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Sunday, August 28, 2005

A linguistic study of Urdu - intizar hussain

A linguistic study of Urdu

By Intizar Hussain

THE book I am going to talk about may be taken as a charge sheet against the Muslim writers of Urdu as a whole. In fact, the very literary tradition of Urdu has been dubbed as one with a deep bias against Hindus and their religion and mythology.

The book cannot be dismissed as the figment of unhealthy imagination of some religious crank. The man who has brought out this charge sheet is the distinguished Urdu scholar Dr Giyan Chand Jain, who commands great respect in Urdu circles because of his valuable contribution to the researchers in Urdu. In fact his newly-published book Aik Bhasha Dau Likhawat Dau Adab (one language with two scripts and two literary traditions) was meant to be a researching study of Urdu language with reference to its linguistic relationship with Hindi.

This study is very much there. But, unfortunately, it has been overshadowed by the emotional outbursts of the esteemed scholar. No doubt, he has a case to fight for, but while raising serious questions about the biased attitude of some Muslim writers, who are not short in number, he could not keep him cool. Setting aside the objectivity a scholar is expected to possess, he allows himself to be swayed by anger and partisanship. So how unfortunate that this book, what had primarily aimed at a linguistic study of Urdu in relation to Hindi, will now be read in a different light.

It seems that something bitter was brewing for long in the heart of Dr Jain. He had an acute feeling that the Hindu writers, who happen to be in minority in the literary world of Urdu, fail to get the recognition and appreciation they deserve because of the bias of the Muslim writers who enjoy a majority. And he tells us that Kalidas Gupta Raza too, a distinguished Ghalibian scholar, shared this feeling with him.

Dr Jain is also very unhappy with those Hindu scholars and intellectuals who are held in high esteem in the Urdu circles, such as Dr Tara Chand, Dr Malik Ram, Sir Taij Bahadur Sapru, and Jagan Nath Azad. Recalling that at one time Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was branded as show-boy of Congress, he brands these personalities as show-boys of Urdu. Dr Tara Chand stands condemned for the reason of his being, according to his estimation, pro-Muslim and pro-Islam. As for Malik Ram, he observes “I will not call him an imposture. Rather he is a coward.”

While talking about the origin and development of Urdu Dr Jain says that we need not turn to Arabic and Persian in this respect. Urdu as a language is rooted elsewhere. We are required to trace back its roots in Prakrits, Upbharinsh, Pali, Sanskrit. Hindi Scholars, according to him, have deeply probed into these sources and, in consequence, have produced studies of high merit, while as compared to them, Urdu researchers appear “Jahil-i-Mutlaq”.

He confesses that he too carried with him this legacy of ignorance. It was only after reading the works of Hindi scholars that he has been able to shake off this ignorance a little.

In fact, here he is seen giving vent to his belated anger against Urdu-wallas for what he regards their intolerant attitude during pre-partition Urdu-Hindi controversy. He has, in particular, censured Maulvi Abdulhaq for what he sees as a vilification campaign against Gandhiji on the basis of a concocted statement attributed to him. Gandhiji is supposed to have said that Urdu is Muslims’ religious language. It is written in Quranic letters. So it is for Muslims to preserve and promote it if they feel concerned for it.

Dr Jain asserts that Gandhiji never said so. Maulvi Sahib, he says, was hard of hearing. Someone from among his associates thought fit to concoct this statement and convey it to Maulvi Sahib, who readily believed it. But who was the mischief monger? Dr Jain quotes Mushfiq Khwaja saying that the man who did the mischief was Hakim Asrar Ahmad Kuraivi, the younger brother of Azam Kuraivi.

Dr Jain has not confined himself to the present times alone. The writers of the classical period too have been subjected to scathing criticism. In fact, the whole literary tradition of Urdu appears in the dock. His scholarly studies of classical writings have helped him much to prove his point. He has dug out a number of couplets from ghazals and masnavis and prose pieces from dastans, which, according to him, speak of Muslim writers’ derogatory attitude towards the religious beliefs of Hindus.

Such are the charges levelled by Dr Jain on Muslim writers in Urdu. I have tried to reproduce them in a nutshell avoiding any comment on my part. Of course, I sought comments from Shamsurrahman Farooq, who has been referred to time and again in this charge-sheet. “Yes I have read the book,” he said “and has plainly told him that ‘Jain, Tum nai jhak mari hai’”.

“But he has raised some serious questions, which ask for being taken seriously. Do you intend to write in response to the challenge thrown by him”.

“Yes, I will write about it”.

As it was a telephonic talk we could not discuss the book in detail.

Not that Dr Jain’s accusations are irrefutable. Frankly speaking, the esteemed scholar with his excessively sensitive nose smells out something derogatory to Hindu faith even in places which hardly bear any trace of it. But the crux of the matter is that a scholar after his life long study of Urdu literature has arrived at some conclusions holding Muslim writers as bigots with a derogatory attitude towards Hindus and their religious beliefs.

He invites his contemporary Muslim scholars to correct him if they feel him wrong in his findings. That may be seen as a challenge couched in polite words. So we should better leave it to our distinguished scholars to take up the questions raised by him seriously and meet the challenge in a scholarly way.


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