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There is a crying need to change the official approach towards Urdu, which is not possible unless the functioning of Urdu institutions is subjected to proper public scrutiny.

By Ather Farouqui - (The author has written his M.Phil and Ph.D dissertations from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He has published a book called Muslims and Media Images.)

The rigidity of the Progressive Writers’ Association, affiliated to Communist ideology was particularly noticeable at a recent technical conference of the PWA in Delhi University. It was more in the nature of a circus organised by the PWA office-bearers, mainly those who work in the Urdu Department of the University and the helpless research scholars under their tutelage. Most unfortunate is that no resolutions were passed, which is unique in the history of the PWA.

Worse, the conference was organised with the support of the corporate sector which led to an unprecedented hullabaloo that ultimately forced the Secretary to withdraw his report and announce that the advertisement money would not be collected. I seriously doubt this promise as the PWA has for long now been an NGO kind of racket and not so long ago a huge grant for the Faiz Centenary from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) along with a number of grants from the corporate sector (as widely alleged by reliable sources) was shared between the PWA officer-bearers of the Department of Urdu, Delhi University, and an agency to which the organising of the event was outsourced. More than anything else the CPI will now have to check corruption which is a new phenomenon in communist circles, particularly among office-bearers of the PWA.

Unfortunately, Zaheer, in his article on Urdu, has not commented on many important issues which apply to other organisations, particularly government ones, which are the worst victims of the ideological confusion in the ranks of the Urdu and Muslim intelligentsia as well as Muslim leadership. All of them have always rendered erroneous advice to the government regarding Muslims issues since partition and all good-for-nothing government institutions and ill-conceived policies for the revival of Urdu can be attributed to them. They have deified Urdu as a language only of Muslims, at the same time contributing to its decline as well as setting the community apart from other Indians who speak regional languages.

Basically Urdu faces only one major handicap: its absence in the school curriculum. Fortunately, after the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the recent landmark judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, there is no need to define a ‘school’

Nobody seems to have remarked on this collective suicide by Muslims through their failure to cash in on this historic opportunity to get their children decently educated as provided in the provisions of the RTE act.

Since it is the duty of the government to adhere to the spirit of Article 350A of the Constitution to provide education to every child at the primary level in her/his mother tongue, if it so wishes, it can easily extend this provision to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

So far the activists' concentration has been on the implementation of the provisions of the RTE; they can now turn to other issues like reforms in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

This is also a convenient excuse for the government to hide behind for not undertaking the onerous task of providing education to children of a 20-million strong community. Once a language does not remain a functional language and is exiled from the formal school system, it is bound to languish and eventually die. I have first-hand experience of this and my observation is that Delhi-based institutions, by treating Urdu superficially as a ‘language only of culture’, are sounding its death knell.

It, however, needs to be placed on record that the Honourable Chief Minister of New Delhi has never been well advised on the subject of bringing about a change in official policy. Amazingly, Ms Dikshit is also ignorant of the constitutional provisions relating to education as she feels that the mandate of the Urdu Academy has nothing to do with Urdu education which is the responsibility solely of the Delhi Government through various departments like the Directorate of Education and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Until now, Ms Dikshit’s attitude suggests that the role of the Delhi Urdu Academy is just to cultivate appropriate Muslim leaders for the benefit of the ruling party.

The shrewd politician that she is, whenever the issue of Urdu education in Delhi schools is raised, it is forwarded to the Delhi Urdu Academy, even though it has no mandate in this regard, when it should rightfully be tackled by the Directorate of Education which is completely indifferent to Urdu. As a result there has been no improvement in the state of Urdu education in schools run by the Delhi Government and the state of Urdu education in Delhi’s schools is far worse than that in UP’s schools. The UP Government is at least clear about the institutions and personnel that have to deal with Urdu education.

Some six years back, I was nominated to the governing body of the Delhi Urdu Academy by virtue of my article ‘The Great Urdu Fraud’, which exposed the underhand activities of the then Director of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), Dr Hamidullah Bhat (who was recently removed from the service permanently through contempt proceedings of the Delhi High Court). He lost in a PIL for various frauds including remaining in service longer than he was actually appointed for and was sent to jail via the CBI.

At that point of time, I also gave them a copy of a letter written by none other than Syed Shahabuddin and published in the Economic and Political Weekly on December 11, 2004, p. 5274, in response to an article by Bikramjit Dey, a historian from Oxford, against the NCPUL under the title ‘Abuse of Urdu’ (EPW, November 27, 2004) It says that the NCPUL was like a Shakha of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).

I would, however, like to place on record here that the present Secretary and Vice-Chairman of the Delhi Urdu Academy, Anis Azmi and Professor Akhtarul Wasey, are most capable and deserving gentlemen, but in the absence of a mandate, they are helpless to improve the state of Urdu education in Delhi and unless that is done, the Delhi Urdu Academy has no relevance. When the aforesaid incident occurred, two highly incompetent gentlemen were serving as the Secretary and Vice-Chairman of the Academy.

In case of Ms Dikshit, who undoubtedly falls in the category of the English-speaking elite, the victim was policy. Anyway, when I met her, I politely asked about the business at hand and she told me that two very eminent people for the first time had strongly suggested my name so I had reasons to feel privileged. Then she added that the Secretary, Culture was of the view that I would be a fit candidate for Vice-Chairmanship of the Delhi Urdu Academy. I sensed though that she felt to the contrary. She asked me to send a note about myself and my priorities if I became Vice-Chairman.

She indicated her priority that Chairmanship of a college will be the best proposition which to me was more shocking as she has mostly nominated most incompetent Muslims as Chairmen of different colleges. The only exception is Zakir Husain College for the simple reason of the Khurshids’ successful political life but this is, unfortunately, not the case of Shafiq Memorial School. She was at least honest in saying this. I told her that I was not interested in any kind of political affiliation or nomination but nevertheless I thanked her very sincerely for her consideration and a nice cup of tea.

It was very clear from this meeting that for Ms Dikshit, Urdu was only an instrument for the ‘preservation of the Culture of Delhi’ and I am sure that her idea of the same is not different from that of others. My name was included in the new committee as a Special Invitee, which I thought was most disgraceful and meaningless. I, therefore, did not put in an appearance at any of the iftaar parties organised by the Academy to prove that Urdu is Muslim! To conclude, I would say that there is a crying need to change the official approach towards Urdu, which is not possible unless the functioning of Urdu institutions is subjected to proper public scrutiny.

I sincerely believe that Urdu is the language of both Hindus and Muslims and has served the cause of cultural integration between them for centuries which is not the case anymore because of the myopic policies of each and every government in all the states and at the centre, and more importantly the communal Muslim politics.

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