Analysis: Hindko Matters

Updated February 22, 2015


Supporters of Tehrik Hazara Sooba gather near the Quaid's mausoleum in Karachi.  — Online/file
Supporters of Tehrik Hazara Sooba gather near the Quaid's mausoleum in Karachi. — Online/file

A recent report from Peshawar said the Gandhara Hindko Board (GHB) had criticised the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for delaying the launch of the long-approved Hindko project and blamed the delay on officials who were said to be biased against the language and hindering the plan.

As International Mother Language Day was observed on Feb 21, it is worth remembering that Hindko is the language of millions of people settled in their ancestral areas or spread across the globe to seek a living. Some people insist that it is a dialect of the Punjabi language, others claim that it is a distinct old language and even the source of Urdu.

However, renowned linguist and author Tariq Rehman says: “‘Hind’ means Sindh and ‘ko’ means language. When the invaders from Afghanistan came to this area, they found a similar language being spoken from Peshawar to UP. They called it Hindko. Later, the various varieties of the language were standardised in different areas for political reasons. The language spoken in the area of Peshawar, Abbottabad, etc was called Hindko, in central Punjab it was Punjabi and around Multan it came to be known as Seraiki. All these languages are mutually intelligible. They are part of the same big language. Call this a distinct language or a dialect.”

Khatir Ghaznavi, teacher, researcher, writer and poet of Go zara see baat par barson kay yaranay gayay fame, wrote several books in and on Hindko, including Urdu ka maakhaz: Hindko. He argued that Urdu took root in the Peshawar Valley after the arrival of Zaheeruddin Baber and Hindko emerged from the various languages spoken by the aliens and the locals.

Dr Rauf Parekh, however, dismisses Ghaznavi’s claim that Hindko is the origin of Urdu and says “this is just one of the several theories about the origin of Urdu”. He, however, adds that Hindko is an important “Pakistani language”.

“In fact, every language is important. A language has its own beauty in its idioms, folk tales, songs, proverbs and traditions. If a language dies, a whole culture dies. Besides, people have emotional attachment to their mother tongues,” says the professor of Urdu at Karachi University.

“Hindko, therefore, must not only be preserved but should be helped to progress and flourish.”

Hindko is spoken in Peshawar, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan, Nowshera, Swabi, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Punjab –– Attock, Hazro, Rawalpindi and Potohar. But its bastion is Hazara division, comprising the districts of Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram and Kohistan. Also, there are big populations of Hindko-speaking people in the major cities of the country. Karachi has many neighbourhoods such as Mansehra Colony, Qayyumabad and Kalapul, where an overwhelming majority of the residents is from Hazara, though some of them are bilinguals, speaking both Hindko and Pashto.

When the ANP government finally got the province’s named changed to give it a Pakhtun identity, the Hindko-speaking population of Hazara erupted in protest and rallied behind Baba Hyder Zaman to demand a separate province.

The language has produced classical poets including Sayeen Ahmed Ali, stated to be a disciple of Bulleh Shah. Big names such as Qateel Shifai, Farigh Bukhari and Khatir Ghaznavi, though they earned fame through their Urdu poetry, were Hindko poets also. Sultan Sukoon, Raza Hamdani and Riaz Hussain Saghir are also popular for their Hindko poetry.

Of the artists, Shakeel Awan — not the PML-N leader of the same name from Rawalpindi — is probably the most popular singer of the language these days.

Although Hindko poets have composed verses in every genre — seeharfi, nazm, ghazal and religious poetry — mahiya is peculiarly associated with the language, though it is being composed in several languages, including Urdu. As that of ballad, the origin of this three-line poem is uncertain. Its first line is generally for rhyming sake and not necessarily has a logical connection with the other two lines. For instance:

Chita kukkar baneray tay Reshmi dopattay waliyay Dil dul gia teray tay (The white rooster is perched on the edge of the roof O, the damsel wearing a silk headscarf, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with you!)

In prose, Hindko books can be found on all common subjects — religion, politics, history, biographies. There are at least two Hindko-Urdu dictionaries and the Holy Quran has also been translated into this language. Some TV and radio channels also air programmes in Hindko and a few literary magazines are also published in it regularly.

The 32-man GHB, with chairman Ejaz Ahmed Qureshi, is doing a commendable job for the promotion of the language. Its activities include holding conferences and other events to highlight the importance of the language. It’s the GHB that is periodically raising its voice to remind the government of its commitment.

Mohammad Riaz Soze, a Haripur-based journalist, says the academy when established will have more resources at its disposal to promote the language and its related culture. He suggests that the government sponsor Hindko-related publications, arts, sports and cultural activities.

Published in Dawn February 22nd , 2015

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