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Published in the 1-15 May 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Mulayam Singh’s Urdu paradoxes
By Rizvi Syed Haided Abbas

Former Chief Justice of India MN Venkatchalliah on April 16, 1999 delivered a very interesting speech at the India International Centre, New Delhi, in his inaugural address, in a symposium on Urdu. His words are worth recollecting: ‘The Urdu language has a special place in India. The Urdu language conjures up and inspires deeply emotive sentiments and thoughts from the sublimity of the mystic to the romantic and the earthy, of perfumes of camaraderie, of music and life’s wistfulness and a whole range of human relationships. Its rich literature and lore is a treasure house of the noblest thoughts on life’s mysteries. Urdu is not simply one of the languages of the country. It is a culture and civilization in itself…… But today this great culture needs urgent measures for its very survival …. The richness of Urdu culture needs to be restored to its pristine glory. But, the latest developments regarding Urdu in UP are more discriminatory rather than encouraging. 

Zakhme dil-o-jigar ko to maiN pi nahi gaya / rakhe haiN sab huzoor ke tohfe diye hue would be the most apt Urdu couplet to summarise Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s stand on Urdu and concern for Urdu speaking population.

The matter became clearer after Samajwadi Party released its political manifesto, thereby, declaring that Urdu would not only be accorded its due status but it would be linked with the livelihood of the people soon.

What would surprise everyone is that now even Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has engaged himself in politics of tokenism — as either he does not know the ground reality or is being kept in the dark or has now just started taking peripheral steps to reap political harvest, and thereafter, forget the promises!

The manifesto came just a week and a half after UP Urban Development Minister Mohd. Azam Khan organised (for the Ghani Talimi Markaz) Yaum-e-Urdu (Urdu Day on March 31, 2004) There was no credible answer given as to why this very date was chosen? Was it the birth anniversary of Wali Dakhini or Meer Taqi Meer-no one could tell. No scholar of the Urdu language from Urdu Academy, Lucknow or Urdu Department, Lucknow University or from Persian Department shared the dais. There were just a few bureaucrats and politicians on the stage and there was a small audience in the Ganna Sansthan auditorium, Lucknow. But, what stunned everyone was that despite the repeated announcements by Azam Khan that SP chief would arrive- the CM did not come? The programme ended with Azam Khan reminding the audience that his government had given employment to 15,000 Urdu teaches and Urdu translators (sic) in its second stint in power in UP in 1994. The programme lacked lustre as no commoner was present except for those affiliated with the government in some way or the other.

Azam Khan, as a matter of fact, cannot be expected to make such baseless tall claims and sing paeans for his party chief, as it is a well known fact, that only 5000 Urdu teachers and Urdu translators were given jobs and the promise of fifteen-thousand still awaits completion! 

For an onlooker the government sponsored programme may have looked rosy and prospects for Urdu bright, but on closer scrutiny, reveals a gnawing gap between what is said and what is done.

In UP, the representation of Muslims in all departments is almost negligible or very small and the only department which prided itself on having a slightly higher Muslim percentage is the Provincial Civil Services (Judiciary). The reason being a paper constituting 40 marks for translation from Urdu to Hindi. This provided a very small opening for Muslim candidates and which slightly increased their merit. The Urdu paper was compulsory, only due to the fact, that old documents and deeds were usually made in Urdu and even sometime in Persian script. The same paper under Mulayam Singh Yadav, who claims to be a spokesman for Muslims in the nation, has now been scrapped! This will automatically lessen whatever little presence Muslims have in judicial services, this issue is very important and should be taken up by Muslim lawyers who are in big numbers in UP.

"What is more pitiable is that there is not even a token of protest from Muslims, the people who were once known for their anti-establishment tenor," decried Chaudhry Sibte Mohammad Naqvi who has even written an editorial, on the same issue, in Hamari Tauheed, a fortnightly he edits.

Mulayam Singh apart from inflicting this injury has also rubbed more salt as Naya Daur, an Urdu monthly magazine published by UP Information Department has shrunk the journal from 56 pages to 32 pages. This step has created a wave of resentment in all the Urdu knowing people as they had never expected a reduction into the magazine’s contents.

Had this taken place during the BJP or the BSP-BJP previous regimes no one would have been amazed but SP government has shown something which was simply inconceivable. Naya Daur editor Mr. Wajahat was unavailable for comment. It has also come to be known, very lately, that now the state government has decided to go ahead with the magazine and the number of pages would remain unaltered but the magazine would now be published every alternate month, and therefore, will cease to be a monthly journal.

Did Mulayam Singh himself endorse these two steps? Or is he ignorant or is it the handiwork of bureaucracy is not known, but surely, the onus of responsibility falls on the CM as the two-steps would go down in history as twin-Urdu paradoxes of Mulayam. 

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