The Death of a Language, Death of a Nation

While waiting at a bus stop in Delhi once in a while the old DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) bus passes by. With everything being polished over in the capital city some things are being painted over, like the words written in Urdu on these buses. Soon all these buses will be replaced by the new & glittering ones and there won’t be even this faint shadow of Urdu on Delhi roads. A language is dying and with it a culture is dying but who cares.

Some intellectuals are portraying the decline of Urdu as the loss of Muslims and most Muslims are seeing it as such, which shouldn’t be the case. It is the loss of all the people of subcontinent irrespective of the religion they belong to. Allah in Quran declares that all the languages are His. But Like people we have divided languages into ours and theirs, when it should had only been His. Allah in Quran says (Surah Ar-Room Verse 22) “And one of his signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors; most surely there are signs in this for the learned”.

The question that comes to mind is even after knowing this, how & when did  we start attributing Urdu with Muslims and Hindi with Hindus. To understand this we will need to travel back in history to the times of Ghalib, 1828-29, when he was in Calcutta (Kolkata). During his stay there he was once invited to Persian poetry reciting (Farsi mushaira ), while he was being escorted there one of the accompanying person’s said that it was very nice of British to start a course at Fort William College to teach and promote Hindi as well as Sanskrit for Hindus, where hitherto Urdu and Persian was being taught to Muslims . On hearing this Ghalib became very furious and is believed to have said, “who told you that Urdu was Muslims Language and Hindi of Hindus. Urdu belongs to Har gopal Tafta and Daya shankar Naseem as much as Hindi belongs to Raskhan. Waris & Fareed have given their love to Punjabi and Amir Khusroo has  enlightened us even through Awadhi. This is nothing but a tactic to divide people using religion and language.” No one can deny that these were prophetic words, but what is deplorable is we are still propagating the same doctrine of division, which was used to make us week and conquerable.

Without doubt New Dehli  is no more Ghalib’s or Mir’s beloved Delhi . If Mirza Ghalib would somehow happen to visit Delhi of today he won’t be able to recognize it, apart from the structural changes the city has changed its language too! After the homeland of Urdu Language, Uttar Pradesh, banished Urdu as a medium of instruction, the city that nurtured & nourished Urdu is now in its earnest trying to deliver the final blow to an already dying language. Soon after the partition When Pakistan became the prime nemesis of India, Urdu was unofficially declared the friend of the enemy, thus an enemy. By the time year 1960 came, Which was celebrated as Ghalib Centennial, the damage to the language was intense and by the year 1969, When All India Ghalib Centenary Committee was formed, the decline of Urdu was so evident that well known Indian poet Sahir Ludhahanvy could bear it no more and wrote these couplets:

in Shahrun mein gonjiy thiy Ghalib ki nawa barsun

Un shahrun mein ab Urdu be nam-o nishan tehriy

Azadiy-I Kamil ka aglan hua jis din

Is mulk key nazrun mein ghadar zuban tehriy

The cities in which Ghalib’s poetry echoed for decades

Now Urdu is hardly a known language in those cities

The day complete freedom was decreed for India

The same day Urdu became a “treacherous tongue” in India

Since then little has been done to stop the downward slide of the Urdu language in Delhi or anywhere in India. In 2003 then President Abdul Kalam gave his nod to the Delhi Official Language Bill, 2000, by virtue of which Punjabi & Urdu became second official Languages of Delhi. Even after that little has changed on the ground; there are no milestones written in Urdu, No Bus has destination or route written in Urdu, Students are not encouraged to study Urdu in Schools even in Muslim majority areas. If you happen to visit any Book Shop in the old Delhi and read aloud any Urdu words written on walls of the shop, the shop keeper can’t help but to look in awe. Urdu is dying a slow but certain death in Delhi.

Closer home the things are no good as well, Urdu is official language of Kashmir but till recently even legislations weren’t in the official language and only a court order made the government to do so. Urdu is namesake official language of Kashmir but English happens to be the working language. This apathy towards Urdu comes as no surprise here, what can be expected of the people who are hell bent to kill their own mother tongue, Kashmiri. People feel ashamed to talk in their mother tongue as if doing so suddenly drags then down, to the level of untouchables, from the heavenly heights. Our academicians , Journalists, intellectuals, bureaucrats, politicians etc talk of promoting and nourishing Kashmiri in public but when they are in there own echelons or in privacy of their homes Kashmiri is a big no! there is no better way to describe the deplorable condition of Kashmiri than the fact that the number of people who can read & write Kashmiri fluently can be counted on finger tips. Recently government has reintroduced Kashmiri in schools but the zeal is missing.

In Kashmir people were divided on religion and language, When pundits migrated from Kashmir with them Hindi also migrated. Yes here one is forced to say “History repeats itself” but there is one more saying about history that we have overlooked “Learn from history”. After pundit migration almost three generations were born who can’t read or write Hindi. Even now Hindi is not being taught in any of the government schools in Kashmir. Hindi being the national language of India should be taught in every school. Moreover what makes Hindi more important is the fact that when one travels to any major city of India, if he/she doesn’t know Hindi, he/she is  as good as an illiterate.

Languages should not be and are not property of a particular of any religion; they are the holders & keepers of heritage of the people of that region. Hindi, Urdu, Bengali are the language of the subcontinent and that is how they should be treated.

With every year at least one Language dyes and the death of these couple of language should be of no significance, but what is of significance is what is lost with them. Every language gives us a different perspective with which to look at the universe and then try to understand our own world. Death of language does not mean death to that language only but with it its stories, the poetry and history also dies. So death of a language is not only death to that language but death of a nation!

Also Appeared in The Kashmir Monitor and Bloggers Park

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2 thoughts on “The Death of a Language, Death of a Nation

  1. I do agree with you but also disagree that our history has been taken away. If we took interest, we can know our history. Go to libraries, find books. Ask your elders too.

    • Think that you meant to comment on “Nation without History”. we can know our history no doubt about that but that would only happen once we are mature enough to understand its importance & that is after leaving school. but not all show interest in knowing their own history after school, so it is better if history reaches all in school itself.

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