Review: The secular nationalism of Urdu by Kavita Saraswathi Datla


UrdubookWithout a doubt Datla’s book is a tremendous historiographical effort toward setting the record straight on the Muslim contribution to India’s secular future, writes A Fazlur Rehman in The Hindu.

The possibility of Urdu being a secular language that could unite India’s diverse communities may come as a surprise to many because of the mistaken belief that it is a “Muslim language.” But an attempt to forge a “common secular future” for Indian citizens through Urdu was indeed made in the 19th century in the princely state of Hyderabad.

Kavita Saraswathi Datla’s brilliantly researchedThe Language of Secular Islam takes us through the twists and turns of this amazing venture which led to the establishment (in 1918) of India’s first vernacular (Urdu) institution of higher education, Osmania University, to challenge the imposition of English by the British. The desire was, says Datla, to create a systemised and uniform vernacular that would rival English as a language of business, science, and learned conversation and ultimately “democratise the effects of Western education.”

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