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Monday, August 03, 2009

Plagiarise and prosper - C M Naim

Presently the Urdu literary world is watching the unfolding of what must be termed “the mother of all plagiarism scandals” in Urdu. It concerns no less a person than Dr. Gopi Chand Narang, Professor Emeritus, Delhi University, who from 2003 to 2007 presided over the Sahitya Akademi, India’s foremost Literary organization, and has received two “Padma” awards from the Indian state — the latest being “Padma Bhushan” in 2004. (A list of his honours and publications may be seen at his website For some reason, it leaves out all the awards he received in Pakistan.) At the center of the scandal is the book Sakhtiyat, Pas-i-Sakhtiyat Aur Mashriqi Shi’riyat (“Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, and Eastern Poetics”), for which Dr Narang received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1995.

As far back as 1997, an Indian Urdu critic named Fuzail Ja’fari had explained in some detail how Dr. Narang’s book shied away from original thinking and analysis, limiting itself simply to what X wrote and Y said in Western languages (Zahn-i-Jadid, Delhi, #22-3). In fact, he described the book as a “compilation” (talif), adding that it was not an original piece of writing (tasnif). Now a young scholar, Imran Shahid Bhinder, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Birmingham, has made a much more serious charge. Bhinder published in 2006 in the annual issue of Nairang-i-Khayal, a Pakistani journal, an essay entitled “Gopi Chand Narang is a translator, not an Author.” A year later, a revised and expanded version of the essay appeared in the journal Jadeed Adab (July–December, 2007), which at the time was printed at New Delhi — now allegedly stopped under pressure from certain people — and published from Germany. (It is also available on the web(: In 2008 Bhinder published two more articles in Jadeed Adab, the first in its January–June issue, entitled “Plagiarism in Urdu Literature – How Long will it be Defended?” and the second in the July–December issue, entitled “Gopi Chand Narang’s ‘Truth’ and ‘Context’ [as] Thievery.” Both articles found plenty of circulation in both India and Pakistan, and excerpts appeared in a couple of Indian journals. Now another Pakistani journal, ‘Akkas, published from Islamabad, has brought out a special issue devoted to Dr. Narang’s oeuvre and career, including a more detailed analysis by Bhinder. (Also available on the web: )


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