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Hate campaign in India against Urdu for being a “Muslim” language | Islamophobia News


New Delhi, India – Last week, right-wing Hindu forces in India forced a leading company to pull out of advertising for the Christmas season after it contained some words from the Urdu language, which is popularly believed to be a “Muslim language” in the country.

FabIndia launched an ad for Diwali – a major Hindu festival taking place next month – and showcased its latest clothing line. The text above read: “Jashn-e-Rivaaz”.

“Jashn” means a festival in Urdu, while “Riwaaz”, which is actually “Riwaaj”, means tradition. The title has been translated into “A Festival of Tradition”.

But a young MP from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who often makes headlines with his anti-Islamic statements, was not happy.

“Deepavali is not Jashn-e-Riwaaz,” 30-year-old Tejasvi Surya posted on Twitter, calling Diwali by its more traditional name.

“This deliberate attempt at the Abrahamization of Hindu festivals, which depict models without traditional Hindu clothing, needs to be emphasized.”

When the 2021 census takes place, I fear that many Urdu speakers will simply list Hindi as their first language.

Ganesh N Devy, linguist

FabIndia is a household name in India, selling clothing, furniture, home furnishings and groceries. It has hundreds of showrooms across the country and abroad.

Surya said the company “must face economic costs for such deliberate mishaps.”

Soon other members of the BJP and other Hindu nationalist groups began attacking FabIndia on social media, accusing the brand of “offending” Hindu religious sentiments.

“The Hindutva project sees Urdu as a ‘Muslim’ language. And the invisibility of Urdu is part of the larger project to marginalize the Muslim community, to physically eliminate it, ”Nivedita Menon, professor at the Center for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, told Al Jazeera.

“Hindutva” refers to a centuries-old Hindu supremacy movement attempting to turn India into an ethnic Hindu state.

A sign directing people to the Urdu Bazar in Old Delhi [File: Manish Swarup/AP]

Urdu was born in India

The Urdu language was born in northern India during the Mughal rule. Linguists and historians say that Urdu and Hindi originated from Khadi Boli, a dialect of the Delhi region, and Prakrit. It also borrowed heavily from Persian, Turkish, and Arabic languages.

Until the British colonized the subcontinent, the Urdu and Hindu languages ​​were collectively referred to as Hindustani. It was British linguist John Gilchrist who first classified and defined Hindustani into two broad categories – words largely inspired by Persian and Arabic were identified as Urdu, and those inspired by Sanskrit became Hindi.

Spoken Urdu is similar to Hindi, however, and the two share a common grammar and a large percentage of their vocabulary.

The Hindutva project sees Urdu as a “Muslim” language. And the invisibility of Urdu is part of the larger project of marginalizing the Muslim community.

Nivedita Menon, academic

For centuries, Urdu was spoken by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in undivided India. Many of its famous poets and writers are non-Muslims, including Munshi Premchand, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, and Gulzar, to name a few.

Today Urdu is one of the 22 languages ​​officially recognized by the Indian Constitution.

Poetry and literature aside, Urdu had a huge impact on Bollywood, the location of the Indian “Hindi” film industry based in the western city of Mumbai. Large numbers of Urdu poets and writers wrote screenplays, songs, and dialogues.

But many believe that this has also changed in a religiously polarized India.

Following the FabIndia controversy, many social media users shared memes with popular Bollywood dialogues and songs, replacing their Urdu words with Hindi counterparts to show that the effect is not the same.


– Ishq Urdu عشق اردو (shIshq_Urdu) October 19, 2021

Screenwriter Javed Siddiqui, who has written several Bollywood films, told Al Jazeera that Urdu was “in a better position than any other language” in the Indian film industry and that “the trend has changed in recent decades”.

But Siddiqui added that the Urdu influence will always linger in Indian popular culture.

“You can not write [any song] without ‘dil’ [heart in Urdu] and ‘mohabbat’, ‘ishq’ [both mean love in Urdu] and so forth. I don’t think Hindi is short of words or has no words, but the phonetics and music that Urdu has cannot offer any other language, ”he said.

Legendary Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto, who died in 1955, perhaps summed it up best.

“Why are Hindus wasting their time supporting Hindi, and why are Muslims so upset about the preservation of Urdu? A language is not made, it makes itself. And no amount of human effort can ever kill a language. “

We should be grateful to the Muslims for saving a modern language.

Apoorvanand, professor of Hindi

When did the Urdu-Hindi separation begin?

During the 400 year old Mughal rule of the Indian subcontinent, Persian was the official language of the government.

When the British East India Company in the mid-19th

“This Hindi-Urdu dispute arose from 1857, especially in what is now the state of Uttar Pradesh, which lasted until 1900,” Mohammad Sajjad, history professor at Aligarh Muslim University in the same state, told Al Jazeera.

Sajjad said the language gap “exacerbated by the colonial state” was based on the script. Urdu uses Nastaliq, which is borrowed from the Perso-Arabic script, while Hindi uses the Devnagri script.

Christopher Rolland King wrote in his book One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement in Nineteenth Century North India that Hindi and Urdu “are considered two different languages ​​for political and cultural, not linguistic reasons.”

As demands for Devnagri to be an official script for Hindi grew, the British government made the script optional in courts of law in 1900. Since then, Hindi has been increasingly associated with North Indian Hindus and Urdu with Muslims.

In his book The Hindi Public Sphere 1920-1940: Language and Literature in the Age of Nationalism Paperback, Orsini Francesca explains: “The Hindi-Urdu controversy of the late 19th century, a competition for jobs and status; it was also a struggle for cultural assertion with several symbolic undertones. “

Moviegoers wait for the theater to open to watch Bollywood films Urdu has a huge impact on Bollywood, the location of the Indian “Hindi” film industry based in Mumbai [File: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

Despite Urdu’s Persian-Arabic script and its so-called “Muslim” association, many leaders of the Indian freedom movement used the language in their struggle against British rule.

The linguist Ganesh N Devy told Al Jazeera that when the famous freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose from what is now West Bengal formed an army to fight the British in 1942, he called them “Azad Hind Fauj”. “Azad” in Urdu means free or independent, while “Fauj” means an army.

“He did not use ‘Swatantra’, the Hindi word for freedom,” he said, adding that most of the slogans of the freedom movement were in Urdu, including “Inquilab zindabad” (Long Live the Revolution).

“There is a movement towards unity and also a movement towards separation of the two, and both tendencies existed in pre-independent India during the late colonial period,” said Devy.

He said that while Urdu was being given the respect it deserved after India gained independence by being included in the eighth appendix to the constitution, the language was now “under attack”.

According to Devy, Urdu was among the seven most widely spoken languages ​​in the country according to the 2001 census. In the 2011 census, the data of which were released in 2018, “Urdu’s fortunes began to decline in our country”.

“If that [2021] When the census is taking place, I fear that many Urdu speakers simply list Hindi as their mother tongue. Urdu speakers are afraid of being identified as Muslims even though Urdu is not a language of Muslims, ”he said.

Experts say while the number of Urdu speakers in India has declined, Hindi speakers have shown steady growth since independence. The ruling BJP has repeatedly suggested making Hindi the Indian national language, but has so far encountered fierce resistance from non-Hindi-speaking countries, especially in the south and east.

“Outrage Against Ad Production”

The writer and historian Rana Safvi questions the right argument that Urdu is the language of Muslims.

“If Urdu were a Muslim language, people would read the Koran in Urdu, not Arabic and Muslims in [West] Bengal and Kerala would speak Urdu and not their national languages ​​like Bangla and Malayalam, ”she told Al Jazeera.

Safvi said Urdu was projected as the language of Muslims because of its Perso-Arabic script.

“When Urdu became Pakistan’s national language in 1947, that association was strengthened,” she said, adding that for the same reason the language did not receive “the kind of attention it should have received” in India for the same reason.

Apoorvanand, a Hindi professor at Delhi University, said it was a fact that Hindus and even Sikhs moved away from Urdu after 1947 and the language was “protected” by the Muslims.

“We should be grateful to them for saving a modern language,” he said, adding that Urdu “has been defamed and attacked for its association with Muslims and Pakistan.”

For these reasons, language policy has intensified since the BJP came to power in 2014.

Academician Menon said the “outrage against” [FabIndia] Advertising was produced ”and not“ real indignation of the common people ”.

Ali Khan Mahmudabad, a historian and political scientist who teaches at Ashoka University in the capital, agreed with Menon, saying the whole controversy was, by and large, an example of the “deep-seated prejudice against everything that is in with Muslims today Connected “.


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