Former Vice President M Hamid Ansari on Friday lamented that the number of Urdu speakers in the country is declining even as the overall population is increasing and held responsible for state education policies for the trend. Speaking at the launch of two books — Book of Wisdom’ and Ehsas O Izhar’ by former Union minister Ashwani Kumar, he said experts have suggested that this could be linked to reluctance on the part of state governments to include Urdu in school curricula at primary and secondary level and in employing Urdu teachers.
“The number of Urdu speakers is declining. The census data testifies to it. This decline in a framework of overall increase of population raises a question. Why is this happening? Does it suggest a pattern of language abandonment, whether voluntary or otherwise. People who have worked on this subject have come to the conclusion that the answer lies in state government policies and the pattern of school enrolment,” he said.
Ansari said they have collected data to show that in primary and secondary schools, there has been a reluctance to include Urdu in the curriculum and to employ Urdu teachers.
This is most evident in my own state Uttar Pradesh and in Delhi, but it is different in states like Maharashtra, Bihar, and in Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, he said. Ansari quoted former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru saying he had in July 1958 written to chief ministers of states, describing the phenomena as “a pettiness of mind, narrowness in outlook, and an immaturity that characterises a deliberate attempt to push out Urdu which is spoken by a large number of people.” He, however, said, “in this seemingly darkening atmosphere, there is some silver lining also” and referred to movies and Urdu programmes like Rekhta’ which have contributed to the revival of Urdu.
Noting that Urdu was not just a national but an international language and cannot die easily, he said, “it not merely confines to the sub-continent and subjective perceptions about our neighbourhood but also the world.” Former Chief Justice of India Justice T S Thakur (retd) said Urdu should not be considered a language of one religion alone.
“Today the need of the hour is to use ‘shayari’ to unite society by preaching that all roads lead to one God There cannot be a greater contribution to society than this,” he said.
Among others present at the gathering were noted filmmaker Muzaffar Ali, former chief ministers Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Farooq Abdullah, Union minister Rao Inderjit Singh, Subhas Chandra, Shatrughan Sinha, former Punjab ministers Manpreet Badal and Sukhjinder Randhawa, and Attorney-General R Venkataramani.
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