdu in India,” said Dr Nayyer.

“We need to examine the role of major institutions in India, if we are to analyse the state of Urdu there,” Syed said. Bollywood has played a major role in sidelining Urdu under a government strategy, he said, Urdu enjoyed presence in Indian media till the 1980s. Syed said several Urdu writers and poets including Kaifi Azmi, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Sahir Ludhianvi, Saadat Hassan Manto, Javed Akhtar and Gulzar had contributed to Indian called the Hindi film industry. He said that students who studied Urdu in Indian universities became researchers and critics, but very few of them opted to become writers or poets. “The future of Urdu in India is not that gloomy,” he said, “Its cinema still borrows heavily from it.”

Dr Rizvi, a script writer and researcher from India, said that Hindi was a ‘link language’ and the Indian government was justified in labelling it that way. “Urdu has its own status that cannot be diminished by any other language,” he said. Most kathak dancers and classical singers only performed on Urdu poetry. “Urdu has blended with several arts and no one, not even the Indian government, can take it out from there,” he said.

Dr Hanafi said, “The state of Urdu in India is not deplorable. However, whenever I think of Urdu I think of Pakistan.” He said that Pandit Nehru, who was criticised for propaganda against Urdu in fact, loved the language and would call it his mother tongue. “His wedding card was in Urdu. There were political reasons for declaring Hindi as the official language along with English, not enmity,” said Hanafi.

He said many rich languages were spoken and written in India. Urdu’s status as a language of the court had dealt it damage. “Languages do not flourish through the government’s supervision. Its speakers and writers make them progress,” he said.

Hanafi said that one of the reasons why Urdu failed to flourish among all classes and communities in India was the mistreatment of non-Muslim Urdu writers. “Muslims were responsible for the demise of Urdu in India and they are the ones who must fix it now,” he said, “The language needs all the help it can get to regain its vigour.”

Intezar Hussain concluded by seconding Hanafi’s statements and said, “All that had to be said has been said. Whatever I can add to it would not be of much value.”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2013.

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ahmed41 | 7 years ago | Reply

You know, lets ignore ,for a moment , this Hindi Vs Urdu matter.

What are the ground realities ? Much of the literature published in URDU consists of poetry. Prose takes a backstage. Fine, be it so.

Look at the needs of the 21st century. Can anyone show me a single TEXT-BOOK of international standards ,on technical subjects such as Physics , written in URDU or Hindi.

Supply & demand ; that is the hard fact of language usage.

Bakhtiyar Ghazi Khan | 7 years ago | Reply

@genesis: Millions of Sunnis today also speak Farsi and its dialects, such as Dari and Tajik. Many local dialects in Pakistan, Kashmir, and Afghanistan have significant Farsi influence as well.

@Rajesh: No one stated that Urdu is only a mixture of Farsi, Turkish, and Arabic. Urdu is an amalgation of numerous local dialects which was adopted as one language of communication (the other being Farsi) for Muslim soldiers, hence the word Urdo meaning military camp in Turkish. Pure Urdu shares numerous similarities with Farsi (it may even be considered a dialect of it, like Dari). As a matter of fact, many people regard Urdu poetry as a successor to Farsi poetry. Hindi on the has no linguistic or literary merit, as it is a crude language artificially synthesized to counter Urdu.

@Rakib: It has been the policy of the Indian government to sideline and marginalize the Muslim minority, and that includes its language (Urdu) and its Muslim cultural identity. Urdu is seen as a Pakistani language and Islam is seen as a Pakistani religion, hence the friction between Hindus and Muslims in India today which breeds extremist genocidists based on mob communalism like BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and any other of the hundreds of groups of Hindu fanatics.

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