Neglect of Urdu by successive governments has always evoked severe reactions from quarters concerned. Cutting across party lines, legislators have time and again agitated it on the floor of the house. Unfortunately, the sweet language has been connected to Islam and Muslims. This perhaps is the reason behind Urdu’s slow but sure demise in the state.
It may be true that most Urdu knowing people are Muslims, but not all Muslims know Urdu. Muslims love Urdu not because it is a divine language. The reasons are different. Most Muslims in this part of the world do not know Arabic. For easy and effective understanding of the commoner, religious literature has been produced in bulk in Urdu. It is, therefore, a mere medium of acquiring religious knowledge. The sooner Muslims understand this, the quicker their problems would get solved.
Muslims have been exploited to the hilt by politicians in the name of preservation of Urdu in India. There are only three issues for Indian Muslims – Aligarh Muslim University, Muslim Personal Law, and Urdu. And the government ensures that they (Muslims) remain obsessed with the trio. Muslim Personal Law, for the information of Muslims, is divine law, and Allah has promised to protect and preserve it. And, it can be best preserved by observance. How many Muslims perform marriage strictly in accordance with divine law?
As far as the Aligarh Muslim University is concerned, it has now grown in shape and size. It was only a school when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan founded it. Protecting, preserving and patronizing the university is a compulsion for ‘secular’ India. It would be suicidal for the Indian government to change its name. Muslims, therefore, need not worry.
Yes, Urdu will lose its sheen if Muslims connect it to Islam. As mentioned above, it is, and should remain, a medium of acquiring religious knowledge. They must bear in mind that there are millions of non-Muslims who speak this language, especially in North India.
The government has set up Urdu academies in most states where Muslims are in sufficient numbers, to satisfy the ‘demands of Muslims’. This is how they get exploited. They demand Urdu academies for preserving and promoting the language, but fail to send their children to school.
Urdu language has played a vital role in Jammu and Kashmir’s politics. The Lahore-based Urdu press ignited the spark around 1930. People rose in revolt against Dogra rule. Then came a time when newspapers started coming out from Jammu and Srinagar. All of them were in Urdu, prominent among them being the Javed, the Hamdard and Al Barq. Urdu thus became the language of the freedom movement. It was spoken by Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas and Prem Nath Bazaz with ease. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Raghunath Vaishnavi spoke it fluently. Pitambar Nath Fani and Sardar Budh Singh understood it properly. Allah Rakha Sagar and Jagan Nath Sathu could write it efficiently. The leadership reached the masses through Urdu. Nobody ever connected it to Islam and the Muslims.
Fortunately, Dogra kings never viewed Urdu in a religious perspective. Instead, it was made the official language of the state. A thorough study of the state’s diverse cultures, religions, languages, history, geography and other dynamics compel one to appreciate their (the Dogra rulers’) wisdom.
They could have easily made Dogri the official language of the state. They understood that Urdu alone could hold the state together. Urdu is spoken in Kashmir and Jammu. It is understood in the Ladakh region as well. People living in areas now under the administrative control of Pakistan also understand and speak Urdu. This is the common factor in the heterogeneous state.
Promoting Urdu, therefore, is a political compulsion for all those who want to see the state united. Strong voices demanding the division of the historic state have been heard at various places recently. The former minister of housing and urban development who hails from Ladakh rightly said that the National Conference did not do anything to promote Urdu. He said it while responding to a fellow legislator’s remarks two years ago on the floor of the house.
Much damage has already been done to the state’s unity, during the past two years in particular. A strong binding factor, therefore, is desperately needed to defeat the nefarious designs of unscrupulous elements that are bent upon deepening the divide between various regions of the state. What can be the binding force? The people of the state profess different faiths, have different cultures, speak different languages and have different lifestyles. But Urdu is common. It is purely `secular’. Save Urdu for holding the state together. Promote Urdu for bridging the gap between various regions of the state.