Urdu, Muslims and Others

Jawaharlal Nehru was pulled up by an elderly conservative member of the Constituent Assembly when Jawaharlal described his mother tongue as Urdu: Brahman hoke Urdu ko apni mathribhasha kehte ho, or words to that effect (recounted in Hindi Nationalism by Alok Rai).

It pains one today when only Muslims are identified with the Urdu language, as if they are seeking to have a separate identity for themselves by asserting Urdu as their mother tongue.

While Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) students across the country celebrated their success recently, for some in the Muslim community there was absolutely no reason to rejoice.

Why the report has to mention only Muslims that have “absolutely no reason to rejoice” is seemingly very “natural”- few others study the language in India.

Urdu is a language that symbolizes the syncreticism of India- the script and much of vocabulary derived from Persian/Arabic/ and the grammar that is from Hindi.

If Muslims retain Urdu as their language, they are not assering separateness, but are only upholding the syncretic, secular and a beautifully poetic Indian tradition.

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2 Replies to “Urdu, Muslims and Others”

  1. And I believe Urdu lost to Hindi by just one vote to be chosen as India’s national language?

    Urdu has added so much to India’s literary tradition that it is silly and a bit too simplistic to associate it with just the Muslim community.

  2. I wasn’t aware of the 1 vote issue. It is all the more tragic I’d say.

    Unfortunately the communal association of Urdu started with the Partition itself- as Jawaharlal’s incident shows.

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