Languages Erode with the Passing of an Era


There are twenty two ‘scheduled’ languages in India and dialects run into many more. The 2001 census put the count of all spoken languages and dialects at 780, second only to Papua and New Guinea which leads with 839 languages. 

With such a huge babel of words at it’s disposal, some languages languish from neglect. Some profess Urdu is one such victim. Recently, much is being written about how Urdu is dying in the bylanes of Old Delhi .

Urdu, a language of the court and poetry, graceful and elegant in its usage, came to be recognised fully around the eighteenth century in India. Before that, Persian was used in the Mughal courts. Urdu evolved as a language that was used by both Hindus and Muslims, perhaps a language of harmony. It used the elegant Nastaliq script. 

Interestingly, when after the Partition Bangladesh was dubbed East Pakistan , Urdu was imposed by West Pakistan (or what we know as Pakistan now) as the national language instead of Bengali in 1948. The Bengalis, despite Jinnah’s intervention, did not take to this kindly just as it must have been difficult for the Biharis to adopt Hindi and the Devnagri script in 1881 instead of Urdu and Nastaliq that was a part of their heritage.

Superficially, one language can unify people but multiple cultures get stomped out of existence when any language or dialect dies out. UNESCO has identified number of endangered languages   . Organisations are working to preserve the cultures and languages that are endangered with modernisation taking over the ancient nuances and with it, the cultural affiliations. Will Urdu used in India be neglected enough to be part of this list? 

Read more about the status of Urdu in India in this article from Counterpunch.


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