Muslim Leaders of India's 'Secular' Parties - Not Ready to Shed Communal Legacy

When  the Lok Sabha elections are only a few months away, the union  Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan while inaugurating an Urdu  festival on January 3 in Maharashtra flagged off a huge column of  about 50,000 school students carrying banners and raising slogans  demanding promotion of Urdu language.

Expressing  anguish he said, “The Muslims have never held a protest or campaign  for the protection and promotion of Urdu language despite the  “Constitutional right to demand protection of our mother tongue”

The  Minister knew very well that except for a limited group of Muslims in  UP, Bihar and some other urban centres in north and central India,  Urdu is not the mother tongue of Muslims all over the country. Yet he  is propagating a lie that the Urdu language is the mother tongue of  entire Muslim community in India and what is worse- he is desperately  linking the language as part of Muslim identity.

The  Minister who is part of the present government deliberately ignored  the fact that the communal legacy of Urdu was the first issue taken  up for dividing the Indian society during British rule. What should  be the concern is that these demands are given prominence just on the  eve of elections. We saw this in the State elections in Uttar Pradesh  in 2012 when the Union Minister Salman Khurshid took up the issue of  reservation for Muslims which was the legacy of All India Muslim  League and not that of the Congress.


Historically,  Urdu was born out of the socio-administrative requirement of the  Muslim conquerors who preferred to settle down in the regions around  Delhi. In this, they broke from the traditions of the past invaders  like the Huns or Kushans in Arabising and Persianising the local  dialects and used it as the lingua franca for communication between  the alien soldiers and the native dwellers.

This  linguistic separatism played a major role in creating a communal  divide from which India is still to recover.

Sir  Sayed Ahmad (1817-1898), a first British loyal Muslim leader turned  the Urdu-Hindi controversy into a political one at the cost of  Hindu-Muslim unity against the British. Sayed’s snobbish  observation before the Education Commission (appointed by the  British) that Urdu was “the language of gentry and Hindi that of  the vulgar”, was repudiated by his contemporary Hindi protagonist  Babu Harish Chandar. He  retorted that “Urdu was the language of dancing girls and  prostitutes” (Yusuf Abbasi- Muslim Politics and Leadership in the South Asian  Sub-continent, p.90). Since then Urdu has been mired in one  controversy or other and used as a political tool to continue the  communal divide during British India and after.

Replacement  of Persian with Devnagari from the language of the courts on 18 April  1900 by McDonnell,  the Chief Commissioner of Oudh gave fresh ammunition to Muslim  leaders to demand the restoration of Urdu in place of local language.  The then Mohammedan Anglo Oriental Defence Association (an outfit of  the Aligarh movement) was renamed as the “Urdu Defence Association”  and an aggressive campaign thus began. This movement soon converted  itself into one in search of a “muslim identity” which they  believed is cannot be done without promoting an aggressive agitation  in favour of Urdu language.

‘Jinnah,  who could not write his own name in Urdu, included the question of  Urdu as one his famous fourteen points and cynically used it as a  tool to forge a Muslim identity.’ (S.K.Ghosh, Muslim Politics in  India, 1968, p.15.) He exploited Urdu to widen the gap of cultural  divide between Hindus and Muslims though ‘he could not speak a word  of Urdu’. (Rafiq Zakaria, The Widening Divide, p.105.) At the  height of the partition demand by the Muslim League, the Muslims  repudiated the slogan was ‘Urdu-Muslim-Pakistan’.

Urdu  does not have any religious or Islamic cultural identity. Had it been  so, there would not have been any conflict between the Urdu speaking  Muslims of West Pakistan and Bengali speaking Muslims of East  Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh. Had Urdu been the cultural legacy  of Islam, Muslims all over the world would have adopted it. In the  present day, Urdu has just become another issue for our minister in  the government in his self-seeking political interest and vote bank  politics.

The  result was that Urdu was made the second official language in Bihar,  Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. One may ask- Has  it helped Urdu in spreading to other places or more popular? The  answer is “No”.

Since  1947 till today the sole agenda of the community leaders has been the  communal demands for organising the Muslim masses. With a single  point agenda to keep the community members scared of the danger of  their religious identity, they don’t guide them to think beyond  mosque, madrasa, Urdu language and of late reservation for the  community in government jobs. It is ridiculous that even in the  gathering organised by the non-Muslim organisations the Muslim  speakers often talk only on Muslim agenda.

Such  attitude of the Muslim leaders suggests that they are not interested  to identify the community with the socio-political mainstream of the  country. Unfortunately, the patron saints from the so called secular  parties provide these Muslim leaders political strength to create  confusion among the Muslim masses and keep them under their political  siege. Similarly, even the Muslim media hardly play any role to  identify the community with various mainstream socio-political  movements against corruption, price rise, general law and order  problem etc.

Negligible  participation of Muslims in the movements launched by Anna Hazare  against corruption suggests that the community is indifferent on such  issue. Muslim media is thus nothing but an institution for issuing  complaint bulletins of the community. Even in politics the Muslims  are found jumping from one political party to another and cast their  votes to the party which promise to fulfill their communal demands.  Unfortunately, our so called secular parties have communal and caste  cards the only national agenda as a result the people particularly  the Muslims failed to develop a national spirit.

The  power of Muslim leaders particularly in ‘secular ‘parties also  lies in their ability in keeping the community members confused about  their political future. These leaders have not ever taken initiative  to launch any newspapers which would be read throughout the country  and help the community in becoming an integral part of the political  system for the overall development of Indian society. In view the  changing political wind they should use their ability in unloading  the burden of the original sin of their pre-partition generations who  voted for Muslim League in the 1945-46 elections and became  responsible for creation of Pakistan.

The  ensuing Lok Sabha election has jolted all the political parties as  the voters are found more interested for developments by throwing out  the corrupt leaders. It is high time also for the Muslim masses to  come out of the siege of their community leaders and vote according  to their own conscience by joining the ongoing movement for political  change in the country.

First  published Click Here to VIew

Also  read
1. History of Urdu

Editor  - Note that Jinnah’s grandfather was Poonja Gokuldas Meghji who belonged to the Bhatia community, Farooq Abdullah great grand father was Ragho Ram Kaul a Kashmiri Pandit, Tansen was son of Makrand Pande a Brahmin and his Guru was Swami Haridas. Lastly name of A R Rehman before conversion was Dilip Kumar Mudaliar.

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