Historic discussion on Urdu in Parliament

New Delhi: Thursday, 5 August, was probably the most important day in recent times for the cause of Urdu when loud and strong voices were raised by members of almost all mainstream political parties in the Parliament for giving legitimate right and importance to Urdu language and Urdu newspapers, for removing injustice and step-motherly treatment and for promotion of this language. Even BJP members Gopinath Munde and Shatrughun Sinha and cabinet ministers Farooq Abdullalh and Ghulam Nabi Azad who normally keep mum in such matters, strongly pleaded and raised their voice in favour of promoting Urdu newspapers demanding greater share of government advertisements to them.

Probably the strongest voice in favour of Urdu was raised by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who himself is a great champion of Hindi. He said during the debate that today the position of Urdu and Urdu newspapers is extremely bad because governments, central as well state, have neither taken nor are taking concrete steps for protecting and promoting this rich and beautiful language and its newspapers. He said that even today more than five crore people read and write Urdu. He said that government is giving extremely limited number of its advertisements to Urdu newspapers with the result that many of its newspapers have already ceased to exist and many are on the verge of closure. If government does not pay immediate and urgent attention to their plight, a day will come when these papers which played very important role in India’s freedom movement will close down. I openly say that this is a conspiracy to eliminate Urdu language which is accepted by all as the most popular and sweetest language of the country, he said.

Farooq Abdullah said, “I will speak in Urdu and I would specially like to say to Shatrughun Sinha Saheb, because he represents film industry in this House, that it is this country’s film industry which has kept Urdu alive”. He said that he would request the finance minister to ensure maximum possible advertisements to Urdu newspapers to enable them survive and progress. Ghulam Nabi Azad said that this was the first occasion when all parties of the House including the BJP were supporting Urdu. He said that when Urdu journalists from all over the country met him a couple of weeks ago, they told him that the condition of Urdu newspapers was so bad that in many cases a single person was the journalist, editor, printer, publisher and correspondent because he had no money to employ other people.

Every state has its regional language and hence all advertisements are given to regional papers but since there is no recognised Urdu speaking state, Urdu newspapers do not get advertisements. Though Urdu is the language of the whole of India and while Urdu newspapers are published and read in all big cities and many states yet it is a pity that no state government gives its advertisements to Urdu newspapers. Hence not only central but all state governments should support Urdu newspapers. Mamta Banerji, after reciting some Urdu couplets including Iqbal’s famous ‘Khudi ko kar buland itna...., strongly pleaded for promoting Urdu language and Urdu newspapers. She said that such support to Urdu and demand for promoting Urdu and Urdu newspapers was never seen by her in the past. Hence government must respect their sentiments.

Sudeep Bandopadhya, who in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district is nicknamed ‘Urdu Bandopadhya’ because of his love and support for Urdu and who in a speech in Delhi had said that if his party (Trimool Congress) comes to power in West Bengal, Urdu will be declared second official language of the state within three months. He added that if government did not give protection to Urdu and Urdu newspapers, we would fight against it.

Pranab Mukherji, finance minister said that he fully agreed with the feelings and views of honourable members and except a few members in this House there could be no other opinion that Urdu is a beautiful language which has played a unique role in freedom struggle. Therefore, he assured the House that government would do every thing possible to promote Urdu and Urdu newspapers.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 August 2010 on page no. 8

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