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Urdu and Its contribution to Secular Values

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  • Shaji John K
    Dear Friends, Some of you may have already seen this article, still it s worth circulating and to have in our archives. Cheers, Shaji ... ??? Urdu and Its
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 29, 2001
      Dear Friends,

      Some of you may have already seen this article, still it's worth
      circulating and to have in our archives.


      Urdu and Its contribution to Secular Values

      Asghar Ali Engineer

      Urdu is one of the major languages of India. It finds its place among
      the languages included in the VIIIth Schedule of the [Indian]
      Constitution. This north Indian language has made significant
      contribution to promotion of secularism and secular values in India
      before and after partition. Its base has been Khadi Boli which was
      spoken by the people in the North. In fact both Hindi and Urdu have a
      common base - i.e. Khadi Boli. Its grammar and syntax is common. So
      much so that many people argue that it is not two but one language
      with two different dialects. One draws its technical vocabulary (say
      for philosophy, psychology, science, religion etc.) from Sanskrit and
      the other from Persian and Arabic. Some linguists even argue
      that it is the British imperialists who created two languages out of
      one at the Fort William College, Calcutta in 19th Century by heavily
      borrowing from Sanskrit and Persian and Arabic languages.

      Earlier Urdu was often referred to as Hindavi i.e. a language
      belonging to India as against Persian and Arabic. Even the great Urdu
      poets refers to it as such. But though grammar and syntax is common,
      both the languages have different historical identities. The syntax
      and grammar may be same but both have their own ethos and cultural
      values. Also, though both have common origin in Khadi Boli both draw
      their sustenance from different traditions which is what gives a
      language a specific identity. Urdu literature, specially its
      poetry, has drawn profusely, at least to begin with, from Persian
      sources. However, as often argued, that does not make a language

      All modern literature in Indian languages, poetry as well as prose,
      has drawn heavily from English and French literature but it never
      affected the basic character of these Indian languages. They very
      much remained Indian. However, what is worthy of note is that Urdu
      has drawn heavily from secular Persian sources, not religious ones.

      The Persian ghazal drew its inspiration either from Sufi sources or
      from secular human values. The great Persian poetry, specially the
      ghazal, had imbibed liberal humanist values right from beginning.
      Poets like Hafiz and Sadi always mocked at narrow sectarian approach.
      They adopted mostly non-religious symbols to promote liberal
      humanism. Gul-o-bulbul (rose and nightingale) or jam-i-mai
      (cup of wine) or m'ashuq (beloved) are all non-religious secular
      symbols through which the major Persian poets fought religious

      The Urdu poets also followed suit. It will be unfair to describe Urdu
      literature as drawing its inspiration from foreign sources. As the
      English literature, being the literature of the ruling class,
      influenced all Indian languages, so the Persian literature was the
      literature of the ruling class at that time and influenced most of
      the Indian languages, particularly Urdu. However, Urdu imbibed the
      best secular traditions of Persian literature. The Ghazal genre was,
      particularly the protest poetry, protest against all forms of narrow

      Urdu literature is basically inspired by humanistic values, both
      poetry as well as prose. Ghalib was, and remains, one of its greatest
      poets. He was highly liberal in his approach. He had several Hindu
      disciples like Tafta. Ghalib was also deeply influenced by Sufi
      humanism. In one of his ghazals he says:

      " We are unitarians and our creed is to wipe out all (faith)
      traditions; When all communities died down, they became constituents
      of my faith."

      Thus it will be seen that Ghalib transcends all narrow boundaries
      of faith/ communities. He wants to base his faith on universal
      humanism. Similarly what matters for Ghalib is certain values like
      loyalty (wafadari) to ones belief and not what is ones belief. The
      priests of all religious communities stress correctness of their
      faith whereas Ghalib stresses value of loyalty, and not correctness
      of ones faith. Stress on correctness of ones faith will obviously
      result in narrow sectarianism and rejection of all other faiths while
      stress on loyalty will promote a fundamental human value. Thus Ghalib
      says that

      "The real test of ones faith is his firm loyalty to it ( and not its
      correctness) and if a Brahmin (obviously a kafir in the sight of a
      sectarian believer) dies in a temple, bury him in Ka`ba
      (i.e. the holy mosque at Mecca). Though a Brahmin, though a kafir, he
      needs burial in the holy mosque of Mecca for his loyalty to his faith.

      Ghalib also was quite unorthodox in his religious views. He welcomed
      the new ideas and scientific research. He even was critical of Syed
      Ahmad Khan for bringing out an edition of Abul Fazl's book. He said
      in his preface to the book which Syed Ahmad Khan wanted him to write
      what was the use of publishing that ancient text when new scientific
      discoveries and inventions were being made in Europe. He also
      considered Dair-o-Haram (temple and mosque) as 'refuge of the tired
      mind'. One should perpetually struggle to discover new truths.

      It is a tragedy that Urdu is considered the language of the Muslims.
      Nothing is farther from truth. In fact no language can ever be
      associated with any religious community. Even Arabic cannot be
      associated with Muslims alone though the holy Qur'an had been
      revealed in that language and all classical works on Islam had been
      written in that language. The Christian Arabs also speak that
      language in several Arab countries like Egypt, Palestine, Syria,
      Jordan, Lebanon etc. It is the language of churches in
      these countries. Their sermons are delivered in it and the Bible has
      also been translated by them into Arabic. The Christian Arabs are as
      proud of Arabic language as the Muslim Arabs.

      Urdu was never the language of Muslims alone, nor of all Muslims in
      India. In the South, except few pockets in Karnataka and Andhra
      Pradesh, no Muslim knows Urdu at all. They speak Malayalam, Tamil,
      Telugu or Kannada. The Qur'an has also been translated in these
      languages and their Friday and other sermons are also said in their
      respective regional languages. In Western India too, Muslims speak
      Gujrati or Marathi except those who have migrated from U.P. or Bihar
      and settled there. Similarly the Muslims of Konkan region speak
      Marathi as their mother tongue.

      In the same way millions of Hindus and Sikhs from North spoke Urdu
      until recently. The largest circulated papers in Punjab were in Urdu.
      Even the pro-BJP paper in Punjab - Pratap is published in that
      language. It is only lately that Urdu is being given up in favour of
      Hindi. Some of the greatest writers and poets have been non-Muslims.
      Munshi Premchand was a celebrated Urdu writer. His masterpiece Gaudan
      was written in Urdu. It was only in the later phase of his life that
      he also wrote in Hindi. His celebrated short story Kafan is also in
      Urdu besides several other novels. The Urdu literature will ever be
      grateful to Munshi Premchand for his rich contribution to Urdu
      literature. There are several other celebrated non-Muslim writers and
      poets who have pride of the place in Urdu literature. Raghupati Sahai
      Firaq Gorakhpuri, was one of the great Urdu poets who won Janpeeth
      Award in early seventies. He was so proud of Urdu that he described
      Hindi as the 'language of the rustics'.

      Chakbast, Dayashankar Nasim, Tilakchand Mehroom were all great Urdu
      poets. Jagannath Azad, son of Tilakchand Mehroom, is considered an
      expert on the celebrated poet Iqbal, and himself is a noted Urdu poet.
      There have been several other great Urdu novelists and short story
      writers who were non-Muslims like Krishna Chandra, Bedi and others.
      Both have written several novels and short stories in Urdu which can
      make anyone proud. Even today when many people are switching over to
      Hindi ~here are several non-Muslim writers and poets who are making
      worthwhile contribution to Urdu literature. And it is by no means an
      insignificant contribution.

      As pointed out above, Urdu poetry has been essentially a protest
      poetry. It has always been highly critical of narrow-mindedness and
      sectarianism. The great literature in Urdu was produced by those who
      are known as progressive writers. The progressive writers movement
      started with great enthusiasm in the thirties. It produced great
      writers and critics. They were all committed to secularism and
      composite culture and fought against orthodoxy, religious bigotry and
      traditionalism. Many of them were Marxists and others nationalists.
      All the great names of Urdu literature in twentieth century belong to
      this group who set great value for secularism. Faiz Ahmad Faiz,
      Majaz, Sardar Jafri, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Jan Nisar, Akhtar, Kaifi
      Azmi, Sahir Ludhyanvi , Firaq Gorakhpuri and others among
      poets; and Munshi Prem Chand, Krishan Chandra, Bedi, Saadat Hasan
      Manto,Hayatullah Ansari and others among fiction writers, all be
      longed to this progressive movement. All of them wrote poems, short
      stories or novels which were highly critical of the creation of
      Pakistan and the dividing the people of India on the basis of
      religion. The best stories on the subject were of course written by
      Saadat Hasan Manto. His story Toba Teksingh on partition is a classic
      and no one has been able to write a better story on this subject. It
      is a great satire on the creation of Pakistan. Similarly Krishna
      Chandra's Tai Esri is also an important story. In view of all this
      the charge that Urdu is the language of Pakistan and that it promoted
      the idea of Pakistan is baseless and cannot be sustained by objective

      In fact Urdu has been instrumental in fighting communalism and the
      idea of two nation. Also, it was in Urdu that great persons like
      Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani wrote.
      Maulana Azad's Al-Hilal in the early twenties had stirred the
      nationalist feelings among Muslims. It was read by lakhs of Muslims
      in North and Central India. If any single journal can be given credit
      for creating a strong nationalist consciousness among the
      Muslims, it was Al-Hilal. The Britishers, of course, confiscated its
      security deposit. Al-Hilal rendered a yeoman service for the
      nationalist cause. The Maulana always wrote and spoke in Urdu. His
      speeches after the Independence instilling confidence among Muslims
      and exhorting them to accept secular values were all in Urdu.
      Similarly, Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar edited an Urdu paper called
      Hamdard which also was a great champion of nationalism in those days.

      It is true that Muhammad Ali's views changed later but he never gave
      up his anti-British campaign. Similarly Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani,
      who was Rector, Darul Ulum,Deoband, the great Islamic seminary, wrote
      his book Muttahida Qaumiyyat Aur Islam (Islam and Composite
      Nationalism) in Urdu. In this book he argued with great force that
      Islam fully supports composite nationalism and does not uphold the
      concept of two nation theory. Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, another
      revolutionary and great opponent of British imperialism also wrote
      large number of essays urging people of India to fight against
      British imperialism in Urdu.

      Thus it will be seen that Urdu can in no way be held responsible for
      partition of India, as some people maintain. It is a language which is
      representative of composite culture in India and it has been
      instrumental in promoting secularism and secular values.
    • RTC
      Course on Foundations in PRA and Village-Level Planning (Aug 20-27 2001) Start Date: August 20, 2001 Location: Development Tracks, Research, Training &
      Message 2 of 2 , Aug 3, 2001
        Course on Foundations in PRA and Village-Level
        Planning (Aug 20-27 2001)

        Start Date: August 20, 2001

        Location: Development Tracks, Research, Training &
        Consultancy (RTC), India

        Event Details: The purpose of the course is to equip
        participants with skills in applying basic methods,
        principles and process for elementary village-level
        planning. This course is directed towards
        decision-makers, managers and officials associated
        with PRA and village planning activities.

        Course Outline: PRA background, principles, methods,
        process, applications; attitude and
        behaviour;Micro-planning, its principles and kinds;
        concept of physical, financial, spatial, temporal
        planning, developing perspective; situational analysis
        –methods, tools and techniques; context
        analysis-methods, tools and techniques; gendering
        micro planning; developing objectives and goals;
        problem prioritisation and conflict resolution;
        solutions to problems –prioritisation and conflict
        resolution of solutions and group priorities; elements
        in plan implementation; budgeting and sourcing

        Registration Details:
        Fees: For participants from India & South Asia: Indian
        Rupees 15,000. For participants from foreign
        countries: US $350

        Contact Information:
        Development Tracks, Research, Training & Consultancy
        52/82 Chittaranjan Park, (Ground Floor)
        New Delhi –110019, India
        Phone - 91-11-6481824; Tele-Fax- 91-11-6480332
        Basic Course in Participatory Monitoring & Evaluation
        (Sep 3-10 2001)

        Start Date: September 03, 2001

        Location: Development Tracks, Research, Training &
        Consultancy (RTC), India

        Event Details: In this course the participants learn
        to appreciate participatory approach to monitoring and
        evaluation and are able to apply such approach and
        participatory methods to actual field conditions. This
        course is designated for Managers, monitoring
        officials and professionals engaged in evaluation.

        Course Outline: PRA background, principles, methods,
        process,applications; Participatory Monitoring &
        Evaluation (PM&E) and conventional M &E; Why Evaluate
        & what can be achieved? Aspects of Evaluation- levels
        of evaluation,Kinds; Aspects of Monitoring. Kinds of
        monitoring; Kinds of information and PM & E --Policy,
        practice, problem identification/ evaluation/
        resolutionDesigns of EvaluationInventory of
        indicator/CriteriaParticipatory Methods for PM& E
        based onPLA/ PRA/RRA/PRRA, Analysis & stakeholders'
        view/outsiders' view/indicators, Gender aspects/social
        aspects Report writing on Evaluation.

        Registration Details:
        Fees: For participants from India & South Asia: Indian
        Rupees 15,000. For participants from foreign
        countries: US $350

        Contact Information:
        Development Tracks, Research, Training & Consultancy
        52/82 Chittaranjan Park, (Ground Floor)
        New Delhi –110019, India
        Phone - 91-11-6481824; Tele-Fax- 91-11-6480332

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