Javed Akhtar says Urdu isn’t owned by Muslims | The Express Tribune


Bollywood’s renowned lyricist Javed Akhtar dispelled misconceptions surrounding Hindi and Urdu during an event, emphasizing that it is incorrect to categorize one as the language of Hindus and the other as the language of Muslims. 

As per The Indian Express, Akhtar asserted that language is rooted in region rather than religion and highlighted that Urdu is as much a Hindustani language as Hindi. The famed writer also pointed out the unfairness of blaming Indian governments for the gradual disappearance of the Urdu script, stating that those who consider themselves custodians of their culture have failed to transmit this knowledge to younger generations.

He participated in a discussion on the interconnectedness of Hindi and Urdu, likening them to “Siamese twins,” which took place at the India International Centre and was shared on the foundation’s YouTube channel. This, however, isn’t the first time Akhtar has shared his thoughts on the matter. 

“Hindi and Urdu were equals until about 200 years ago, when, for political reasons, they were separated,” he said at the aforementioned event. “You would not be able to tell if certain poems were written by a Hindi poet or an Urdu poet. This was done by the Britishers to create a cultural difference in north India.”

Akhtar went on to continue, “They say that Urdu is a Muslim language. Really? What about the 10 crore Bengalis in the erstwhile East Pakistan? Malayalam giants like Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, were they writing in Urdu? All the Arabs in the Middle East, do they speak Urdu? In Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan… Where do they speak Urdu? Only in the Indian subcontinent. True, we were split 70 years ago, but it was all Hindustan, was it not?”

Like Urdu doesn’t solely belong to Muslims, he said that it is equally incorrect to say that Hindi is the language of Hindus. “They say Hindi is the language of Hindus. Why don’t you go and tell that to the people in Tamil Nadu? Let’s see what happens. All this is nonsense. Languages cannot belong to a religion. They belong to regions. Can English be the language of Christians? No. Do Christians in France and Italy speak English?” He said that Urdu is a north Indian language, but while land can be divided, language cannot. “You can’t say we’ll have the nouns, you can have the verbs, can you?”

Akhtar, known for his candid cultural commentary, expressed that numerous contemporary words have been incorporated into usage due to a lack of logical alternatives.

“I will die before making a character say, ‘Tumne mere saare hukook le liye’. I will always write, ‘Tumne mere saare adhikaar le liye’. Similarly, I won’t have one friend tell another, ‘Mujhe tumhari avashyakta hai’, because, ‘Mujhe tumhari zaroorat hai’ sounds better,” he said. “Why am I writing in Hindustani? Because I am writing for Hindustan. I’m not writing for Urdu speakers or Hindi speakers.”

Last year, Akhtar made headlines when his statement at the launch of Dr Satinder Sartaaj’s Urdu poetry album titled Shayarana – Sartaj with his wife Shabana Azmi, went viral. As per Hindustan Times, he went on to say at the event that Urdu doesn’t belong to Pakistan or Egypt, but to ‘Hindustan’.

At the event, Akhtar told the reporters, “Urdu hasn’t come from any other place…it is our own language. It isn’t spoken outside of Hindustan…Pakistan also came into existence after partition from India, earlier it was a part of India only. So, the language isn’t spoken outside Hindustan…”

He added, “Punjab has a big contribution towards Urdu and it is the language of India! But why did you leave this language? Because of partition? Because of Pakistan? Urdu should be given attention. Earlier it was only Hindustan – Pakistan later separated from Hindustan. Now Pakistan said that Kashmir is ours…will you believe that? I think ‘No’! Likewise, Urdu is a Hindustani language and it remains (so). Nowadays, new generation youths speak less Urdu and Hindi in our country. Today more focus is on English. We must speak in Hindi because it’s our national language.”

Akhtar further shared that a language is based on a region, not a religion. “If language was based on religion, then the whole of Europe would have one language. That’s why the language is not of religion, but of the region,” the writer added. 

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