KARACHI: The debate over the Sanskritisation of Hindustani and Hindi languages is not new said Vibhuti Narain Rai, a former policeman turned novelist, speaking at the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu on Saturday. The Indian writer is on a visit to Karachi along with poet and human rights activist Vandana Misra.

The Azamgarh born-writer was responding to a question put forth by Dawn about the increasing Sanskritisation of Hindustani in Indian films, with Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan being at the forefront of this revival. Mr Rai rejected this perception by tracing the history of such attempts.

“The Hindi movement emerged during the 1920s with debates centring on the removal of Arabic and Persian words from Hindi vocabulary. But by 1936 the issue was settled by the progressive writers who said their literature would reflect the language spoken by the common man.”

However, a new linguistic dilemma surfaced after Partition with Urdu being identified as the lingua franca of the Muslims. “Moreover, many upper middle- and middle-class Muslims who spoke and wrote Urdu migrated to Pakistan and the lower middle-class Muslims who stayed back didn’t really speak Urdu but spoke the colloquial language prevalent in their villages and towns,” observed Mr Rai.

“During the 1970s there were discussions on including Sanskrit words in Hindustani and Hindi languages but that was short-lived. The fight for Sanskritisation of Hindi and Hindustani has been defeated. It has now come to be accepted that Hindustani has khari boli, Sanskrit, Hindi, English, Arabic and Persian words.”

He cited the example of Bambaiya lingo as unique to the city and free from the influence of Sanskrit. About Amitabh’s penchant for speaking in Hindi that sounds inaccessible, Mr Rai felt that Amitabh did not do this deliberately. Moreover, he said that he was recently involved in the compilation of a Hindi dictionary in which “nearly 15 per cent of the words are English”.

About efforts he made for the promotion of Urdu language while he was vice chancellor at the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, a university located in Wardha, Maharashtra, he said he had initiated the Urdu department despite resistance.

Hindustani as an exam paper was also introduced. The writer told Dawn that while there are 400 universities in India where Urdu is taught he was dismayed to know that none of the universities in Pakistan were teaching Hindi. “Without knowing the works of Kabir and Tulsidas how can you expect to understand the subcontinent’s history,” he asked. In his opinion it was Pakistan’s loss for doing so.

Earlier, the novelist who has written Hindi fiction such as Sheher Mein Curfew, Tabadla, Ghar, Kissa Loktantra and Prem ki Bhoot Katha recalled the inspirations behind some of his works which he narrated in a natural, conversational style peppered with witty remarks and undeterred by a faulty sound system and noisy audience members.

Lucknow-based poet and human rights activist Vandana Misra read out a couple of her nazms to the appreciative guests. These included ‘Yeh Shabd Meray Nahin’, ‘Mrityu, ‘Kabul-Herat ki Hameeda, Najma, Nasira, Rukhsana kay Naam’. A former journalist, Ms Misra said she now fully concentrates on her work as an activist and is currently UP general secretary of Peoples Union of Civil Liberties.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2015

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