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My Second Innings: “Battling” for Urdu w ith the Chief Minister of Delh i

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  • Ather Farouqui
    MAINSTREAM, VOL LI, NO 40, SEPTEMBER 21, 2013   My Second Innings: “Battling” for Urdu with the Chief Minister of Delhi   by Ather Farouqui  
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 24, 2013

      My Second Innings: “Battling” for Urdu with the Chief Minister of Delhi
      by Ather Farouqui
      Distinguished readers of Mainstream may  remember my article, “Urdu Needs Kiss of Life and Not Myopic Policies” (vol. L, no.33, August 4, 2012), which was very critical of the policies of the Delhi Chief Minister, Ms Sheila Dikshit, as far as the promotion of Urdu language was concerned.
      I argued in that piece that Ms Dikshit was simply enamoured of the idea of Urdu as a ‘language of culture’ romanticising it if you will, while ignoring the vital need for making it an integral part of the school curriculum and essentially bringing about real change in the way that it is promoted and working towards making Urdu a functional language. I emphasised that the administrative control of Urdu education in the NCT of Delhi should be with the Directorate of Education as is the case with other languages and as was also the case with Urdu before the establishment of the Urdu Academy—an institution comprising the stooges of every ruling party with hardly anyone in their ranks warranting the status of a scholar or even having an iota of understanding of the complicated issues of Urdu.
      Ms Dikshit’s nominations of members to the Delhi Urdu Academy can be compared in their incomprehensibility only to Mr Kapil Sibal’s nominations of members to the National Council for promotion of Urdu Language as the HRD Minister—where among other incompetent members, a small-time nihari (a non-vegetarian dish which mainly Muslims eat as breakfast) seller of the walled city of Dilli was also included along with other nincompoops to whom he had outsourced his constituency for winning elections.  Not that a nihari seller cannot have political aspirations, but this sort of blatant outsourcing does not give the man any agency and only serves the purpose of the political giant who merely uses him and others like him as pawns in his grand scheme of things.
      Considerable time has elapsed since the publication of this write-up and in September 2012, I was appointed the General Secretary of the Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu (Hind), which though boasting a distinguished past, has since been in the decline not unlike other independent Urdu institutions. For various reasons, mainly the overall decline of Urdu particularly in school education, the Anjuman too has lost itspast glory and has digressed from its main agenda, leadership of the Urdu movement and the promotion of Urdu language and literature. The Anjuman wasvery dear to the heart of stalwarts like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr Zakir Husain in the post-independence era. Maulana Azad served as the General Secretary of the Anjuman while Dr Zakir Husain launched the first mass movement for the rightful place of Urdu by collecting 22.5 lakh signatures in post-independence India. All these initiatives came from the pillars of the Nehruvian establishment. Things, however, took a turn for the worse after the death of Ms Indira Gandhi and the Urdu leadership from that time onwards has com-prised courtiers, rather hangers-on and time-servers, who jostle for the crumbs of office thrown at them by the powers that be. Because of the efforts of Ms Dikshit and others of her political class, the movement for the promotion of Urdu in Delhi seems to be in its death throes and has denigrated from meaningful goal-oriented activism to something of a pantomime with exaggerated displays of misplaced victim-hood.
      Keeping the flag flying in these trying times because of some illustrious members, however, are institutions like the Anjuman and the Ghalib Institute. Anjuman’s current President, Sadiqur Rehman Kidwai, is probably one of the last nationalists left, toiling to keep the Gandhian legacy alive. Kidwai Saheb’s father Shafiqur Rehman Kidwai was a freedom fighter who was chosen after independence by Nehru to contest elections, but preferred instead to go abroad because of his conviction that power politics was not for a freedom fighter. Despite his absence and sans any campaign, he neverthe-less swept the elections and subsequently graced half-a-dozen portfolios in the Delhi Government.
      The Ghalib Institute was established by the late Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad. His family cares for the great legacy of this stalwart and is trying to run the institution as professionally as possible under a very competent director Dr Shahid Mahuli. In this endeavour, they have the support of Sadiqur Rehman Kidwai, who is running the institute as its secretary with able leadership and administrative acumen. Needless to say, two illustrious sons of the late President, namely, Justice Badr Durrez Ahmed and Dr Pervez Ali Ahmed, have been trying their best to keep the banner aloft through the smooth functioning of the Ghalib Institute.
      Black diamond (cards)
      After taking over as the General Secretary of the Anjuman in September 2012, I received a phone call from Ms Dikshit’s office requesting me to see her. As the head of a prominent Urdu organi-sation, I obviously agreed to do so, but maybe she was in two mindsabout meeting a person who had written such a critical article, certainly the first one, about her Urdu policies. So the proposed meeting was put off many a time before it finally materialised in June 2013, of course at the behest of the CM. Like the previous meeting—which resulted in zilch—it was a pleasant experience, Ms Dikshit being an extremely cultured person and an exceptional host. However pleasant the hospitality, I am sure that this meeting too will not yield any positive result.
      Anyway, a brief description of the encounter is perhaps warranted. As the Assembly elections are almost upon us, the waiting room and the veranda beyond were milling with people. I was requested to sit in a quiet corner, another example of Ms Dikshit’s fine manners. She disposed of the visitors in the drawing room within minutes and walked an extra mile in politeness to come up to me. She was wearing her usual smile and holding a copy of the issue of Mainstream I have already referred to. After an exchange of pleasantries, she congratulated me on my new assignment and asked if there was anything she could do for the Anjuman. But at the back of my mind, I was sure that she would not do anything substantive. Then, referring to Mainstream, she praised the efforts of Sumit Chakravartty and said that it was remarkable that even one-and-a-half decades after the demise of Nikhilda, Sumit had managed to keep the magazine going without any support from the establishment.
      A cursory glance showed that my article was much flagged, with several passages highlighted. I was flattered that at least the article had been carefully perused by the CM. The shrewd politician that she is, she never referred it to the Urdu Academy or Secretary of Culture nor did she ask them to take note of the contents of the article, and I am sure if someone had asked her, she would convey the impression that she was not even aware of its publication. Tea was as usual served and after a careful look at my article she remarked: ‘I was hoping that you would revisit your article!’ I retorted that neither had the Urdu Academy informed me about any change in policy nor had I read any press reports to this effect, so a change was surely not necessary.
      She confessed candidly—perhaps as a matter of policy as elections to the Delhi Assembly are just around the corner—that I was absolutely right in what I had written about Urdu education and how the issue had been dealt with by the Urdu Academy. Using the usual route of passing the buck as an excuse, she put the onus on the members and vice-chairpersons of the Urdu Academy saying that they had not once drawn her attention to such a state of affairs. She was very critical of those who at the time of the establishment of the Academy had not addressed this issue: to include Urdu education in Delhi in the mandate of the Urdu Academy. She said that at this late stage it would be difficult to introduce the necessary amendments, but she said that she had nevertheless asked the Directorate of Education and Secretary of Culture to look into the matter, (which was not true, according to my very reliable sources). Here, resorting to my usual bluntness, I told her that if she did all that was required to promote Urdu education she would be remembered for all time to come. But the time for this was fleeting. Despite their educational backwardness, Muslims were now very aware of the difference between those who had done something substantial for them and those who had merely proffered token consolations since Partition, and in recent times they had become extremely critical of such politicians, especially Congressmen. She demonstrated unusual courtesy, saying: “I am sorry that the last time I had not done my homework about you before meeting and so offered you the Vice-Chairmanship of Delhi Urdu Academy or the Chairmanship of a college. But I sincerely hope that you will help us in a substantive way not only in regard to promoting Urdu but also general education of Muslims as you not only have varied experience but your out-of-the-box thinking on every issue and your long experience in English-medium education can be an asset for the Muslim community. I hope that if something substantive with full autonomy is offered to you, you will not decline it.”
      I thought it would be uncharitable to decline at that moment, but I had my doubts whether any sane Muslim with independent thinking would consent to serve in the Delhi Government or play a role in national politics. So I left the matter at that. Displaying extraordinary eti-quette she stepped out with me as I prepared to leave and asked me to convey her invitation to Sumitda to drop in sometime and include her name among the readers of Mainstream.
      (The author is the General Secretary of the Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu (Hind), New Delhi)

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