Language politics


In 1958 the people of former East Pakistan now independent Bangladesh - protested against Urdu and wanted Bengali to be the 'national language' - perhaps nowhere in the world has ever heard of rioting and demonstrations over the issue of language and nothing else. That is a lot of water under the bridge now - Bangladesh exists, Bengali is the national language, though the truth is everyone prefers to speak Urdu - it is the language of South Asia. There may be a few places where Urdu is not understood or not spoken at a;;. So many people regardless of rank and status would rather speak in Urdu then in Bengali. They all know that language issue was for political reasons and nothing else.
The language of the government prior to British rule was Persian - Urdu was the language of the common people. During the British Raj, English was the language of the government, Urdu remained the language of the common people - Urdu did not discriminate between religions, everyone spoke it.
After India and Pakistan emerged as seperate countries - Urdu did not disappear - it remained the language of the people. In keeping with traditions left behind by the British Raj, English stayed as the official language in both countries.
Regarding entertainment -both in India and Pakistan the scripts of the movies all were in Urdu, all the songs were in Urdu. While the cinema was dying here - our television shows were very popular in India whereas Indian films were equally popular here.
When governments changed in India - the cinema industry and the emerging private television channels were being told to introduce Sanskrit in their scripts, something which was completely abnormal, because no one really ever spoke Sanskrit in real life, they all spoke Urdu. Although all the scripts are in Sanskrit, the songs are always in Urdu many are exemely popular. The songs of vintage Indian films are still popular even today. The cinema industry may have compromised on the scripts but not on the songs, all of them are in Urdu and are popular on both sides of the border. Many films are popular because of their songs alone and nothing else.
Some years back there was a toxic waste incident in Mumbai (Bombay) in which some people had died. Shabana Aazmi who was a member of the the Indian parliament and had been elected from Mumbai was there. She was speaking in plain and very clear Urdu - but the private TV news channels made it point to translate everything she was saying into Sanskrit, which was ridiculous.
Shabana Aazmi was not elected because she spoke fluent Sanskrit, she made her speeches in Urdu. Another bizarre story is that of former Indian prime minister IK Gujral. He spoke Urdu and loved Urdu poetry tremendously - but to keep Indian politicians happy, he was required to make public speeches in Sanskrit, which he never understood. IK Gujral's love of Urdu was well known, a US space shuttle had a former Indian national as an astronaut in the crew, when the shuttle was right over India she (the astronaut) requested to convey a message to IK Gujral- she recited a couplet from a poem of the famous poet Allama Iqbal, which was entirely in Urdu. This was appreciated not only in India but also in Pakistan and wherever people understand and appreciate Urdu.
There are religious, cultural and political reasons to hate Urdu - regardless of this hatred, it is a language no one can live without, because it would be impossible to communicate with anyone.

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