New Delhi: Former Judge Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India Justice Markandey Katju is known for calling a spade a spade. After calling Mahatma Gandhi as ‘British agent’ now he kicked off another controversy by describing one of the official languages Hindi as an “artificial” language which was created by certain bigots who wanted to propagate the idea that Hindi was the language of Hindus, and Urdu of Muslims.
His timing of blog on ‘Hindi language has assumed significance as the each department of the Central government is celebrating annual ‘Hindi Pakhawada’ to promote ‘language’.
Justice Katju said in his blog that the language of the common man in large parts of India is Hindustani or khariboli, not Hindi.
“There is a difference between the two. For example, in Hindustani we say ‘ udhar dekhiye ‘. On the other hand, In Hindi it is said; udhar avalokan keejiye ‘.”
Asserting that Hindi was an artificial language, he said Urdu was in fact the common language of all educated persons, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, in large parts of India upto 1947.
“The artificial language was created by certain bigots who wanted to propagate the idea that Hindi was the language of Hindus, and Urdu of Muslims. This was part of the British policy of divide and rule”.
Buttressing his point, Justice Katju said Hindustani was, and still is, the language of the common man, Urdu was the language of the educated class in large parts of India.
“I have explained in my article ‘ What is Urdu ‘ that Urdu is a combination of two languages, Hindustani, which was the common man’s language in urban India ( in rural areas there were dialects like Awadhi, Brijbhasha, Bjojpuri, Maghai, Maithili, mewari, marwari, etc ), and Persian which was the language of the aristocrats or elite in India for several centuries. The foundation of Urdu is Hindustani, on which a layer of Persian was placed to make it sophisticated and elegant. This gives Urdu great power and elegance, and Urdu poetry, in expressing the voice of the human heart, is perhaps the greatest poetry in the world”.
Defending Urdu language, he said that after 1947 a massive propaganda was launched by certain fanatics that Urdu was a foreign language and a language of Muslims alone. Persian words which had come into common usage in Hindustani were sought to be hatefully and systematically replaced by Sanskrit words which were not in common use. For example, ‘zila’ was replaced by ‘janapad ‘.
“When I was a judge in Allahabad High Court, a lawyer who argues only in Hindi, filed a petition before me titled ‘Pratibhu Avedan Patra ‘. I asked him what the word ‘ pratibhu’ meant. He said it meant bail. I then told him that he should have used the word bail or zamaanat, which everybody understands in most parts of India, instead of ‘ pratibhu ‘ which no one understands”.
Once in Allahabad I was taking a walk in the Cantonment area and saw a board in which it was written ‘ Pravaran Kendra ‘ I could not understand what it meant. Looking lower down I saw the words ‘ Recruitment Centre ‘. Surely the better words would have been ‘ Bharti daftar ‘ which everybody could understand, instead of ‘ pravaran kendra ‘ which nobody would understand.
Recalling an incident in Allahabad, he said he offered a certain fare to a rickshawall, and he said my offer was ‘wajib; i.e. appropriate. Now this word ‘wajib’ is pure Persian, but it had come into common usage in Hindustani, as even a rickshawalla was using it.
“So it is silly to try to remove Persian and Arabic words which had come into common vogue in Hindustani, and in fact this created an artificial language Hindi, which is sometimes difficult for the common man to understand. Often in Courts it was difficult to understand the Hindi used in Government notifications”.
“This policy of spitefully trying to remove Persian and Arabic words from Hindustani did great harm to Urdu, and almost amounted to genocide on a great language. Great injustice has been done in our country to Urdu, which is in fact a shining gem in the treasury of Indian culture. My attempt has been to restore its old glory”.
He asserted that Urdu is an indigenous Indian language. “It is totally false to call it a foreign language, and bracket it with Arabic and Persian. Urdu is the granddaughter of Sanskrit, not of Persian and Arabic, and over 70% of its words are from Sanskrit. It is a totally secular language, not a language of Muslims alone, as the bigots sought to depict it”.
Besides Justice Katju, many linguists are of the opinion that before the advent of Muslims in the sub-continent Hindi word did not exist in the Indian lexicon. It was the noted poet Amir Khusro who first coined the word ‘Hindvi’ describing confluence of Indian languages and Turk, Persian and Arabic languages. It was the first name of fledgling Urdu language. Then it was shortened to ‘Hindi’. It was rechristened as ‘Rekhta’ and then ‘Urdu-e-Moalaa’. Urdu-e-Moilaa’ was further shortened to only Urdu. Justice Katju is right when he says language controversy was created by British government as part of its Divide and Rule policy while Urdu was the common language of Indians irrespective of their faiths and religions. One can see that Urdu poetry and literature was enriched not only by Muslims but also equally by Hindus and Sikhs.