V.31: 5-6 May-June 2003 #360-361
"Introduction: Perspectives on Urdu Language and Education in India", Mazhar Hussain, p. 1
"Some Legal Aspects of Minority Languages in India," Yogesh Tyagi, p. 5
"Urdu in India in the 21st Century: A Historian's Perspective," Barbara D. Metcalf, p. 29
"Linguistic Diversity in Global Multicultural Civic Politics: The Case of Urdu in India," Jagdish S. Gundara, p. 38
"Urdu Language and Education in India," David Matthews, p. 57
"The Apppeal of Urdu: Its Significance and Potential," Daniel Gold, p. 73
"Statement of Concensus of Conference on Minorities, Education and Language," p. 80
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INTRODUCTION / MAZHAR HUSSAIN
In the present language scenario in India, the ruling class ought to reckon with an accomplished fact that all the languages incorporated in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, including official Hindi, assume a minority status, for a whole variety of reasons, in those regions where they are not the principal languages. And the inevitable corollary of that is that different regions of the country have gradually become multilingual. In this language scenario the case of Urdu is decidedly unusual. The Urdu-speaking population is spread all over the country yet remains a linguistic minority everywhere. For centuries Urdu has been a language of people of all faiths. But political and economic exigencies have largely been narrowing down the base of the language to a religious minority. Its process began with the renouncement of the language by protagonists of Hindi in the late nineteenth century. Since then the language has gradually and largely been abandoned by them only to be claimed by Muslim religious minority as a baby of their own. Let's grant that Urdu is by and large a language of Muslim religious minority today, does it necessarily preclude the so called democratic state of India from according a rightful place to the language in the curricula of school education? Is democracy all about upholding the rule of majority and caring for their aspirations alone without respecting the rights of minorities to protect and promote their language and culture? The government of all political hues for last fifty-five years at the centre and state levels have been lacking in their political will to fulfill the cultural and linguistic aspirations of minorities. Given the apathy of governments at all levels, how should linguistic minorities, particularly the Urdu speaking community, protect and nurture their languages that have been subordinated to the languages of majorities in different regions and how should they get a rightful place for their languages on secular school curricula in the democratic polity like India?
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Keeping in view the cultural significance of issues, an interdisciplinary conference entitled 'Minorities, Education and Language in 21st Century Indian Democracy: The Case of Urdu' was held at India International Centre, New Delhi, from February 8 to 11, 2002. The four-day international conference was organized by Zakir Husain Study Circle and Modern Education Foundation, New Delhi, under the auspices of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, and Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Germany. Scholars working in areas of education, law, religion, history, political science, sociology, linguistics, literature and culture studies converged to deliberate on the issues at stake from the USA, the UK, and Germany and from different regions of India as well. Thus the conference achieved its principal aim by bringing together scholars from diverse academic disciplines.
The conference initiated an academic debate about the study of problems faced by linguistic minorities especially the Urdu-speaking community in India. The conference attempted for the first time to address the issues of Urdu in curricula of secular education that have been disregarded for the last fifty-five years. It also raised the question of how modern Muslims should respond to a pluralistic Indian society and what should be the nature of their education. The Urdu-speaking scholars participating in the conference unanimously recommended the Muslims to pursue secular education and urged upon the Government to desist from promoting Madrasas and by implication all religious institutions. And this conference, again perhaps for the first time, advocated equal opportunities and facilities for developing and learning all Indian languages irrespective of whether or not they are incorporated in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. It was a significant achievement of the conference. The conference demanded that the State provide all minorities with facilities for elementary education in their mother tongue. It becomes all the more important in the case of Urdu linguistic minority in that a majority of them cannot afford private education in their own mother tongue. Furthermore, like other languages, Urdu should also be offered as an elective subject to those pupils for whom it is not a first language.
Different scholars representing wide spectrum of academic disciplines partly or wholly proposed some of the ameliorative measures outlined above. Five papers that were first presented at the conference are published in this special issue of Social Scientist. Yogesh Tyagi's paper, "Some Legal Aspects of Minority Languages in India' presents the issue of minority language and education in legal
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perspective. The paper defines the concept of minority languages in legal terms and delineates the constitutional safeguards, and domestic and international legal obligations with regard to minority languages. It argues that a language that is in majority at one place, is a minority language at another place. Majority languages not only prosper along with minority languages but the development of the latter can also contribute to the development of the former. The paper refers to the Articles of the Indian Constitution that seek to protect the rights of linguistic minorities.
Barbara B. Metcalf's paper, 'Urdu in India in the 21st Century: A Historians Perspective', explains problems of Urdu language and education that have been multiplied because of their 'conflation' with Muslims of India who are mainly poor, inadequately represented in education, professions and government. The paper informs that dissemination of 'knowledge of Urdu' may be desirable but would not be able to solve all the problems. Contrarily, it may lead to enclaving the Muslim community. Finally, it presents two proposals before the concerned Urdu speakers in India for consideration. First, publications of Urdu be available in Urdu and Nagri biscripts on facing pages in order to broaden the base of the language and literature. Second, if the three-language formula is not implemented and the option for instruction in mother tongue is not available, or such option in primary classes is not viable because it lacks basic facilities, 'Urdu script and vocabulary as a second language at a later point' may be added 'after the child has acquired basic skills and grammar via Nagri'.
Jagdish S. Gundara's paper entitled 'Linguistic Diversity in Global Multicultural Civic Polities: The Case of Urdu in India' looks at the 'issues of linguistic diversity' from the contemporary perspective of globalization. It suggests that in India the linguistic diversity should be viewed as a 'connective issue' as provided for in Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution of India. Furthermore, the Government should utilize the 86th Amendment to the Indian Constitution as 'an ideal opportunity to grant Urdu the status of first language of children from ages of six to fourteen since they have a fundamental right to education'. The paper argues that the first language is the best medium for learners at primary level of education, which also helps them acquire the second language successfully. For this reason, it advocates that facilities for the teaching of Urdu ought to be made available in primary schools not only to the first language learners but also to those students whose first language is other than Urdu. If this
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proposition is translated into action, it would aid the former category of students in the acquisition of second and third languages and at the same time bring about 'intercultural understanding' with the latter category of students.
David Matthews, paper on 'Urdu Language and Education in India', lays emphasis on the distinguished secular character and richness of Urdu literature from an early age and its contribution to culture, society and history of India. It brushes aside the debate on Urdu script by proclaiming that Urdu and its script are one and the same. The paper considers Urdu as the language of bazaar, cities and many regions of India as it was at the time of Partition and it still serves 'as the major lingua franca throughout the whole of the subcontinent'. It has significant presence in some of the important countries of the world. Because of its cultural significance, Urdu has assumed the status of 'fourth most widely studied foreign language in the UK after French, German and Spanish'. But regrettably it has been persecuted in the country of its origin and ousted from secular education system. The paper refutes the suggestion of nurturing 'Urdu through Self Help' and invokes the relevant Articles of the Indian Constitution in favour of primary education for pupils in their own mother tongue. For the present state of Urdu, it also holds Urdu speaking community partially responsible and proposes some concrete suggestions to ameliorate the deplorable situation in which Urdu finds itself.
The experience of teaching Urdu and Hindi in the USA informs Daniel Gold's essay on 'The Appeal of Urdu: Its Significance and Potential'. Realizing the cultural validity of the language as a medium of instruction, the essay lays stress on the need for Urdu speaking pupils to be taught at primary level in their own mother tongue. Since the present political scenario is not very encouraging, some political pressure and manoeuvring is required for Urdu-speaking community to achieve the desired goal 'without stirring communal passions'. The essay suggests that Urdu literature should be also published in Nagri script for which the language has a great deal of appeal but its literature is not available in the script they know. To make good use of, the appeal of Urdu, it proposes to introduce the language at the later stages of secondary schools as an optional basic course for whom it is not a first language and for the first language learners at the early stages of secondary school because for the latter it is better late than never.
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