Mohajirs spoke Urdu neither in their homes nor outside the cities in the towns and villages where they lived in India. They came from a sub-continent where over 100 languages and 600 dialects are spoken. Even in U.P., it was the mother tongue of a minority living in urban areas. Bhojpori was spoken in the eastern, Avadhi in the central, Braj Bhasha in the southwestern and Khari Boli in northwestern districts of U.P.

Urdu, Hindvi or Hindustani had emerged from Khariboli of Delhi, the imperial capital, with Arabic script, as the language of the subcontinent during the Muslim imperialism (1206-1857), as a common language of all the Indians belonging to the ruling elite regardless of origin or religion. They wrote in Persian and spoke in Urdu to each other as sign of civilized behavior. So much so that all states whether Hindu, Sikh or Muslims kept their record in Persian. Therefore the British East India company replaced Persian with English and Urdu with Arabic script as official languages in India in 1837. However, Hindus started agitating for Hindi with Devanagri script. They also began to purge Persian and Arabic words from Hindi to make it distinct from Urdu.

Urdu originated with Muslim conquest and was used all over India, including Sindh, as the language of the Muslim army camps, and had its greatest development in the major urban centres of the Muslim period like Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad and Lahore. Urdu would have been as much a language of the urban centres of Sindh, which produced a number of poets who wrote in Urdu during the Mughal, Kalhora and Talpur period, and if it were not for the invasion and occupation of Sindh by the Persians and Afghans in eighteenth century, and its separation from the Mughal Empire which isolated Sindh from the mainstream of Indian Muslim intellectual development.

Under the Muslim rule, Persian was the official language. Although the battle of Plassey established the rule of the East India Company in 1757, Persian remained the language of administration till 1830’s when English took the place of Persian on the higher level of administration, and Urdu became the official vernacular in much of north India. However, in 1870’s Hindi began to replace Urdu in the Central Provinces and Bihar, and by 1900 in North-Western Provinces and Awadh, which lead to demand by Muslims for Urdu as language for education and official use.

The All India Muhammadan Educational Conference was founded in 1886 by Syed Ahmed Khan, to protect Urdu and spread its education among the ordinary Muslims speaking hundreds of local languages and dialects. Sir Syed had also opposed the All-India Congress, which was founded in 1885 to demand a reconstitution of legislative councils on a representative basis. According to Sir Syed, Mohammadans would be a permanent minority of one to four Hindus, perpetually outvoted and ruled by them. He wrote that he objected to every Congress which regarded India as one nation. His condition for joining the Congress was that it should pass a resolution that the Hindus and Muslims should have an equal number of seats in the legislative Councils, district boards and municipalties. Nothing less was acceptable to the old imperialists.

Nawab Khwaja Salimullah the Nawab of Dhaka, had sponsored the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Dacca from 27 to 29 December 1906, chaired by Nawab Justice Sharfuddin. It decided to hold a political session of the conference on 30 December 1906, chaired by Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, which created a political organization of Muslims. The name All India Muslim League, was proposed by Nawab Khawaja Sir Salimullah Bahadur and seconded by Hakim Ajmal Khan. All delegates to the educational conference were registered as members of the proposed party with the stalwarts of the Aligarh movement and the Urdu Defence Association, Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, were nominated joint conveners of the All India Muslim League. Thus the Muslim League was born out of the bosom of the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference for Urdu held at Dacca in 1906.

It is said that the Quaid-i-Azam alienated Bengal by his, ‘Urdu, and Urdu alone shall be the State Language of Pakistan’ speeches in Dacca on March 21, 1948 at the Race Course Maidan, and on March 24, 1948 at the Special Convocation Ceremony of Dacca University. He also gave a radio address to East Pakistanis before his departure from East Pakistan on March 28, 1948, in which he characterized the opponents of the Urdu language as opponents of Pakistan. As head of the All-India Muslim League and Pakistan movement, the Quaid-i-Azam could not have said otherwise because All-India Muslim League had its origin in Hindi/Urdu language controversy, and Urdu was the language of the Pakistan movement.

Urdu became the mother tongue of Mohajirs, who grew up in Pakistan and took it to be the language of Pakistan because the Quaid-i-Azam had said that Urdu would be the only national language of Pakistan, a language which ‘embodies the best that is in Islamic culture and Muslim tradition’. He had declared, ‘… let me make it very clear to you that language of the state of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language. Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan… without one state language, no nation can remain tied up solidly together and function’

When the NAP Government adopted Urdu as the official language of Balochistan and NWFP, the PPP Chief Minister of Sindh, Mumtaz Ali Bhutto announced that ‘his government would present a bill in the Assembly to make Sindhi the official language of the province’ (Morning News, 10 May 1972).

The opposition in the Sindh Assembly described it as a sinister move to divide the people of Sindh, cripple the Urdu speaking people economically, and reduce them to the position of second grade citizens. There real inten­tion was not to promote the Sindhi language but to ‘strike a deathblow to the non-Sindhis and eliminate them from government departments’.

Sindhi-speaking student attacked the Staff Colony of Sind University, injured staff mem­bers and stopped the entry of Urdu-speaking teachers and stu­dent, as well as burning down the Urdu section of the university library. Urdu-speaking student in Karachi set fire to the Sindhi Department of Karachi University. Riots spread and took a heavy toll of innocent lives all over Sindh, while non-Sindhi speak­ers fled from the interior of Sindh to the safety of Karachi and Hyderabad, and across the provincial border into Punjab.

When demonstrations in favour of Urdu spread into Punjab, President Bhutto, who was fond of saying that he knew how to use both the language of weapon and the weapon of lan­guage, agreed to promulgate an amendment to the bill, to allay the fears of new Sindhis.

In a speech in the National Assembly on Friday 14 July 1972, President Bhutto said, ‘I know much has been made out of the fact that the Frontier, Punjab and Balochistan have not accepted their own languages as the provincial languages, and they are such great patriots that they have accepted Urdu as the language … In 1971, I do not think you can find anywhere, even in the remotest corner of Sindh, a man who does not know the Urdu language … They might not even know how to put a thumb impression on a piece of paper, but they will understand Urdu. What does this mean? This means that we have taken Urdu to our hearts. This means that the people of Sind have accepted Urdu. This means that we love Urdu … The Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was not Urdu-speaking, but he told the people of Pakistan that Urdu shall be the national language. It was his order, it was his command. We readily agreed. Whatever your command, we accept it … We believed so much in Pakistan that if the Quaid-i-Azam had told us that Arabic should be the national language, we would have accepted it. If the Quaid-i-Azam wanted us to learn Chinese, French or German, we would have accepted it. But Urdu is our own language. Urdu is a language of understanding. Urdu is the language of Iqbal. Urdu is the language of Ghalib. Urdu is a beautiful language. How can we have any disrespect for Urdu?’


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