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On Urdu

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  • shajijohnk@yahoo.co.in
    Dear Friends, Our first dispatch is on Urdu, as you all know ...Urdu is not simply one of the languages of this country. It is a culture and civilisation in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 17, 2001
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      Dear Friends,

      Our first dispatch is on Urdu, as you all know "...Urdu is not simply
      one of the languages of this country. It is a culture and
      civilisation in itself...But today this great culture needs urgent
      measures for its very survival...". Please post if any of you have
      most recent update on this issue or other related tidbits. Also I
      weclome your comments.


      This dispatch contain

      1. Urdu in UP, Danial Latifi

      2. Hindi Nationalism, By Alok Rai

      3. New: Urdu Set To Take Off On The WEB
      Urdu in UP
      Danial Latifi

      Urdu in the UP, for long a sleeping volcano, has suddenly erupted.
      This event is wrapped in such confusion, mystery, and misinformation
      that the Urdu-speaking people and the public do not know where to
      turn and how to redress their woes.

      After independence and partition Urdu came under a cloud and was
      subjected to attack from atavists. These atavists were joined by
      certain opportunistic Muslims who sought to prove their loyalty by
      abusing the rest of their own community. Many of these were
      bureaucrats who after retirement sought to become public leaders of
      the Muslim community, a task for which most of them were ill-

      The Decline
      The decision of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly
      [by the president's casting vote] making Hindi the official language
      of the union, i e, raj bhasha was sought to be read as rashtrabasha
      by Hindi enthusiasts. They rode roughshod over the rights of other
      language-speakers. This was resisted in the south. Unfortunately
      north Indian Urdu speakers were ill-led and misguided.
      Zakir Hussain, later India's third president, gained popularity in
      1952 by collecting 2.25 millions of signatures from Urdu speaking
      people of UP (at that time a very high percentage) after a massive
      campaign, supporting a petition asking the president to save Urdu
      under Article 347 of the Constitution. Subsequent census reports were
      manipulated (by wrongly stating the mother tongue of Urdu speakers as
      Hindi) to mask this figure. He raised the expectations of the people
      to a high pitch and led his followers up the garden path. Later when
      he became president he abandoned the idea. Even if he was compelled
      to do this by opposition from the cabinet, morality demanded that he
      resign on this issue. He did not do so and demoralised the Urdu
      speaking people who had trusted him. Thereafter it became difficult
      for anyone else to raise the banner of this cause. Some years later I
      K Gujral played the same game. He had authored the Gujral committee
      report, containing various recommendations to the government in
      favour of Urdu. He gave maximum publicity to this for 25 years.
      Partly on this account he gained popularity and a secular image that
      helped him become prime minister in 1997. When in office he
      inexplicably abandoned his own proposals which he could seemingly
      have implemented suo motu without consulting anybody as Ali Imran
      Zaidi has rightly pointed out: Now it is useless to talk about the
      Gujral Commission and its famous recommendations in favour of Urdu
      because it is as clear as broad daylight that they were never meant
      to be implemented – but only to fool Urdu speaking people. By
      recommending for Urdu every thing between heaven and earth, Gujral
      became the apple of the eyes of Muslims and it was the immense
      popularity thus gained that helped his ascendancy to the throne of
      prime ministership. As PM he never tried to give any thought to
      implementing his own recommendations. Only when he was dethroned with
      the UF government losing its majority in the house did he aspire to
      become PM again by playing the Gujral Commission Card. But to his bad
      luck – by the time Muslims had lost faith in him (EPW, April 10,

      It is generally believed that on the advice of certain opportunitists
      the government permitted persons to study Urdu in the university who
      had never matriculated in that language. It is alleged that such
      students who could not gain admission in any other faculty took to
      Urdu as an escape from the criteria of merit. They later gained high
      degrees and became teachers to the damage of Urdu education.
      These atavists wiped out Urdu from secular educational curricula in
      north India. Parents were thereby compelled to send their children to
      the mosque-dominated madrasas or maktabs. These were now the only
      source of Urdu education. This strengthened the grip of Muslim
      fundamentalists and obscurantists on the mind of the people, as was
      evident during the Shah Bano controversy.

      The stilted Urdu taught by the madaaris and makaatib (religious
      seminaries) became the official standard Urdu, wiping out the
      immemorial Urdu traditions of the past that constituted the priceless
      wealth of the composite Indian cultural heritage. The new Urdu thus
      created alienated non-Muslim Urdu speakers and simultaneously
      strengthened the atavic non-Muslims.

      We are now confronted with the third or fourth generation of these
      conditioned Urdu scholars who comprise the major part of the official
      Urdu intelligentsia. It is alleged that the `advisers' above- named
      prevailed upon the government to open `show-window institutions'
      appearing to promote Urdu – really a mere cloak for inactivity.
      All this, particularly the performance of Zakir Hussain and even more
      of I K Gujral brought maximum discredit to their respective
      governments and ruling parties among the Urdu speaking people. This
      has shown in devastating poll results in the UP.

      Misinform and Deny
      A placebo statute was passed in 1989 by the UP legislature to give
      the status of second official language to Urdu in UP. This Act was
      toothless because it made no provision for Urdu education. Such a
      provision had become essential because four generations of those
      whose mother tongue was Urdu had been deprived of instruction in that
      language, whether as primary or optional subject.

      On October 6, 1989 the UP legislature amended the UP Official
      Languages Act 28 of 1989, adding section 3 to it. This enabled the
      state government to provide as per the purposes indicated in its
      notification, "in the interests of Urdu speaking people" that Urdu
      would be treated as the second official language of the state. A
      notification issued thereunder the next day, enumerated these

      This act was passed under Article 345 of the Constitution,
      (reading, "The legislature of a state may by law adopt any one or
      more of the languages in use in the state or Hindi for all or any of
      the official purposes of the state"). The notification thereunder was
      challenged in a PIL Writ Petition No 10313 of 1989 filed in the
      Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court by the UP Hindi sahitya
      sammelan on various grounds. The court did not insist at the outset
      that any concerned Urdu representative or institution be made

      Three main constitutional issues were raised by the petitioners in
      their petition which runs into 48 typed pages:-

      (1) That the word `or' in Article 345 must be given its full meaning;
      that Hindi having been declared official language exhausted the power
      of the legislature to adopt any other language for any official
      purpose. No doubt `or' can be read as `and' whenever the judges so
      please, but they should normally give reasons for so doing. In the
      present case all the judges on the bench seem to have dismissed this
      argument without giving any reasons. No doubt cogent reasons were
      present in their minds for the course they took.

      (2) That the words "subject to the provisions of Articles 346 and 347
      occurring in Article 345 of the Constitution imported the consequence
      that the power conferred on the legislature under Article 345 is
      subject to the same limitations as are imposed on the power given to
      the president under Article 347. The limitation was that there must
      be a desire expressed by a substantial proportion of the population
      of a state that the language spoken by them should also be officially
      recognised in the desired manner. The reading of this limitation into
      Article 345 was rejected by the judge Trivedi J but approved by
      judges Sahay and Brijesh Kumar.

      (3) That no substantial proportion of the population of the UP were
      Urdu speaking and that the condition had not been satisfied. Judge
      Brijesh Kumar held this point in favour of the Urdu speaking people.
      He held that the matter stood concluded by a previous decision of a
      judicial bench comprising K K Goyal and K N Mishra. It would not be
      proper to comment on these questions in view of the pendency of the
      appeal in the Supreme Court. There were other minor points (such as
      the argument that the notification issued under the act involved
      excessive delegation of legislative powers by the legislature) that
      need not be discussed in detail here.

      All the many legal grounds taken by the petitioners in the high court
      were ultimately rejected by that court. The writ petition was
      dismissed. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was refused by the
      high court.

      Proceedings in the High Court
      It is needless to detail the many interesting arguments considered
      and ultimately rejected by the high court at Lucknow. These are now
      of academic interest only in view of the pending appeal in the
      Supreme Court. It is not permissible to comment on them here. The
      judgments of the learned judges of the high court run into 145 pages
      of typescript and display much erudition. One of the longest of these
      relates to a question that arose as to the procedure to be followed
      when there is a difference of opinion between two judges of the bench
      (as here). This question is well settled under the Letters Patent
      governing the procedure in the various high courts in India that have
      been functioning for over 100 years. Readers cannot help thinking
      that if the learned judges had received abler legal assistance they
      might have completed their task sooner. Actus curiae neminem gravabit
      is the grim maxim of the law. In English this means: `grin and bear
      it'. Beneficial legislation has been held up for 10 years by the
      Hindi sahitya sammelan obtaining the stay order of the court. The
      prolonged legal proceedings are a tribute to the legal ability and
      acumen of the lawyers of the sammelan. They took full advantage of
      the indifference of their only opponent, the government, that seemed
      least interested in speedy end of the litigation. A study of these
      proceedings may prove instructive to students of legal procedure,
      constitutional law and political science. Such a study cannot be
      attempted here now.

      Attitude of Urdu Teachers
      This matter seems to have proceeded before the learned judges of the
      UP High Court for many years without attempted intervention by any of
      the well-wishers of Urdu in the state. At a late stage Z Jilani was
      permitted to make oral submissions before justice Brijesh Kumar on
      behalf of Naim Ahmad who also sought to be impleaded as a party.
      However, no formal order impleading him seems to have been passed.
      This was unfortunate because it prevented Naim (seemingly the only
      person really interested in Urdu before the court) from receiving
      notice of the special leave petition later filed in the Supreme
      Court. As an academic, Naim may be forgiven for assuming that the
      order of the high court refusing leave to appeal to the Supreme Court
      would be final. It was the duty of his advocate to alert him to
      possibility of the appeal which actually materialised. A petition for
      special leave to appeal was shortly thereafter filed by the
      indefatigable sammelan and admitted in the Supreme Court in 1996. It
      does not appear that they made anyone but the state a party
      respondent, despite the earlier application made by Naim before
      justice Brijesh Kumar, earlier referred to. This appeal has been
      pending in the Supreme Court since then.

      More inexplicable is the conduct of the politicians and public
      figures claiming to be interested in Urdu. When this writer was
      approached by Ather Farouqui in January 1999 to examine this matter,
      the first thought that occurred was to find out whether any special
      leave petition had been filed in the Supreme Court. It was a matter
      of archival research to ascertain the appeal number of an appeal
      already three years old. Initial efforts in the Supreme Court having
      failed it was the tenacity of the redoubtable Ather Farouqui that was
      able, ultmately to trace out the appeal. Meanwhile opportunist
      politicians were publicly declaring that the battle in the UP had
      been won. The strong public response of the Urdu speaking people in
      two public meetings at New Delhi, on January 16, and again on April
      16, 1999 demonstrated their enormous and vibrant interests in this
      issue. Spreading complacency and misinformation about such a matter
      is ill service to Urdu; so is irrational thinking and chauvinism
      which is losing cause in the world today.

      In these circumstances a gathering of intellectuals and well-wishers
      of secularism and Urdu met on January 16, 1999 which continued on
      April 16, 1999 at the IIC, New Delhi under the joint auspices of the
      Linguistic Minorities Guild, the Jamia Urdu, Aligarh and the Urdu
      Speaking People's Front – to demand that Urdu be accorded its full
      rights under the Constitution of India. This campaign has received
      adherence from a formidable list of eminent supporters from all
      secular sections of the people.

      The former chief justice of India and chairman of the Human Rights
      Commission, M N Venkatchalliah, on April 16, 1999 at the India
      International Centre, New Delhi in his inaugural address to the Urdu
      Symposium, sounded the tocsin. He said:

      The Urdu language has a special place in India. The Urdu language
      conjures up and inspires deeply emotive sentiments and thoughts from
      the sublimity of the mystic to the romantic and the earthy, of
      perfumes of camaraderie, of music and life's wistfulness and a whole
      range of human relationships. Its rich literature and lore is a
      treasure house of the noblest thoughts on life's mysteries. Urdu is
      not simply one of the languages of this country. It is a culture and
      civilisation in itself...But today this great culture needs urgent
      measures for its very survival...The richness of Urdu culture needs
      to be restored to its pristine glory.
      Unfortunately, at this time as mentioned earlier, some persons who
      should know better have been falsely representing that the UP Act is
      now in force, when it is still under stay from the Supreme Court as
      mentioned above. Meanwhile the Delhi state government under Sheila
      Dixit had decided to declare Urdu, along with Punjabi, as second
      languages in the state. This is a toothless bill since it does not
      provide any facility for Urdu/Punjabi education nor does it make it
      an extra qualification to know these languages for applicants seeking
      government jobs – particularly in those departments where the
      knowledge of these languages becomes imperative. However, despite
      this the BJP had opposed this move, which still awaits the sanction
      of the governor. A long battle is ahead. Much has to be done.
      Spreading complacency and misinformation is ill service to Urdu.
      According to materials collected by Ather Farouqui 16 writ petitions,
      challenging the status of Urdu are pending in the high court. It is
      surprising that Lucknow, with all its traditions and claims, seems to
      have been unable, so far, to supply these. The Urdu speaking people
      must meet this challenge. The slogan of second official language may
      not suffice.

      Courtesy: EPW Commentary, February 17, 2001


      Hindi Nationalism
      By Alok Rai

      Orient Longman
      (Tracts for the Times Series)
      Non-fiction, Rs 150
      By Anand Vivek Taneja

      The importance of this book is best understood by some comparative
      linguistics of the simple sort. For a start, listen to a qawwali by
      Amir Khusrau. Then listen to a speech by Atal Behari Vajpayee on a
      good day. You will find the Khusrau qawwali, written seven hundred
      years ago, far easier to understand. And far more beautiful. (Though
      some would say that anything would be more beautiful than Vajpayee's
      interminable pauses, but let's not be unkind.) The fact that a
      Turkish noble, who was in effect a second generation immigrant to
      India wrote, and presumably spoke, a far more accessible language
      than the Brahmin Prime Minister of contemporary India, has a lesson
      for us which we ignore at our peril.

      Alok Rai is highly qualified to give us these lessons and he does
      precisely that in a concise, yet erudite and passionate book. Apart
      from being an Allahabadi, and a respected scholar, he happens to be
      the grandson of Premchand, the father figure of modern Hindi, who
      also wrote a significant body of work in Urdu. And the importance and
      urgency of Alok Rai's work, for himself as well as any concerned
      reader, emerges out of the violence done to the fluid yet often
      magnificent language that the everyday characters of Premchand's wry
      fiction speak. This language has been replaced by a bureaucratized,
      dead, homogenised, Sanskritized, sanitized version that makes
      students regularly fail exams in their own 'mother-tongue', and make
      non-Hindi speakers dread and resent the language. Hindi, in short, is
      being done in by 'Hindi'.

      Rai painstakingly explains howcertain struggles for power transformed
      a dynamic and popular language with near infinite local variations, to
      a homogenized, de-Persianized version of one dialect, Khari-Boli,
      which is essentially the language of the elite, Brahmin class

      Rai puts part of the blame on us, the English speakers of this
      country. As speakers of what is essentially an elite language, and
      often disconnected from vernacular realities, we are really in no
      position, even with our 'secular' (hopefully) outlooks and access to
      power, to challenge the sectarian and communal agendas that are now
      nearly inextricably linked with the 'Hindi'wallahs, and their
      (potential) mass audience.

      Rai writes about how struggles for power determined the counter
      positioning of 'Hindi' against Urdu, English and Brajbhasha. He
      painstakingly explains how these struggles transformed a dynamic and
      popular language with near infinite local variations, to a
      homogenized, de-Persianized version of one dialect, Khari-Boli, which
      is essentially the language of the elite, Brahmin class. The book,
      though full of detailed, meticulous research, never drags like some
      other scholarly works.

      Hindi Nationalism documents the rise of divisiveness between the
      languages through the school for British administrators at Calcutta's
      Fort William. Also covered is the struggle for the introduction of
      the Nagari script in the courts of Avadh from the late 19th century
      onwards, and the often arrogant reaction of the Persian-reading
      Kayastha and Muslim administrative elites to the 'boorish' upstarts
      from the Nagari-using classes. Rai skillfully narrates the struggle
      of 'Hindi' to emerge dominant as the 'one language' of the 'one
      nation', and the chauvinism and the contestation associated with it,
      down past Partition to the efforts of the 'Nagari Pracharan Sabha' in
      Tamil Nadu.

      Though writing with a sense of urgency verging on desperation, Rai
      does not give up on Hindi, whose future as a language that links
      disparate regions and communities - as it did in the past - he does
      not doubt. In his own words, "There is no cause for pessimism here …
      my hope is to free Hindi from this repressed history of violence …
      and so enable it to realize itself. By distancing itself
      from 'Hindi', which is unmistakably a part of the problem, Hindi can
      work towards becoming part of the solution…"

      And for anybody who has ever swayed to a Khusrau qawwali or applauded
      the recitation of a Ghalib sher, or smiled at a Premchand story,
      three final words - Read this book. There is also an extensive
      selection of quotes in myriad forms of Hindi (and if you insist,
      Urdu) rendered in Devnagari here.

      Courtesy: Tehelka.com

      The Sustainable Development Networking Programme (SDNP), a project of
      UNDP, managed by IUCN - the World Conservation Union, in Pakistan has
      taken an important step forward. In collaboration with the National
      College of the Arts (NCA), it organised the first workshop on 'Urdu
      Web Authoring' - learning how to publish in Urdu on the Internet - to
      be conducted at NCA, Lahore on 21-22 February 2001. In the coming
      months, SDNP would organize a series of such workshops in other major
      cities of Pakistan. Only recently has the Government of Pakistan
      promulgated a standard for the Urdu script. Previously there was no
      such standard, and software houses created their own. Hopefully, all
      Urdu software, from now on, will conform to this standard and achieve
      the same level inter-operability that we are used to in the English
      language. SDNP has already created a web gateway for all significant
      development information about Pakistan (www.sdnpk.org). Under this
      programme, funded by UNDP, more than hundred and seventy development
      organizations - including a third from the government - have been
      trained to set up and maintain their websites. This is in addition to
      thousands of other websites and Internet resources that have been
      indexed for this Pakistan Development Gateway (PDG). Plans are
      underway to establish a similar gateway in Urdu as well, so that a
      larger number of Pakistanis here and abroad will have access to the
      latest development news and information in a language that they can
      easily understand. Contacts: Sustainable Development Networking
      Programme, PO Box 3099, House 12, Street 85, G-6/4 Islamabad 44000
      Pakistan root@...
      (Thanks to Zubair Faisal Abbasi for this posting:
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