Thursday, February 24, 2005

Urdu in Guyana

The history of Urdu in Guyana begins in the mid nineteenth century when Urdu-speaking villagers from India were brought to Guyana, by the British, to work as labourers. Until the late 1960s, Urdu and Hindi were the main languages spoken by these people and their descendents.

Two main developments led to the decline of the Urdu language. Urdu started to be perceived as the language of the minority community - Muslims, though it was spoken by both Hindus and Muslims of Guyana in the past. Though, now many people have moved to English as their primary language. Another factor in decline of Urdu is the reduced contact between the Guyanese people of south asian extraction and between Indians and Pakistanis.The second blow came when the Muslim community gradually moved fromits Indianess towards Arabness and as a result, Urdu suffered. However, Urdu is still taught at many a madrasas along with Arabic, for religious instruction.

Qasida is popular among the Urdu speaking Guyanese population, though its popularity is rapidly declining. Sad'r Islamic Anjuman offers programmes for teaching qasida and even country-wide qasida competitions are held in Guyana.

Contributed by:
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad

Friday, February 18, 2005

Role of Urdu in Indian Freedom Struggle

Urdu played a very important role in the freedom struggle of India. The electrifying speeches delivered by some of our prominet leaders like Gandhiji, Pandit Nehru and Maulana Azad, were in Urdu. The slogan that used to echo in the whole country - "Inquilab - Zindabad" has nothing but two words in Urdu. These two simple words were enough to bring about a powerful "revolution".

The sher,

"Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamarey dil mein hai
Dekhna hai zor kitna bazu-e-qaatil mei hai "

was recited by our martyrs like Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaq Ullah Khan while they happily welcomed their death sentence.

Urdu journalism was the basic media that used to regulate the struggle for independence. The sheer number of Urdu publications during the Indian Freedom struggle can speak for it. Following newspapers and magazines were started to support the freedom struggle- Khilafat, Siasat, Ujala, Taj, Roznama-e-Hind, Ajmal, Hilal, Milap, Partap, Tej, Qaumi Awaz, Jung, Anjam, Inqualab, Nawa-e-Waqt, Hindustan, Aftab, Jumhuriat, Nadeem, Iqbal, Asr-e-Jadeed, Azad-e-Hind, Sandesh, Vakeel, Khidmat, Musalman, Azad, Paswan Weer Bharat and Al-Jamiath. Even Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru started Qaumi Awaz from Lucknow in 1945. The reason would surely been his awareness of the fact that Urdu was a language of the masses of the country. The names like Milap, Partap, Tej and Sandesh tell a lot about the universal acceptance of Urdu as a language of all, irrespective of community. It was not considered a language of Muslims. Urdu was born in the army barracks of the Mughals. Urdu means lashkar (a conglomeration of people from various backgrounds).

Post-Independence, a lot of these Urdu newspapers ceased to exist. The reasons were -

  • The Primary Objective i.e. Freedom from British rule, was achieved
  • The Partition
  • Urdu being branded as a language of Muslims
  • Call for suppressing Urdu and Urdu Press

  • Even after that, Urdu didn't disappear from the country. It continued to give pleasure of expression to those who sought it. Urdu newspapers in the Post-Independence era are - Siasat, Inquelab, Salar, Urdu Times, Munsif, Rehnuma-e-Deccan, Awam, Azad Hind, Akhbar-e-Mashriq, Rashtriya Sahara (Urdu), Nai Duniya weekly/ Awam daily, Qaumi Awaz and Akhbar-e-Nau.

    Some prominent dailies that closed down after the Independence were Qaumi Jung, Nazim and Aeilan (Rampur), Mazdoor Vahini (Kanpur), Noor-e-Bareilly (Kanpur), Dukhti Rag (Kanpur), Subh-e-Awadh (Gorakhpur), Alas-Subh (Lucknow), Ghazi Sandesh (Bahraich), Garaj, Aina-e-Alam and Moonis (Moradabad), Mishal-e-Azadi (Aligarh), Sardar Times (Azamgarh), Safeer (Etawah) and Siyasat Doot (in Farrukhabad).

    During my childhood, we used to get Qaumi Awaz in our home in Lucknow. But now, it has disappeared from the scene. Perhaps, in those days , it must have been continuing to be published from Lucknow. Maulana Abdul Waheed Siddiqui started ‘Nai Duniya’, which is still publishing under the editorship of his son Shahid Siddiqui. Today, it is one of the famous Urdu weekly in India. Sahara Group also publishes ‘Rashtriya Sahara (Urdu)’ which is the most popular Urdu daily of North India published from Delhi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. Recently they have also started a weekly called ‘Aalmi Sahara’.

    The possible reasons behind the closure of so many Urdu Newspapers and also the reasons for their poor performance could be -

  • Low wages

  • Low Income through Print Advertisements

  • Costly set-up for Urdu Printing Press

  • Lack of computer skilled man power in Urdu

  • Escalation of per unit cost, resulting from low circulation

  • Last but most important: Diminishing number of Readers
  • The Panacea for Revival
    Now-a-days, children aren't taught to read Urdu until quite late, even in muslim families in India. When they learn Urdu at a higher age, they aren't as comfortable reading as they are with English and Hindi. Therefore, the ultimate remedy for revival is that Urdu, as a language, be introduced in the curricula of all Urdu-speaking states of India. Urdu should also be introduced as an optional language in CBSE schools following NCERT syllabus so that children have an option or a choice to choose a language. Let's give them an option and leave the rest of it on the Shireeni (sweetness) of Urdu.

    ~ Qais

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    "Urdu belongs to us"

    "Out of prejudice, we should not attach the language to any religion. Urdu is an Indian language; it is born in India. It’s not even a Pakistani language; it belongs to us. It’s not a language of Muslims, but of Indians."

    How very factual. Urdu couldn’t have been defended any better, as by its avid lover: renowned lyrists and filmmaker, Gulzar.

    This is an extract from the piece published sometime back in Milli Gazette. The article also speaks about National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), a goverment body dedicated for the revival and promotion of the language.

    "In the aftermath of partition, it was felt that Urdu was the language of a religious minority and would not survive. That has not happened", says Dr M Hamidullah Bhat, director NCPUL.

    You can read the complete article at:
    It’s an informative article; and, among other things, it also speaks about the way Internet is helping in making the langauge popular.

    ~ Manzoor Khan

    The Resolute

    Actually, a good many Urdu dailies are alive ‘n kicking in India, today:

    Rashtriya Sahara (Delhi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur)
    Qaumi Awaz (Delhi)
    Urdu Times (Bombay)
    Inqualab (Bombay)
    The Siasat Daily (Hyderabad)
    The Munsif Daily (Hyderabad)
    Hamara Awaam (Hyderabad)
    Qaumi Tanzeem (Patna)
    Nadeem (Bhopal)
    Salar (Bangalore)
    Azad Hind (Kolkata)
    Akhbar–e-Mashriq (Kolkata)
    Hind Samachar (Punjab)
    Aalmi Sahara (Delhi)
    Afkar-e-Milli (Delhi)

    And, never to leave out the eminent BBC Urdu; though, it's not an Urdu daily, but nevertheless a vast source of Urdu news on the web.

    ~ Manzoor Khan

    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    Urdu Dailies: the Indian Edition

    India has several thousands Urdu speaking people; but, relatively, the Urdu press isn’t that ubiquitous. Still, several Urdu dailies are existent in cities all across the country, where you have people understanding and appreciating the language.

    Hyderabad, as you’d expect, has a strong presence of Urdu press. Leading from the front is the city based Siasat and Munsif, with a decent circulation. Siasat Daily was founded by Late Mr. Abid Ali Khan, who was also an active social worker. Today, Abid Ali Khan Educational Trust is doing a commendable job of education and promotion of Urdu.

    Siasat Daily’s close competitor, The Munsif Daily, was acquired, and now being run by Chicago based industrialist: Khan-Lateef-Khan, also its current editor-in-chief. These two occupy the major mind and market share in the city. Besides the duo, other known dailies are Hamara Awam and Rehnuma E Deccan.

    Going westwards to Bombay, Inqalab from the house of Mid-Day, and Urdu Times Daily are suppose to be the leading Urdu dailies of the city.

    Though my knowledge about Urdu Press is confined mostly to Hyderabad, I must mention that in many cities like Delhi, Lukhnow, Indore, Calcutta, etc, Urdu newspapers are being published, though may not be in the grand scale as of those mentioned above; but their presence, howsoever humble, helps in keeping the avid followers of Urdu closely associated to the language; all the more as for many, the language is part of their identity, too.

    However, this is not to deny the fact that the condition of Urdu newspapers in not very encouraging in the country, as you can read here:

    ~ Manzoor Khan

    A Soulful Prayer

    Lab pe aati hai dua...

    lab pe aatii hai duaa banke tamannaa merii
    zindagii shammaa kii surat ho Khudaayaa merii

    duur duniyaa kaa mere dam a.Ndheraa ho jaaye
    har jagah mere chamakne se ujaalaa ho jaaye

    ho mere dam se yuu.N hii mere watan kii ziinat
    jis tarah phuul se hotii hai chaman kii ziinat

    zindagii ho merii parwaane kii surat yaa rab
    ilm kii shammaa se ho mujhko mohabbat yaa rab

    ho meraa kaam Ghariibo.n kii himaayat karnaa
    dard-ma.ndo.n se zaiifo.n se mohabbat karnaa

    mere allaah buraaii se bachaanaa mujhko
    neyk jo raah ho us raah pe chalaanaa mujhko

    One of the masterpieces by Allama Iqbal includes the nazm which goes - "Lab pe aati hai dua ..." It is a kind of dua (prayer) which asks God to bless us with some beautiful things like love for the entire world, love for one's country, love for knowledge that becomes a blessing for the entire mankind and lastly, compassion for all human beings.
    No reason why this nazm can't be adopted by a reputed school like Doon School , Dehradun, India, for the morning prayer. Have a look at the web site of The Doon School which also has the English interpretation of this nazm.
    This soulful nazm has been sung by melodious but a little unheard singer - Siza Roy. It is a part of famous ghazal singer Jagjit Singh's album - Cry for Cry.

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Urdu Reseach Center: A Rare Library

    The Urdu Research Center, Hyderabad, is a rare and finest collection of early Urdu periodicals and printed books.

    The Centre was founded by Abdus Samad Khan. Mr. Khan was a mechanic by profession. His formal education is only limited to high school. But, since childhood, he was passionate about collecting books; and this ardor let to one of the finest collection of Urdu books, periodicals, etc.

    The University of Chicago recognized and acquired his collection. The University based Urdu Research Library Consortium program is involved in preserving his books. All the materials acquired by Abdus Samad Khan over nearly 40 years were purchased by the Urdu Research Library Consortium in 1996, and moved to the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, in Hyderabad.

    The following link has the interview that Mr. Khan gave to BBC Radio, in 1975:

    You can read more about the library at:

    History of Urdu

    I found the following item on a mailing list populated mainly by South Asian writers. i am assuming the documentary is on Discovery Channel in India. Can someone follow up and tell us what they think of it? Where can we get copies to see?

    A two hour documentary on the HISTORY OF URDU,
    made by Sohail Hashmi (Concept Research and
    Script), Subhash Kapoor (Direction) and Kaamna
    Prasad (Producer) is going to be telecast on
    Discovery Channel on 19th of February (1 hour)
    and 26th of February (1 hour) between 8.00 pm
    -9.00 pm (IST).

    In case you get Discovery in Hindi please ask
    your cable operator to give you the English Feed.
    Discovery took the English version from us and
    got it dubbed in Hindi, the Hindi version is
    most likely to destroy the series, because their
    Hindi Dubbing department is the pits. We had
    offered them the Hindustaani version but they
    took the English version and the dubbing
    department has, in all probability, killed the

    Please watch the two one hours and send me your
    reactions. This is something that has been a
    labour of love and I would dearly like to have
    your reactions.

    Sohail Hashmi
    Delhi 110 092


    The Last Mughal Emperor - The Memorable Poet

    Lagtaa nahii.n hai jii meraa uja.De dayaar me.n
    kis kii banii hai aalam-e-naa_paayedaar me.n

    Kah do in hasarato.n se kahii.n aur jaa base.n
    itnii jagah kahaa.N hai dil-e-daaG_daar me.n

    Umr-e-daraaz maa.Ng kar laaye the chaar din
    do arazuu me.n kat gaye do intazaar me.n

    Kitnaa hai bad_nasiib "Zafar" dafn ke liye
    do gaz zamiin bhii na milii kuu-e-yaar me.n

    Bahadur Shah "Zafar" - the last mughal emperor, wrote this ghazal after he was deported to Rangoon (Burma) after the revolt of 1857. He knew he would never be able to go back to his Homeland. He was buried in Rangoon itself after his death. His tomb still stands in Rangoon.

    This ghazal tells a lot about his love for his kingdom, birthplace and motherland. It clearly speaks about his helplessness, wish to get back what he lost, longing and hope for independence.

    Lastly, he expresses his misfortune that he couldn't get the honour to be buried in his own country. Such was the love of India for a descendant of "Babur".

    Tuesday, February 08, 2005

    Wikis and an Encyclopedia in Urdu

    I just found a wiki in Urdu:

    It also provides information about blogging in Urdu. For those who are not following this, there is a very large community of bloggers in Farsi/Persian--it's a largest single community in one language besides English or something—and it will be wondeful to see people blog more in Urdu, too. The languages are very close in script and other such technicalities, so we should be able to build on their achievements.

    BTW, I never tire of saying this: The Wikipedia community has also set up an encyclopedia in Urdu. Everyone can and should participate; it should be a wonderful way to engage the Urdu-speaking community and Urdu lovers with the Internet and help the collection and growth of knowledge in Urdu. In case you want the address for that directly, it is at:

    (Here's a link to the entry on my personal blog on this topic.)


    Monday, February 07, 2005


    I have just been invited to contribute to this blog. I maintain a personal--or should I say personal/political--blog at The motto of that blog is:

    banaa kar faqeeroN ka hum bhais Ghalib
    thamaasha-e-ehl-e-karam dhaikthay haiN
    Taking the guise of the poor, the dervishes, we, O Ghalib,
    Watch the spectacle of the blessed; with power and pelf
    (of course, from Chacha, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib)

    One item I posted a little while back on my blog was a translation of a piece by a progressive writer from Delhi. You can read it at:

    Hope readers will like that.

    Thursday, February 03, 2005

    Iqbal's Sketch by Khushwant Singh

    A lot has been written about poet/philosopher Allama Iqbal. But, the best piece I have come across was the one written by the celebrated Indian author: Khushwant Singh. Khushwant Singh has eloquently translated Iqbal’s Shikwa and Jawab-I-Shikwa, too.

    I must say, his comprehension of Iqbal is very neat, indeed. This article gives a good insight about the distinguished and profound person that Iqbal was.

    Read the article at:

    Tuesday, February 01, 2005

    Shikwa – A Pleading Complaint

    Shikwa, or Complaint, was one of the best works of the remarkable poet-philosopher: Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Shikwa is primarily a despaired and exigent cry of a dismal, yet beseeched believer, for his beleaguered community.

    Shikwa was brilliant, but also controversial. However, Iqbal silenced all his critics by carving out a hard-hitting and thought provoking Jawab-I-Shikwa, what was Allah’s candid reply to the Complaint.
    Listen to Iqbal’s Shikwa, in the matchless voice of the late maestro Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: