Yet another Urdu Editor’s Conference

By Hafeez Naumani

Published in Awadhnama on 26 June 2013

All India Urdu Editors' Conference
Photo courtesy Indian Muslim Observer

I do not remember which, in the sequence, Urdu Editors Conference was held on 23rd June in Delhi. It was chaired by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayer. The anguish expressed by him with regard to Urdu is not new.

First Urdu Editors Conference was organised in 1973 in Baradari, Qaisar Bagh, Lucknow. Behind it was then Chief Minister Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna; at the forefront was Abdi Allahabadi and Chief Guest was Mrs Indira Gandhi. This Conference was chaired by the editor of Al Jamiat Maulana Mohammad Usman Farqleet and conducted by Kuldip Nayer. Even at that time Kuldip Nayer had to repeatedly remind the editors to, ‘Write your questions in Urdu. No doubt I am Kuldip Nayer but I started my career as an Urdu journalist’.

Before this first ever conference of Urdu editors no Urdu newspaper used to get any government advertisement. And this was the reason why Urdu press was always up in arms against the Government. But the fact is that whatever they used to write was true reflection and representation of the feelings of the community and the writers were not inefficient and clumsy. In order to soften this attitude and lessen the bitterness of Urdu press Mr Bahuguna convinced Mrs Gandhi to announce in this conference allocation of 10% of government advertisements to Urdu press. On this occasion as well Kuldip Nayer talked of linking Urdu with employment and job opportunities and from that day onwards anyone who talks about Urdu repeats the suggestion of linking this language to employment and job opportunities. But no one ever explains who to do it and how to do it?

About 33 years ago Urdu was granted the status of second official language in Bihar. This step was praised and rejoiced all over the country in a manner as if Urdu had been granted Royal Order. Following this, during V.P. Singh’s tenure as Chief Minister, pressure was mounted to take similar decision in UP. He did promise to do so but failed to fulfil it. Later on Mulayam Singh gave it the status of second official language. However, the demand to link Urdu with jobs and employment did not cease because mere elevation to the status of second language achieved nothing.

After independence voices were raised in support of Urdu and saying that this is not the language of Muslims. In order to prove that it is everyone’s language an all India conference of non-Muslim literary figures was organised and mushairas were arranged that were attended by hundreds of non-Muslim writers and poets who by their action did prove that that it is everyone’s language. But Choudhry Charan Singh kept insisting that this is the language of Mongols. Until his last breath Sampurnand kept saying that Urdu is not a language at all. Yet whenever Prime Minister or Sushma Swaraj (perhaps the author has confused Sushma Swaraj with Lok Sabha speaker Ms Meira Kumar—UMM), or some other person recites a verse of Urdu in the parliament, the venue resounds with the beating of desks in appreciation. But when it comes to the question of liking Urdu with jobs and employment Urdu becomes the language of Muslims.

Be it the central government or state governments, they may establish Urdu academies, build  universities and may create institutions for the promotion of Urdu but will not make arrangements for the teaching of Urdu because at the time when the constitution was being framed the issue of language came up for voting and whether the national language would be Hindi, Hindustani or Urdu, equal number of votes were cast for both languages so the then speaker Dr Rajindra Parsad gave his additional vote in favour of Hindi and thus buried Urdu forever.

The only way Urdu can be linked to jobs and employment is to make it compulsory for government jobs and seek those government officers and directors who do not respond in  Urdu made liable to explain why? Teaching of Urdu should be made compulsory in all government schools for 20 years. Proclamations have been repeatedly made that Urdu applications will be responded in Urdu but even the states where it has been granted the status of second official language have failed in establishing such an example.

Before each election when the Congress, because of its misdeeds, feels shaken, it is reminded of Urdu newspapers.  It then uses any Urdu journalists who is available to organise an All India Urdu Editors Conference. Narasimha Rao, when going to elections over the rubble of Babri Mosque, brought speaker S.K. Patel to the front who used Qari Mohammad Mian Mazhari and S. M Asif to arrange an Urdu Editors Conference. Crores of rupees were spent but it failed to win even a single vote. This conference has also demanded increase in the quota of advertisements to Urdu press and it was raised by those who are well aware that these advertisements had done far more harm to Urdu newspapers than all the enemies of Urdu in the country put together.

There are thousands of such editors who do not publish more than 25 copies of their newspapers but in DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity) their circulation is registered as 25,000. Bigger culprits than these editors are those who issue such certificates to them and even guiltier are those who are giving them government advertisements on demand of commissions from 50% to 75%. In addition to extending begging bowl before the Government if Urdu Editors Conference had also demanded that all Urdu editors be tested in Urdu, their offices, staff and printing presses be inspected and those who are found guilty of not only resorting to fraudulent methods but robbing the government, be sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and those who are looting the government treasury and depriving deserving editors of their rights be given such severe punishments that would serve as a deterrence to others in future,  then it would have been a big service to Urdu journalism and a purposeful journalism. It is because if the quota of advertisements for Urdu press is increased 80% of it will be looted on the way by the kite snatchers and the bowls of those who are making this demand will be left empty.

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