NEW DELHI — Days after the Delhi High Court directed the local police to cut the use of Urdu/Persian words in first information reports (FIRs), another row has erupted over the language of love and romance, and put Rekhta — the most popular online platform dedicated to Urdu poetry – on the defensive.
Days ago, on November 29, Rekhta put up a poster of its three-day annual festival Jashne-Rekhta, styled as a celebration of Urdu as a popular language, to be held in mid-December. Curiously, the poster has not mention of the word, Urdu. Instead, word ‘Hindustani’ was used, and this caught the attention of readers.
Many Urdu enthusiasts came online to say they suspected there was a deliberate attempt to omit the key word. Rekhta responded by putting up a new poster on the internet, which read, “The festival of Urdu celebrating Hindustani Culture.”
The matter was first raised by Rehman Abbas, noted author in Urdu who has also won a Central Sahitya Akademi award, on his Facebook page. He sought an explanation from the organisers as to the reason behind the name-change. “We were concerned over this name change,” Abbas said, adding, “Currently, no one worked for promotion of Urdu like Rekhta and as far as I know, Rekhta founder Sanjeev Saraf loves Urdu. We were surprised there was no mention of Urdu on the poster.”
Abbas said he later came to know that the omission was an “inadvertent error” on the part of Rekhta. He wished Rekhta ‘all the best’ for the upcoming festival. The sixth annual festival is to be held in the Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi for three days from December 13.
The platform is a library that offers a collection of ‘shers’ and ‘shayaris’ including some 90,000 titles in Urdu – prominent among them being the Holy Quran and the Mahabharata epic, as also autobiographies, fictions, travelogues, translations, manuscripts and pop magazines that have been digitised and made available to Urdu enthusiasts – all for free!
Notably, the omission of word Urdu was a shift from the norm followed in the previous five festivals. Urdu enthusiasts say the attempt was part of a larger campaign to make Urdu invisible. The language is traditionally associated with Muslims, spoken by an estimated 10 crore people in the subcontinent and beyond, beside admirers across the religious divide. Urdu is the official national language in Pakistan and one of the official languages in India. It is widely spoken in Afghanistan as well.
Urdu journalist and author of two books, Alahmulla who boasts of his “deep attachment” with Urdu, is upset with the organisers of the festival for this significant omission. He suspects Rekhta is either “under pressure” or going out of its way to please some forces.
“Some people may try to name it Hindustani but Urdu is Urdu and you cannot give it another name, just like Sanskrit. Sanskrit is Sanskrit and you can’t call it by any other name,” he points out. As an admirer of Urdu, Alahmulla hopes Rekhta will, in future, take care of the nuances and sensibilities associated with the language. “We have been striving for 80 years to keep Urdu alive. The importance of Urdu has been eroded slowly over the years,” he says.
In September, home minster Amit Shah’s public statement on Hindi as a national language triggered a public debate, with critics accusing the right-wing BJP government of enforcing the dominance of Hindi over other languages. India is an amalgam of cultures and sub nationalities and officially a secular republic with Hindus comprising a majority of the population. However, over several years, the Hindutva forces and the present government headed by pro-RSS political outfit the BJP are allegedly making efforts to change the secular character of the nation.