Urdu Punjabi Controversy  

During the last couple of months, a few articles have appeared in Pakistani Urdu daily's as part of a campaign led by Fateh Muhammad Malik, Chairman of Pakistan Academy of Letters, a government funded body, creating a new Urdu/Punjabi controversy.  Malik sahib, in his infinite wisdom, has come up with an idea that the best way to legitimize the suppression of Punjabi language in Pakistan is to prove that Urdu, not Punjabi, is the mother tongue of Punjab.   

On May 7, Mushir Anwar a regular columnist of Daily Dawn, published an article in Dawn supporting Malik Fateh Muhammad's brain child and forwarding some of his own arguments, with reference to the March-April issue of Muqtadera's Akhbar-e-Urdu which was dedicated to high lightening the role played by Punjabi writers in the development of Urdu language.


We are glad to report that Punjabi writers and activists took a very serious note of Mushir Anwar's article. Another columnist of Dawn, Ashfaque Naqvi in his article on May 29 charaterized this response as "hell broke loose" - a clear indication that Punjabi's are now willing to take a public stand to safeguard their language and culture..

Here we are providing all the responses to Mushir Anwar's article so far published in Dawn.  Our heartfelt thanks to the editors of Dawn for providing space to the point of view of Punjabi writers and activists.       


Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue

Dawn:  May 11, 2004

This is with reference to the Literary round-up: Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue by Mushir Anwar published on May 7. It is not Arminder Singh but many Punjabi writers, intellectuals and teachers including Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Hameed Nizami, Prof Sirajuddin, Dr Muhammad Ajmal and Safdar Mir who have introduction of Punjabi as the medium of instruction at the primary level since the 1960s.

They have demanded that Urdu should be replaced by Punjabi at the primary level (see Education Policy Number of monthly Punjabi Adab). This did not mean degrading the national language but only that the mother tongue can better serve as the medium of instruction during the early stages of education.

What Fateh Muhammad Malik and Mr Mushir Anwar want to suggest is that Punjabi is an underdeveloped form of Urdu or it is just a dialect of Urdu. If Urdu is a developed form of Punjabi, why are Baba Farid, Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah not included in the Urdu textbooks being taught in Punjab and elsewhere? If the older version of Urdu (Deccani) has been made part of Urdu teachings, why are Heer Waris Shah and Kafian Shah Hussain not treated as a part of Urdu literature? Punjabi literature was created much before Wali Deccani, Mirza Sauda, Ghalib and Insha. Shah Husain and Waris Shah were senior to them.

Dr Tariq Rahman in his article 'The Lingo Power', published on March 21, said: "The major languages, according to the census of 1981 are: Punjabi (spoken 44.15 per cent); Pushto (15.42) Sindhi (14.10) Urdu (7.57); Seraiki (10.53); Balochi (3.57) and others (4.66).

Since Seraiki, Punjabi, Hindko, Potohari, Pahari, etc. are mutually intelligible, they may be regarded as constituting the varieties of a great language spread out from the cities of the NWFP up to Delhi."




Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue

Dawn:  May 13, 2004

The article "Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue" by Mushir Anwar (Dawn, May 7) attempts to frame the demand of Punjabi writers and intellectuals for the introduction of Punjabi as medium of education in Punjab's schools in terms that portray it as a conspiracy against Muslims, Islamic culture, the Holy Quran and Islam.

According to the claims of Fateh Mohammad Malik as referred to in Mushir Anwar's article, adoption of Punjabi, "...could only be a folly or a conspiracy against the Muslims... once Punjabi had been introduced as a medium of instruction, it would be heavily Sanskritized... and then its Quranic script will be changed to Gurmukhi.

That would ultimately... divest it of its Islamic identity... the Muslims of the Punjab would slowly but certainly lose all contact with the wellsprings of their culture."

These negative sound bites present Punjabi language as the mother of all evils. They can easily be ignored as a laughing matter except for the fact that besides being an attempt to reduce the serious debate on language policy in Punjab to a spitting match, these ideas are being promoted by a few notable Urdu writers.

Even more laughable than the irrational fear of Sanskrit and Gurmukhi, obviously based on a total ignorance of robust West Punjabi literature, is the astonishing hypothesis that since Punjabi writers have made some contributions to Urdu literature, just as one must point out they did when Persian was the official language, all 80 or so million West Punjabis should disown Punjabi.

Nothing can justify replacing a living language with another, especially Punjabi which is among the most viable languages in the world based on all pertinent criteria that are used to judge the viability of a language, including different stages of its natural development over more than two thousand years, number of native speakers - 120 million worldwide - vastness and depth of vocabulary, richness and variety of literature and much more.

Depriving schoolchildren from learning their mother tongue amounts to breaking a vital link to their rich heritage through deliberate social engineering.

The diverse and unique living experience of humankind is codified in the diverse languages they speak, and loss of any language is a loss for all of us, as Marianne Mithum noted in her recent survey of North American Indian languages:

"The loss of a language represents a definitive separation of a people from their heritage. It also represents an irreparable loss for us all, the loss of opportunities to glimpse alternative ways of making sense of the human experience...

"When language disappears, the most intimate aspects of culture can disappear as well: fundamental ways of organizing experience into concepts, of relating ideas to each other, of interacting with other people. The most conscious genres of verbal art are usually lost as well: traditional rituals, oratory, myth, legend, even humour."

It is with this desire to preserve their language, culture and heritage that all Punjabi activists and writers have agreed on a single platform: Punjabi must be used as medium of instructions in Punjab's schools, while Urdu should be taught as a second language and should continue as the national language of Pakistan.

Regarding the most ridiculous idea referred to in the article that Punjabi is somehow incompatible with Islam, I invite the readers to read the Punjabi translation of the Holy Quran by Sharif Kunjahi (http://www.apnaorg.com/quran/) to judge for themselves that Urdu doesn't have a monopoly on Islam, and the Holy Quran can be translated into Punjabi as beautifully, magnificently and accurately as in any other language of the world.



Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue

Dawn: May 18, 2004

This refers to Mushir Anwar's column, Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue (Dawn, May 7), which says: "It is heartening to hear Fateh Muhammad Malik, chairman, Muqtadira Qaumi Zaban, snap back at the Indian Punjab chief minister's naive, untimely and uninvited suggestion to his Pakistani counterpart to do away with Urdu as the medium of instruction in his province and replace it with Punjabi...".

Mr Malik has snapped back not only at the Indian Punjab's chief minister but stalwarts like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, the late Hameed Nizami of Nawa-i-Waqt, Sufi Tabassum, Dr Muhammad Ajmal and Dr Muhammad Baqir who have been demanding introduction of Punjabi as the medium of instruction at the primary level after replacing Urdu which, in their view, could be taught as a compulsory language at the same level.

Not only that but Fateh Muhammad Malik has himself joined the ruling elite of Punjab about whom he had said in his book, Punjabi identity (1989), on page 28:

"When the emergence of Pakistan seemed inevitable, the so-called chiefs of Punjab jumped on the bandwagon of the movement for Pakistan. These loyal Mohammedans of India constituted the ruling elite in Punjab in the early years of Pakistan.

Imitating the colonial habit of treating everything native with contempt, the elite continued to despise the Punjabi language. They preferred King's English to the mother tongue and military rule to people's power."




Punjab's mother tongue

Dawn:  May 19, 2004

This is with reference to Mushir Anwar's column, 'Urdu as Punjab's Mother Tongue' (Dawn, May 7) and Safir Rammah's letter (Dawn, May 13). According to the claims of Fateh Muhammad Malik, chairman of the National Language Authority as referred to in Mushir Anwar's article, adoption of Punjabi "could only be a folly or conspiracy against the Muslims ... once Punjabi had been introduced as a medium of instruction, it would be heavily Sanskritized.... and then its Quranic script will be changed to Gurmukhi."

No demand for the Gurmukhi script has ever been made by any Punjabi writer or organization. If the script of Bengali has not changed the identity of the Bengalis and Prof Fateh Muhammad Malik in an article in a Urdu daily (May 13) can call Bangladesh another Pakistan, how could the adoption of Punjabi as a medium of instruction in the Persian script change the Muslim identity of West Punjabis?

It is not the fault of Fateh Muhammad Malik; he is just following the legacy of the protagonists of Urdu like the late Dr Syed Abdullah, Principal of the Oriental College, Lahore, who had accused Punjabi language activists of being anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam (The Pakistan Times March 15, 1962).

It may be recalled that the adoption of Punjabi as a medium of instruction was demanded in 1956 at the conference held in Lyallpur (Faisalabad) under the presidentship of the late journalist and writer Maulana Abdul Majeed Salik. The clear message was that the mother tongue of Punjab is Punjabi and not Urdu.




Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue

Dawn:  May 20, 2004

The recent buzz is: Punjabi is not the mother tongue of Punjab. We will soon be hearing that Urdu is the mother tongue of the Japanese also. This hypothesis has been formulated by Fateh Muhammad Malik and cited by Mushir Anwar in his "Literary Round up"(May 7). This is indeed a horribly twisted concept.

It is no joke to replace the language of another origin with the language of another land. It only serves the all-powerful vested interests. Things are not the way they have been claimed

Mr Anwar writes: "Punjabi is an undeveloped form of Urdu." This should be written in history in golden words that the developed form of Punjabi (the mother language of the people of Punjab) got structured at and emerged from Fort William College at Calcutta in the hands of non-Punjabi munshis under the watchful eyes of our colonial masters.

At the same time, people of Punjab were speaking the same undeveloped Punjabi language in their homes and doing their daily chores in their mother tongue "Punjabi" and the poets of Punjab were still writing in Punjabi. (Nobody told the Punjabis about it: they suddenly woke up to the fact that a language for them is being cooked up and evolved elsewhere).

The British troops had to undergo ferocious fights in Punjab, because they had a wonderful gift for the people of Punjab - the developed form of the Punjabi language - and they had also this munshi class with them to teach the language (although we have been learning the developed form of Punjabi for one-and-a-half centuries, we, Punjabis, are still grappling with the proper pronunciation and accent).

When the British got hold of Punjab, they tried to root out and propagated against the Punjabi language through these munshis. Only the victorious could mete out such a treatment to subjugate and humiliate the people of the land (documents are on record).

If we see through the logic of Fateh Muhammad Malik and Mushir Anwar, all distinguished of the Punjabi language, from Baba Farid to Mian Muhammad Bukhsh, are nothing because they have chosen to write in an inferior and substandard language.

Urdu is the federal language of Pakistan. It can play a meaningful role by linking all of us - Sindhis, Punjabis, Baloch and Pathans - in a harmonious blend, keeping intact our cultures and languages.

In this way, it becomes the symbol of our national identity, but one should refrain from allotting it the role of dictatorship. We had been victim of that psyche of monolingual imperialism in the recent past, in 1971.

The demand for Punjabi as a medium of instruction is as old as the birth of Pakistan and is not a new thing for all of us. We should all endorse this demand, as the drop-out rate of school-going children in Punjab is very high. One of the factors for this deplorable situation is that children are denied their basic human right to read and write in their mother language.

We should all strive to make Pakistan a place where all languages can attain equal status, can flourish and grow without the danger of extinction. We hope the day arrives soon when these languages will become the source of earning and status for their respective communities.




Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue

Dawn:  May 27, 2004

Mr Mushir Anwar (Dawn, May 7) says that the debate on Urdu-Punjabi which started in 1909 "ultimately culminated in Hafiz Mamhud Sheerani's epochal book "Punjab mein Urdu" which provided the scientific basis to the strong and revolutionary claim that Urdu was the mother tongue of Punjab, because it was Punjab that had "mothered it."

1. Sheerani's book was published in 1928 and it never claimed that Urdu was the mother tongue of Punjab.

2. Sheerani, in his article 'Punjab mein Qadeem Urdu Adab... 1935' (reproduced by Akhbar-i-Urdu, Islamabad, March-April, 2004.. P 21-22), says: Punjabi was the medium of instruction at the earlier stages or primary level... (at a later stage) same status was given to Urdu and for that purpose both the courses were put together. For instance perhaps the Urdu courses of Khaliq Bari and Hamd Bari were also taught side by side with the Punjabi books Wahid Bari and Baziq Bari.

3. The East India Company occupied the Punjab in 1846 and with that Urdu was given official status (Sheerani in his article cited above).

4. One wonders how Sheerani's approach could be taken as scientific because he has not taken into consideration the potential of the two languages. Moreover, he has not compared the vastness of the vocabulary of Punjabi with the limited vocabulary of Lashkari Urdu.




A Punjabi moot in India 

By Ashfaque Naqvi

Dawn:  May 29, 2004

Last week, while attending the monthly session of the Adab Serai, I came to know that the chairperson of the organization, Shahnaz Muzammil, would be going to attend the Punjabi conference being held towards the end of the month in India.

Later, when I met Kazy Javed, the regional director of the Pakistan Academy of Letters, he told me that he was also a member of the delegation. His only worry at the time was the NOC, which was essential for all government servants proceeding to India.

Kazy told me that he was scheduled to deliver some lectures at the East Punjab universities. However, the most surprising news in this connection was that Agha Ameer Husain of the publishing house, Classeek, was also a member of the delegation. I really do not know how he qualifies as a writer of Punjabi. All in all, it is an over 150-person delegation that Fakhr Zaman was leading to India.

The mention of the Punjabi conference has brought to my mind the interesting controversy created recently about the Punjab's mother tongue. Fateh Muhammad Malik, who is posted these days to ensure that Urdu is adopted as the official language of the country, wrote something about the need for imparting education to children in their mother tongue.

At this, someone wrote that the mother tongue of the Punjabis was Urdu after which hell broke loose and those for and against Punjabi started playing the other down.

Now, without in any way trying to involve myself in the dispute, all that I have to say is that the mother tongue has always been considered the best medium of instruction during the early stages of education.

As the late Masud Khadarposh used to say, a Punjabi child is confused when shown a book in school with the picture of a buffalo and told this is a 'bhains' while he has all along heard it being called a 'mujh'.

There is no doubt that Punjabi has a rich literature and was there much before the greats of Urdu produced anything. But then, who can deny the essential need of teaching Urdu? A via media has to be evolved.


Urdu as Punjab’s mother tongue

(Submitted to Dawn - unpublished)

‘Literary Round Up' appeared in Dawn (May 7), persuaded me to get a copy of 'Akhbar-e-Urdu’ published by 'Muqtadra Qaumi zaban', Islamabad. I had to endure indescribable torment while flipping through this state sponsored-magazine indicative of our colonial legacy. I felt at the moment that the British rule is not over and we are not free yet because after Punjab's occupation by the British forces, their Government issued a magazine with the same name and same kind of stuff. The major factor that determined the language policy of the British was that they invaded Punjab from east and not from North. This made a real difference. They had already consolidated their power and supremacy over Delhi. Linking Punjab to Delhi administratively could be highly conducive to setting up an infrastructure to suck the resources of Punjab efficiently. This proved fatal for Punjab as it lost its independence to Delhi and its status reduced to Delhi’s periphery. Furthering their hegemonic designs, they imposed another language on people of Punjab with a tinge of Mughal ostentation and with a stench of declined culture. They could keep Punjab under their thumb effectively by amputating its (mother) tongue only. To serve this purpose, they evolved well-planned strategy to suppress and muzzle the folks of Punjab and used language as a tool of repression. The fundamental goal of this policy was to control all the levers of command and to tabulate all the resources in the economy to exploit it fully. The language policy of the British imperialism in Punjab was reminiscent of their nefarious intentions (British learnt such politics of language from their recent colonial experiences in various parts of India, though their language policy for Punjab remained unique in character). Punjab’s privileged, pro-government elite hurriedly embraced the new decree to have more. So it was the common people of Punjab who had to suffer immensely because this policy had all the right ingredients to defuse their rebelliousness (our resistance folklore is manifestation of it). Our people became alien in their own land. They felt helpless, restrained and muted. British knew clearly that if they empowered the Punjabi language, it would contribute to the emancipation and empowerment of peasants and laboring classes. It was necessary to contain the use of language at the places, which exuded power. So they did not allow the use of people’s language in educational, official and court matters. The question of Punjabi language is the question of liberation of the suppressed classes of Punjab. The fate of Punjabi language has become their fate also.

We cannot view the question of Punjabi language without understanding the class structure of Punjab.

'Akhbar-e-Urdu', forces us to mull over few questions. Why such elements that are desperate to see their flag fluttering at the red fort, keen to prove that Punjab is the rural suburb of Delhi. Why have they failed to understand that denial of Punjabi language as the mother tongue has led Pakistan towards being the cultural colony of India? We have been doing this for the past half-century and now we ban Indian channels to stop their cultural invasion. Had our languages given the space to grow, Indian Government would have to impose ban on our channels. But we run after personal interests in the name of national interests. We humiliate and demean our nation by publishing 'Akhbar-e-Urdu', consisting of 450 pages and spending from the taxpayers’ hard-earned money and this only to satisfy our egotism. Government should take notice of this humiliation of people's languages with people's money as it is also causing great damage to the national language.

Faiza Ra’ana



Urdu as Punjab’s mother tongue

(Submitted to Dawn - unpublished)

Much ignorance and misinformation has been portrayed in Mushir Anwar's article 'Urdu as Punjab's mother tongue' (May 7, 2004).

It appears that the author is under the impression that Urdu is the language of Punjab just because a few "Turks, Pathans and Persians" camped here "on their way to Delhi". Does the migration of soldiers cause an entire regions demographics to change? No. Neither does movement of soldiers from one region to another drastically impact or give birth to a new form of speech.
Mr Anwar commented that "Punjabi was Urdu's older form", but then fails to explain why it is an accepted fact that Urdu developed from a language known as 'Hindustani' (Which Hindi also developed from). Urdu is also classed as the same language as 'Western Hindi'. Punjabi, however, is a classification within itself. A unique and distinct language easily distinguished from Urdu or Hindi.
Another curious point is in relation to the comment that Punjabi has (or should have) any kind of
affiliation with Islam or any other religion. Clearly it is an immature and irresponsible comment. No
language, but Arabic, has any significance in Islam. Yet, all other languages and cultures are to be
respected. Languages do not have religious identities, but cultural ones.

Finally, if the author cared to reference his bold claims regarding the attitude towards Punjabi during
the British rule, he would find that Urdu was not popular among the general Punjabi populace. Urdu had in fact, been forced upon by Punjabis and was used by the British to replace Persian in administration as their most of the loyal employees were poorbiyaas.

Even the top officials of the British administration in Sub-continent had poorbian wives or keeps who
forced them to impose Urdu in Punjab as well as who became the main source to fill the jobs in Punjab by the poorbias as the British rulers were not having trusts on Punjabis at that time. Punjabis gave very tough times to the Britishers. That is why Punjabi language was not given its due place in Punjab.

Punjabi was suppressed by the British due to fear of Sikh/Punjabi uprisings and the same thing happened after the independence of Pakistan when these poorbias had control over the country so they carried on their policy and now they find instruments like Prof Fateh Mohammad Malik among Punjabis.




‘Goonga’ Panjab

Muhammed A. Shahid

(Submitted to Dawn - unpublished)

 Webster’s dictionary defines ‘mother tongue’ as one’s native language and/or a language from which another language derives.

 On either account Urdu cannot be the mother tongue of native people of Panjab. It is only Panjabi. Urdu has not given birth to Panjabi. And if it is assumed that Panjabi language produced Urdu, as some illogically but loudly claim, the mother Panjabi language did not die and disappear. In fact Panjabi has lived through thousands of years (Vedic, Sanskrit, Persian, etc., eras). It will stay alive as long as Panjabi mothers keep producing Panjabi children. 

Should Panjabi be used instead of Urdu in schools in Panjab is a matter different from whether or not Panajbi is mother tongue of Panjabis. 

An official language in a land is not necessarily the mother language of its natives. When Persian was the official language of ‘Mughal’ darbar or that of Ranjeet Singh, Panjabi remained mother language of Panjabi people; as it is today. Play of words and twisted logic of Fateh Mohammad Malik, Mushir Anwar, and others, will not succeed in changing factual history of Panjab and Panjabis.

 As to Panjabis excelling in other languages including Urdu, credit goes to those Panjabis and not to Urdu. Panini, a Panjabi, wrote ‘Ashtadheyayee’, the first Grammer of Sanskrit (circa 600 BC). This did not make Sanskrit mother tongue of Panjabis. Hafeez Jalandhari’s Pakistani Qaumi tarana is all Persian, except the word ‘ka’ in it which makes the whole poem Urdu. How sad for his great service to the cause of Urdu that he had to say:

dekha jo teer kha kay kamin gaah kee taraf // apnay hee doston say mulaqat ho gaee

(hurt, when I looked where from the arrow had been shot, there I saw my own friends) 

Urdu is official language of Pakistan. All must respect it. Panjabi being a major regional language and mother tongue of tens of millions of Panjabis must be recognized and respected as such. Children in Panjab should be taught in their mother tongue, Panjabi, for their own educational well being and thereby progress of their country.


Language, gentlemen

Urdu took root in Punjab under British patronage. The policy of letting it flourish at the cost of the province's own language continues even today

The News, June 27, 04

By Dr Tahir Kamran

Indian Punjab's Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh recently suggested to his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi that Punjabi should be medium of instruction in the Pakistani Punjab. The remarks made during the former's visit to Lahore have elicited a lively debate.

Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, who heads National Language Authority, in a couple of articles in an Urdu daily has come out openly against the idea. Trying to establish a link between Islam, Punjab and Urdu, he relegates Punjabi to a crude early version of Urdu. According to his point of view, Punjabi is devoid of any potential to serve as a medium of instruction either for literature or sciences.

Mushir Anwar only reiterates the point made by Professor Malik when he talks of 'Urdu's qibbla-e-awwal' and dubs Punjab as Urdu's 'first hatchery.'

The substantial part of Professor Malik's interpretation seems to be a re-narration of Hafiz Mehmud Sherani's view as presented in his renowned essay 'Punjab Main Urdu' which tries to trace the origin of Urdu in Punjab. If this thesis is accepted as being true, the standpoint of those historians of Urdu literature and language becomes completely invalid who have been continuously pleading that Urdu was first born in Hyderabad Deccan, Lucknow and Delhi.

Also, if Professor Malik's argument is bought, then the whole backdrop of Muslim history and civilization in the Indian subcontinent will have to be re-contextualised. All the renowned historians and scholars of medieval India clearly maintain that plains of the Ganges and the Jamuna acted not only as an administrative centre for Muslim rule in India, they also served as the wellspring of what is called as Indo-Muslim culture.

Because more often than not, administrative centres determine the cultural modes and the ways of their articulations. Punjab, despite its strategic and cultural significance, had never been the cultural centre for the Muslims of the subcontinent. It is, therefore, that the language that represented the Muslim ethos, cannot sprout and flourish at the periphery where the Punjab was actually located in Muslim India.

Besides, any historian of the subcontinent will find it absolutely bizarre if the contributions of Fort William College, Calcutta, and John Gilchrist in the evolution of Urdu are not mentioned.

Professor Malik has supported his argument with references to the editorials and articles published in Lahore-based Urdu newspaper 'Paisa Akhbar', a mouthpiece of pro-Congress urbanite Muslims of nationalist persuasions. These editorials and articles appeared in the paper between February 26, 1909 and to March 25, 1909. While doing so, he takes 'Paisa Akhbar' as the collective voice of the Punjabi Muslims. As a matter of fact, the paper represented a very small minority of Muslim city-dwellers whereas overwhelming majority of the Punjabi Muslims inhabited in the rural Punjab and knew only one language -- Punjabi.

The professor also warns, if adopted as a medium of instruction, Punjabi will become heavily sanskritised, forcing its Quranic script to be replaced by Gurmukhi.

His apprehension is quite far-fetched because it deals with the future which nobody can know for sure and, therefore, the empirical basis of his argument is ill-founded.

Punjab Administrative Report for 1851-52 can serve as an important reference to understand the circumstance in which Urdu became the medium of instruction in Punjab. In the report, the author -- who was a British functionary of the colonial state -- said the same thing about Punjab as Professor Malik has come up with 153 years later.

Urdu was introduced with the Persian script in Punjab under an administrative order taken right after the province's annexation to the British empire. The province's British officials were of the view that Punjabi was confined only to the rural areas of Punjab and was losing its popularity by the day. Sagacity, therefore, required them to introduce Urdu as the medium of instruction in Punjab. After subduing Punjab militarily, they wanted to subsume it culturally by replacing its native language with Urdu.

Mr Mehta, who once served as Punjab's Director Public Instruction, says in his book, The Development of Western Education in Punjab, that Punjabi was thought inimical to the sustenance of British Raj because it could have incited nationalist sentiments among the Punjabi populace. It was, therefore, willfully suppressed.

It is evident from the G W Leitner's report titled History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab since Annexation that the education was being imparted in the native language before the British took over in 1849.

The Punjab administrative report of 1851-52 prematurely declared Urdu's victory over Punjabi by claiming that the former had taken the cities and the towns of Punjab by a storm verging on becoming the lingua franca of the province. History of the colonial Punjab tells a different tale. After Urdu was accorded the status of medium of instruction in Punjab, the provincial administration faced acute shortage of personnel having necessary competence in that language to fill junior posts in various departments. Consequently, many people from North Western Provinces (later United Provinces) and Bengal migrated to Punjab to fill in the void. That fact that only few among the locals were proficient in the language runs quite contrary to what British officials were saying about the ascendant position of Urdu at that time.

In 1850s, Urdu and Punjabi were on even keel, as languages conducive only for poetry. Both were equally inadequate in their capacity for generating prose. It was the official patronage that put Urdu into an advantageous position in Punjab vis-a-vis Punjabi in the later decades of the 19th century.

From 1860s onward, Punjab went through the throes of communal antagonism in the wake of the belligerent stance of Arya Samaj. During that time of extreme turbulence, Urdu was projected as an instrument of cultural articulation of the Muslims irrespective of their territorial origins. Soon after, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan's visit to Punjab was yet another factor that went a long way in persuading the Punjabi Muslim elite to prefer Urdu over Punjabi. The setting up of organisations like Anjuman Himayat-e-Islam and Anjuman Himayat-e-Urdu further consolidated Urdu's position in Punjab.

But it remained the language of the Muslim elite for a long time to come. It eventually got the backing of Punjab's Muslim middle class when Allama Iqbal, the first Urdu poet of purely Punjabi origin, used it for his poetic expression. He, however, was not convinced of the Urdu's capacity to express the subtleties and the complexities of his poetic vision. That is why he considered Persian as more pertinent language for his poetry.

Urdu had carved out a niche for itself in Punjab by the early decades of the 20th century. Ever since it has flourished enormously. After independence, Pakistani Punjab became virtually a sanctuary for Urdu with Punjabi intelligentsia adopting it as a language of its own.

Prof. Malik's views adequately testify to this fact but it bodes ill for hapless Punjabi. Not only its distinct identity is at stake, its very existence is being thought as anathema to Islam and Islamic culture.

Despite all the official patronage accorded to Urdu, no more than 9.6 per cent of Pakistanis speak it whereas Punjabi, despite suffering all sorts of indifference, is the most widely spoken language in the country.

The writer is the chairman of Department of History at Government College University, Lahore.


A word about letters

By Kazy Javed

The News, June 6, 04

Urdu's Punjab link

It is not surprising that the worthy chairman of the National Language Authority has taken great exception to East Punjab chief minister's statement delivered in Lahore few weeks ago regarding the status of Punjabi language in the western part of the Punjab. Captain Amrinder Singh had advised his Pakistani counterpart to introduce Punjabi as the medium of instruction in his province replacing Urdu.

One can find some reason to agree with the chief official custodian of our national language that the East Punjab chief minister should not have made this suggestion. But he does not stop here. In his eagerness to express resentment against the Singh's statement, the learned boss of the National Language Authority has said some things that are really surprising. In the current issue of the Authority's Akhbar-e-Urdu, he has come out with the claim that Urdu is the mother tongue of the Punjab. He also wants us to believe that Punjabi and Urdu are primarily one and the same language. The only considerable difference between these two forms of the same language is that Punjabi is the older form while Urdu is the newer, refined, developed and cultivated form.

I am willing to accept this novel theory because I firmly believe it has been formulated with the noble motive to enhance the worth of our national language which badly needs such boosts. However, the only problem with it is that it is next to impossible to find any facts or historical evidence to substantiate it. If you consult the latest census report, you will find out that only less than 5 per cent of people living in the Punjab use Urdu as their mother tongue. Now the mother tongue of a territory is that which is its 'natural' language and is spoken by the vast majority of people inhabiting it. This is the only definition of an area's mother tongue and it flies in the face of the claim about Urdu being the mother tongue of the Punjab.

It is for the first time that Urdu has been labeled as the mother tongue of the Punjab. However some scholars have been talking about Punjabi to have mothered Urdu. They say that Urdu has been derived from the language of the land of five rivers. This idea was first presented in the early years of the past century. Hafiz Mahmood Sherani was an ardent supporter of this idea and he wrote a full-length book on it. Titled Punjab Main Urdu, it was widely read and had influenced many people. Sherani was not Punjabi. He spent the later part of his creative life in Lahore but originally belonged to Rajesthan. Suniti Kumar Chatterji, Brigemohan Kaifi and Sher Ali Khan Surkhush had also voiced this idea.

In our time renowned scholar Dr Jamil Jalbi has thrown all his weight behind this point of view making it once again respectable. He writes in his voluminous A History of Urdu Literature that Punjabi and Urdu are two forms of the one and the same language. However, stopping short of declaring Punjabi to be the older (and therefore crude, savage, boorish and backward) form or assigning Urdu the status of being Punjab's mother tongue, Dr Jamil Jalbi says that due to a number of linguistic, social and political reasons one of these two forms of the language spread over many parts of the Indian subcontinent. It was given different names in different parts of South Asian region. Now it is mostly known as Urdu.

Strange it may sound but the fact is that mother-tongue-Urdu speaking Indian scholars never subscribe to this view regarding the birth and early development of their language. They often laugh it away and pooh pooh the Punjabis who uphold it.

I have a book before me which can be taken as the latest volume on this subject. Written by Shamsur Rehman Faruqi and titled Urdu Ka Ibtadai Zamana (Early History of Urdu), it contains the point of view of Urdu speaking scholars from India. 68-year old Faruqi was born and educated at Allahabad in the Uttar Pradesh and still lives there. Go through his well-written book and you will not find a single allusion to the Punjab's contribution to the evolution of Urdu.

Faruqi is sans doute very clear headed on this subject. He says that the language we call Urdu had many names in the past. It was called Hinduwee, Hindee, Hindi, Dehlvee, Gojree, Daikenee and Rekhta.

The point to be noted here is that according to Dr Jamil Jalibi ancient Urdu was known as Punjabi. Shamsur Rehman Faruqi, on the other hand, writing from the other side of the divide, gives seven names to the language sans Punjabi.

Faruqi says that all the names included in his list remained in vogue till the end of 19th century. The word Urdu as the name of this language was first used in 1780. He cites a poem from Asrar-e-Khudi, first published in 1915, to say that the word Hindi was used by Allama Iqbal to denote Urdu.

On the basis of historical facts, Faruqi points out that it were the British scholars and rulers who divided this language into two separate forms: one retained the name Hindi while the other was titled Hindustani. The first was declared to be the language of Hindus and the other was assigned to the Muslims. John Gilchrist who compiled a grammar of this language in 1796, named it as Hindoostanee. With imperialist confidence, he predicated in 1798 that with the passage of time Hindus will own Hindi as their language and Muslims will claim Hindustani as exclusively theirs.

Hindustani is now known as Urdu. Henry Yule and A C Burnell who together published Hobson Jobson, A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words, Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical, and Discursive in 1886, throw some light on this point. They write: "Hindustani, properly an adjective, but used substantively in two senses, viz (a) a native of Hindustan, and (b), (Hindustani Zaban) the language of the country, but in fact the language that the Mahommedans of Upper India, and eventually the Mahommedans of the Deccan, developed out of the Hindi dialect of the Daob chiefly, and the territory around Agra and Delhi, with a mixture of Persian vocables and phrases, and a readiness to adopt foreign words. Also called Oordoo, ie, the language of the Urdu (Horde) or camp. This language was for a long time a kind of Mahommedan lingua franca all over India, and still possesses that character over a large part of the country".

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