Regional languages in today’s Asia have been caught in a crossfire due to the mixing of various cultures. Regions and communities which worked with determination towards the preservation of their languages, have managed to hold on to their lingua franca with the minutest of variations. This has saved them from being polluted of foreign elements. On the contrary, more number of people have learnt about them.
Urdu has faced a long and twisted history in the Indian subcontinent. In order to understand the animosity the language faces today, one needs to go back to 1837. In consonance with the British’s divide and rule policy, Persian was replaced by Hindustani and English as the official language. This move was protested against along with a requirement of using the local Devanagari script. Thereafter, in 1881 Hindi became Bihar’s official language, replacing Urdu. The reasoning given for such a change was that Hindi had a superior literary excellence. This move sowed the seeds of a sectarian divide in these languages.
A communal atmosphere was created due to these divisions and led to the languages being used by selected groups based on religious identity. The final nail in the coffin was gracefully hammered by the partition of India and Pakistan. Once Pakistan adopted Urdu as its official language, it had to part with West-Pakistan and this was followed by India increasing its usage of Hindi as an official language.
Urdu played a notable role in the Freedom Movement and thereafter when years of turmoil ensued due to political and economic instability. Almost the whole of Northern India, the Deccan region and Kashmir are areas in India where the language is spoken today. It is also spoken in the United Kingdom, the United States, the Middle East, parts of Nepal and Bangladesh. Much of this overseas usage is due to immigration of people from the Indian subcontinent to those countries.
An issue cropping up in India now is reduced public exposure to the Urdu language and the Nastaliq script. The language has become limited to mushairas, qawwalis, oratory and elocution competitions, political biases and the well-off Muslim elite whereas the script is only found in a few old school school textbooks or a rarely seen piece of literature.
There is almost little or no institutional support for its perpetuation. Recently, it was seen that the Nastaliq script being removed from public sign boards. The script has vanished from the general media leading to a world bereft of its sweetness.
Back in the day, Bollywood movies used to have their titles in three different languages i.e. English, Urdu and Hindi. This trend has died only some time ago but it feels like an eternity. Nowadays, the language used is a mixture of vocabulary from English. This is due to an increased usage of the Roman transcript for communication. An aspect which may have caused it is globalization. Though beneficial for business, it has heavily contributed towards the mixing of cultures and languages. Languages who have made the most of this opportunity are Mandarin and English. Their users have produced, written, projected and spread content in a manner which led to people learning more about them. This also led to people learning the languages.
What more of an irony could it be that this blog being about the Urdu language, is written in English!
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