In Bangladesh, Urdu has its past and present but no future

New Delhi: In Bangladesh the new generation of Urdu speaking people is around 4 lakh only, and the population of Urdu speaking people is culturally not only unorganised but is unaware of this language and its literature. Among these Urdu speaking people the number of those Indians is more who had migrated to East Pakistan from India of whom large number of Urdu speaking people were from Bihar and Bengal.

Al Falah, Bangladesh’s executive director Ahmad Ilyas who conducted a survey of Urdu speaking people says in his review that though Bangladesh is not a racial state, after making changes in the fundamental principles of 1972 Constitution Bengali nationalism was replaced by Bangladeshi nationalism in 1975 but even then the guarantee of non-discrimination under Art 28 of fundamental rights has been restricted to sex, race, caste and religion and nowhere the word ‘language’ has been used.

In his view a report covering a period of four decades i.e. after the emergence of Bangladesh in 1972 after this important amendment Ahmad Ilyas has reviewed the past, present and future of Urdu in Bangladesh with reference to teaching and learning, compilation, publication, literary discussions and poetic symposiums etc. His review was published in Kolkata’s quarterly magazine Tarkash in its latest issue. The important aspect of this review is that in Bangladesh there are 173 racial, religious, linguistic and cultural minorities whose total population is about 30 lakh and many of these have not been recognised constitutionally. In this background a demand is being made for a constitutional amendment in the national language. According to Ahmad Ilyas, head of Parliament’s 17-member Constitutional Reforms Committee, Rashid Khan says that while making Bengali the official language, an addition may be made that the progress and promotion of languages of other minorities should be equally patronised and promoted. He says that Bengali intellectuals too have started thinking that giving political colour to languages is tantamount to promoting racialism. Bengali lady intellectual Dr. Momina Hasan says that we should promote the culture of tolerance and patience with each other.

After the creation of Bangladesh when Urdu speaking people began to face discrimination and difficulties, they were compelled to migrate to other countries where Urdu was being spoken. Under the tripartite agreement between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Urdu speaking people began to be sent to Pakistan. This process continued upto 1993 and about two lakh Urdu speaking people migrated to Pakistan. Thereafter in 2002 Urdu speaking people who were left in Bangladesh became a stateless community whom neither India nor Pakistan nor Bangladesh was prepared to accept. After a judicial verdict of May 2008 Urdu speaking people were granted Bangladeshi citizenship but according to that country’s Constitution there is discrimination against Urdu.

In Ahmad Ilyas’s review it is stated that in Bangladesh neither any Urdu drama has been written nor staged in the past 40 years of this country’s history. As regards Urdu prose like novel, fiction etc. condition is very disappointing but in poetry there is some progress. In 1971 when Bangladesh emerged as a separate and independent state, Urdu schools were closed down because of which primary education in Urdu was not possible. In higher education, optional paper of Urdu was also discontinued since 2002 because Urdu teachers and books were not available. In Islamic madrasas however, Urdu is being taught even now.