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Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History
Urdu in India
By Dr. Rizwana Rahim
Chicago, IL

“What’s in a name?” Juliet thought aloud, “That which we call a rose/ by another name would smell as sweet.”* Maybe, if its distinctive smell also gets proper credit and due recognition: After all, “a rose is a rose is a rose.” **
Urdu, a hybrid language born in united India’s syncretic culture, has long been short-changed in its own native land.
It is one of the 22 languages listed currently in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India, but an official State language only in Jammu & Kashmir, being the mother tongue of about 55.5% of that State’s population. However, only in parts of Bihar (15 districts) and UP (13 Western districts, with Urdu-speakers being 15% or more of the area population) was Urdu granted the second official language status -- not by an act of Parliament but by an ordinance in the 1980’s and only for some purposes. Significant populations of Urdu-speakers also live in Andhra Pradesh (AP; Hyderabad, its capital), Karnataka and Maharashtra but, like in UP and Bihar, it is only in selected districts (not state-wide) that it is recognized as the second official language (e. g., about 13 districts in AP).
The Eighth Schedule is not cast in stone. It has already been amended three times so far: adding Sindhi to the original list in 1969, three more (Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali) in 1993; and four more (Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali) in the 100th Amendment to the Constitution in 2003. The last expansion was unique in two respects: for the first time, two tribal (‘spoken’) languages were added; one (Bodos) owed its inclusion to “a part of the memorandum of settlement between the militant Bodos, Assam Government and the Centre,” and “to keep the balance,” another one (Santhali) was added from another tribal area. During the 2003 debate, L. K. Advani (then deputy PM) alerted the country that up to 35 more languages could be added to the Eighth Schedule, once the ongoing discussions with the linguistic experts are completed. So, apparently, the list is not done yet, nor is the debate on the Eighth Schedule and the criteria for inclusion.
With the recognition as a State’s official language comes the government support and protection, a major boost to the viability and growth of that language, with facilities such as a medium of instruction in schools, appropriate facilities, official form of communication. This, in a way, also helps India’s literacy programs (‘Education for All’, like the ‘No Child Left Behind’ initiative of the Bush administration).
However useful the opportunities may be, this recognition will still be restricted mostly to that State. And, these regional opportunities are very limited, compared to English, which opens all types of doors world wide, particularly in the 21st century Information Technology age. Because of this, English continues to be an increasingly preferred educational option for the next generations. This, in turn, decreases one’s need to depend on regional languages (including Urdu) for a brighter future -- globally rather than just regionally. The government recognizes this all too well: During the 2003 debate, Mr. L. K. Advani had also stressed how “national unity is more important than language issue,” and how both Hindi and English should continue as India’s national languages, because “de-linking [from Hindi] from English was not a good thing as India had its advantages in Information Technology sector over China because of the knowledge of English.”
Given the historically multi-linguistic culture in India and inter-relationships among the languages, many dialects and even languages have been subsumed in the Eighth Schedule languages. The reliability of the linguistic census data depends critically on such questions as who are considered the “speakers” of a particular language: Only those who have it as the mother tongue (first language) or those who also use it as their ‘second’ and/or ‘third’ language? Since ‘spoken’ Urdu and Hindi are largely and indistinguishably similar, the only way one can tell them apart is by way of individual scripts (Urdu’s Persian-Arabic and Hindi’s Devanagiri). Most linguists think they are essentially the same when spoken, the attempted distinctions being more political than linguistic. Unless census takers/enumerators collect the data on the (first/second/third language) script-familiarity and script-use as a distinguishing criterion along with others, and use all of them uniformly, the conclusions will always remain subject to such nagging basic questions. And, such questions continue to follow all other information derived/mined from the census (regional, country-wide and global use and rank-order compilations etc by different national and international groups).
According to the latest figures from ‘Ethnologue’, Urdu “speakers” in India happen to be little over 48 million. Based on this, it is ranked as the 6th most widely ‘spoken’ Scheduled language, after (numbers in parentheses, million) Hindi (180.00), Bengali (70.56), Telugu (69.63), Marathi ( 68.03), Tamil (61.5). Separate from Urdu, Ethnologue also lists “Deccan” language ( ISO/DIS 639-3: dcc) – with its alternate names and dialects -- spoken by more than 10 million people in various parts of India. Ethnolgue (13th edition) lists ‘Hindustani’, with 496 million “speakers” as the 3rd most widely spoken language of the world, after Chinese (Mandarin) at over 1 billion and English (521 million). ‘Hindustani’ was used in 1931 census (instead of Hindi and Urdu, separately), which continued till the 1961 census (i.e., for the first 14 years after independence): this was mostly because of the ‘spoken’ similarity between Hindi and Urdu. Hindustani has also been listed in various databases as separate language from both. Such tactics have made it increasingly difficult to tease out the distinctiveness of Urdu from Hindi, given the traditionally overlapping (shared) cultural values, attitudes and identity (or what’s implied in the French, ‘mentalite`’), the Hindi-Hindustani-Urdu group. This, I suspect, did a lot to unfairly dilute and diffuse Urdu’s status as an independent language. Whether or not this was also politically motivated is not that hard to figure out.
Another wrinkle subject of debate and controversy is the cluster of dialects (even languages) in each Eighth Schedule language. Multilingual Indian mosaic allows you to form various clusters among closely related languages and dialects. For instance, Mallikarjun in ‘Language in India’ (2004) makes it clear that while Hindi is the mother tongue of 22% of the population, it has “20.22% of mother tongues clustered under it as a language”; it is the 2nd language of “6.16%” and the 3rd language of “2.60%” of population – “totaling to 50.98%” – thus, it’s regarded as the majority language, according to the 1991 Census. Since, no census was taken in J&K in 1991 because of communal riots and other disturbances there in 1991, a question then is: do these figures include J&K or not?
In post-independent India, Hindi promoters, particularly the extremists led by Arya Samaj, managed to absorb different dialects and languages into Hindi. Several resisted these aggressively assimilative measures but none too successfully. Only Punjabi “speakers” managed to retain the distinctiveness of their language and got it included in the Schedule – and this was after intense and prolonged battles with Hindi promoters. What helped them was their script (gurmukhi), which (like Urdu’s) is distinct from Devanagiri of Hindi. (To be continued)


Urdu in India - II
By Dr. Rizwana Rahim
Chicago, IL

Article 351 of India’s Constitution states: “It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating, without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expression used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages” [emphasis added]. One of the questions is how does (or can) this “enrichment” take place “without interfering with its (Hindi’s) genius,” and without gradually blurring and defusing the identity of another language.
Most languages are alive -- they grow and draw from other languages. However, since ‘Hindustani’, again a category not used in Census since 1961, is itself a blend of both Urdu and Hindi, any siphoning off from “the forms, style and expression used in Hindustani and in the other languages” further dilutes an already diluted/defused Urdu, and for which it receives little or no credit and recognition. It seems more like the growth of one at the expense of other languages, as opposed to a symbiosis.
Illustrating this Hindi-Hindustani-Urdu ‘mentalite`, Paul R. Brass in his “The Politics of India Since Independence” (1994) cites a complaint by Syed Hamid (President, Anjuman-e-Taraqqi), published in the Times of India (4 September, 1991). It has to do with Uttar Pradesh (UP), a province which had already discarded Urdu through its Official Language Act (1951), even though till Independence, Urdu was one of the two official languages of the State (with Hindi). According to the 1971 census, UP was listed as having 11.6 million Urdu ‘speakers’ (or 10.5% of the State’s population). In the 1981 census, these figures were reduced to 10.8 million Urdu ‘speakers’ or 9.7% of the State population. Hamid suspects that census enumerators were “deliberately listing declared Urdu speakers as Hindi speakers.” More complaints against census, e.g., in The Times of India report of February 2001: http://www.timesofindia.com/230201/23mpat8.htm. These involve Hindi.<b>
Hamid’s charges seem supported by more reliable statistics provided in an exhaustive paper by A. R. Fatihi (in ‘Language in India’, March 2003). Based on this, it was clear that Urdu population maintained its level of growth (NOT declined) from 1971 to 1991, and that from 1971 to 1991, the decennial population of Muslims in the State showed a steady growth “ranging between 22 to 26%” (NOT a decline).</b> Only a small minority of UP’s Urdu speakers are bilingual (23.2%; much lower than the State’s average) and among them, the other language is generally Hindi: 18% or less than 1 out of every 5 Urdu speakers can also claim Hindi as their 2nd language. It is true that Muslims have contributed heavily to Urdu and its growth, but to exclude the contributions by non-Muslims would be a mistake. The fact that about half of Muslims do not claim Urdu as their mother tongue explodes the ethnic-linguistic identification myth, not just in UP but all over India. Given the Hindi-Hindustani-Urdu mentalite`, it would be highly misleading to believe that Muslims speak only Urdu; any growth in Urdu benefits only Muslims.
Perhaps bending somewhat to the growing image of disparity in equal treatment and seeing the chinks in the prevailing ‘Urdu = Muslim’ myth, Indian government decided in March to provide funds for the recruitment of Urdu teachers for primary and other schools in UP and Bihar. This initiative, mere tokenism as some critics think, should still be a significant boost to the language, which has so far only suffered at the hands of these States. In the UP, to facilitate polling in its 27 districts and where the Urdu-’speakers’ exceed 20 per cent, the Election Commission in 2004 published even electoral lists, for the first time in Urdu. Muslims formed about 19% of the State’s population, and were spread (over 20%) over these districts. About 85% of the Urdu-speaking population lives in UP, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, but with the possible exception of Bihar, Urdu is virtually absent from the school syllabi. Not surprisingly, this is filtered into the Census, and the figures for Urdu over the past 3 decades were sluggish and not encouraging. The ‘Urdu = Muslim’ myth was exploded over 3 decades ago when Bengali-speaking East Pakistan fought, after years of linguistic conflicts, to spilt from Punjabi-Sindhi-Urdu speaking West Pakistan.<b>
Urdu is even considered as a ‘dying language’. This largely reflects the image presented in Anita Desai’s 1985 book “In Custody,” made into a movie of the same name (1994), directed by Ismail Merchant of the famed Merchant-Ivory collaboration of 40-plus years. It represents an aging Urdu poet and his decline as an allegory for Urdu’s fate in modern India:</b> Deven, an admirer of a famous Urdu poet, Nur sahib, gets an assignment to interview his idol. When Deven meets the poet, he is thoroughly disappointed in the man who is reduced to drunken ramblings and gluttony, surrounded by nagging wives and his hangers-on/yes-men/ ‘toadies’. A disillusioned Deven returns home after the interview and finds a package of his works the poet had sent him before he passes away. More than a hint that a decadent Urdu is now dying! It may be too early for such a prognosis, but to say that it has been flourishing and would continue to do so under the same conditions may be wishful thinking.
As a native-speaker of the language, Merchant, in his AsiaSource interview of May 2001 claimed: Urdu “cannot die out because it has very strong roots in Persia,” and that popular Hindi movie songs “are all written in Urdu.” Others have taken a similar view, satisfied that Urdu (the simplified kind) now flourishes in Hindi movies and songs, thanks to some of its poets, and that even non-Urdu “speakers” use the language (thanks to ‘Bollywood’). This is hardly an indication of Urdu’s survivability and growth. In fact, the movies in which ‘this’ Urdu exists are classified and labeled as “Hindi,” with Urdu not even listed among the credits for its contribution. Rather, this is a good example of how Urdu has been losing its identity, increasingly subsumed in Hindi. This is not how most languages survive!
Very few things would bring the point home better than the fact that the FIRST “Hindi talking-movie” was named (in Urdu). “Alam Ara” (1931), a 124-minute movie was listed as a “Hindi-Urdu” production, unlike the Hindi movies today that contain lot of Urdu in songs and dialogues! [One interesting trivia about ‘Alam-Ara’: “Although Mehboob was scheduled to play the lead in Alam Ara, Master Vithal from Sharda Studios got the part. When Sharda sued Vithal for breach of contract, he was defended by M. A. Jinnah.”] (To be continued)


Urdu in India - III
By Dr. Rizwana Rahim
Chicago, IL


Imagine what would happen to ANY language, not just to Urdu, that continues to nourish and enrich other languages, but does not receive adequate support for its own continued survival and growth, or even proper credit and recognition for the support it provides other languages: This would be exsanguination, a slow draining of its life-blood.
If language X offers no upward mobility or increased opportunities, its use in schools and elsewhere would, as a consequence, decline with time, and the next generation would prefer (quite understandably) another (say, Language Y) that offers what X couldn't. Language X could easily be Hindi itself, compared to English (Language Y). Continued vitality and growth of a language lie in the 'genetics' of the language itself, i.e., how well a language is received and regarded by each succeeding generation in the daily life of its 'users' in both personal and official/business. Vitality and growth will be reflected in such indices as its output and progress in literature (books, newspapers, etc), science and technology and other areas.
In addition to its continued usage by coming generations, growth of a language is indicated by its usage, for example, in newspapers, books and other such indices over the years. Using the Ministry of Information data, Paul Brass looked at the language newspapers and their annual circulation from 1960 to 1987. In 1960, there were 680 Urdu newspapers (~ 8.5% of the total newspapers published in the country then), whereas Hindi had 1,532 (~19%, or 2x Urdu papers), English 1,647 (slightly more than Hindi), and 2,718 papers in other regional languages. From 1960 to 1987 (nearly 30 years), the total newspapers in all languages jumped three-fold (from 8,026 to 24,629) and in 1987 (level of increase in parentheses): Urdu (1,676; 2.4x); Hindi (7,783; over 5x); English (4,322; 2.6x) and regional languages (8,335; 3x). Despite the relative increases and their levels, the share of Urdu out of total newspapers declined from 8.7% in 1960 to 6.8 % nearly three decades later (similar decline was also seen in English papers, from 20.5 % to 17.5 % -- but during the same period, Hindi's share grew from 19% to 31.6%, with regional papers claiming over a third (33.8%) of the total share.
Some nationalist groups have long believed that since Urdu is too reminiscent of the Muslim and Moghul past, it must no longer have a place of recognition or prominence in a free independent India (or the 'Urdu=Muslim' or 'Hindi-Hindu' myth). Such comments are baseless:
(i) The language that seems to have kept the free independent India united so far (including through the highly divisive, strife-ridden States' Reorganization period of the 1950s) is not Hindi or any of the indigenous languages but English, reminiscent for a more recent British past. English not only outlasted its initial 15-year lease-of-life granted in the 1950 Constitution but if Advani's assurances during the Eighth Schedule debate are any indication, the language of our British past would also continue as a unifying force in a linguistically-diverse independent India, in addition to providing India a distinct edge in this IT age.
(ii) After the decline of Apabhransha, modern Hindi itself emerged (1283) with Khusro's pahelis and mukris (he was also the first to use the term 'Hindavi'). And, it's in the works of Sharfuddin, Banda Niwaz Gailurdaz, Wjahi Ali, Sultan Kuli Qutabshah, Shah Turab etc., that one can see the 'khari boli' or the established form of Hindi, while Kabir's works (1398-1518) mark the origin of "Nirguna-Bhaki" period, and
(iii) Another unforgettable contribution to Hindi was from neither a Hindu nor a Muslim or a Sikh, but from John B. Gilchrist, a principal at Fort Williams College of Calcutta (established by British East India Company), who, for teaching BEIC employees, wrote Hindi grammar and compiled a dictionary in 1796 (the first published Hindi book): its critical impact on the growth of Hindi literature cannot be ignored or minimized.
In Pakistan, however, Urdu is the official language but it happens to be the mother tongue of only 8% of the population. Urdu and Pushto are almost equally widespread as the first language, which is far behind 48% of the population who speak Punjabi, but lot closer to the cluster of languages that are the mother tongue of minority populations: Sindhi (12%) and Siraiki, a Punjabi variant (10%). Of course, there are some linguistic problems in a country that the religion couldn't hold together in 1971 that language wanted to put asunder. Nevertheless, it's a valiant gesture indeed for Urdu and its survival and promotion.
For promotion of Urdu, the Indian government has taken some steps, including appointing the Gujral Commission and creating National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), an autonomous organization created by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. Both of them have had little success to speak of: Gujral Commission is unable to see its recommendations accepted and implemented, and NCPUL, a successor to the now-defunct Bureau for the Promotion of the Urdu Language and the Taraqqi-e-Urdu Board, is mired in other difficulties and thus largely ineffective so far.
A colleague of mine, Dr Khan Dawood L. Khan, whose articles have also appeared in 'The Pakistan Link', has raised these concerns about Urdu with the Indian Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Shri Jaipal Sudini Reddy: Indian songs, movies and TV shows contain a lot of Urdu words. All of them are labeled as 'Hindi' productions, none even co-listing Urdu among the credits. Since all these productions (movies, TV productions, songs etc) are registered with the Ministry to obtain its approval certificates, it also has the responsibility to see that its certified products display proper labels. Dr Khan's letter (22 April 2005) offered his suggestion, which I thought was reasonable, but so far he has received neither an acknowledgment nor a response. A translation of this letter was also published as 'open' letter in "Munsif" (19 May 2005) of Hyderabad, AP/India, on the Editorial page, under letters ["Hindi ga'naon mein Urdu ul-faaz"].
Here's the text of the letter (22 April 2005) to Shri Jaipal Sudini Reddy, Union Cabinet Minister, Information Broadcasting and Culture, New Delhi, India (sjaipal@sansad.nic.in ) :
"Indian movies, TV programs and songs (all labeled and certified as 'Hindi') contain a lot of Urdu words. Such productions are categorized as ‘Hindi,’ and Urdu is NOT even co-listed in the credit.
“I believe it is unfair to Urdu, which is after all one of the recognized official Indian languages.
“Hindi is a rich language, and as a native speaker of these both languages, I'm always pleased to see Urdu contributions to 'Hindi'. But this happens to be at the expense of Urdu. To be fair, Urdu needs proper recognition and properly listed in credits.
“If a Hindi movie/TV program/song contains a significant number of Urdu words, I think it would be reasonable to list/categorize it as ‘Hindi/Urdu.’ For this, I suggest the 10-15% Urdu words as the minimal required contribution.
“I think I represent the sentiment of many Urdu-speakers who feel this step-brotherly treatment. I hope this suggestion receives a serious consideration in your Ministry. I would appreciate an early response (by email or post)."
Those similarly interested in this issue can pursue this matter, as part of Constitutional rights of linguistic minorities under Article 20 (to preserve "distinct language script or culture"), Article 30 ("All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice") and Article 350 for seeking redress of the grievances to any central or state official/agency/authority [ "Every person shall be entitled to submit a representation for the redress of any grievance to any officer or authority of the Union or a state in any of the languages used in the Union or in the state, as the case may be"] and its sub-sections Article 350 A & B.

Such slow dissolution of any language will certainly have an overall impact on the cultural amalgam of a country.
References:
1. Paul R. Brass. The Politics of India, Since Independence
[The New Cambridge History of India. IV-I], 2nd ed., 1994
2. Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue:
Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tx.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/. http://www.ethnologue.com/web.asp
3. Tej K. Bhatia. Colloquial Hindi. Rutledge. New York. 1996
[* 'Romeo and Juliet' by Shakespeare, Act 2, scene 2, lines 43–44; ** Gertrude Stein, 1922]


http://www.pakistanlink.com/opinion.htm


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Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by dhu - 04-17-2006, 06:50 AM
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Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 05-09-2006, 04:14 AM
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Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 08-10-2006, 08:29 PM
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Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 08-11-2006, 05:11 PM
Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 08-11-2006, 08:47 PM
Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 08-11-2006, 08:54 PM
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Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 10-25-2006, 05:45 AM
Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 11-04-2006, 09:39 AM
Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 11-04-2006, 09:56 AM
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Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 11-11-2006, 07:08 AM
Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 11-17-2006, 07:17 PM
Miscellaneous Topics on Indian History - by Guest - 10-06-2004, 11:25 AM

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