Scripting success: Four Hindu girls ace Urdu in ICSE exams

Scripting success: Four Hindu girls ace Urdu in ICSE exams
One of the benefits of learning Urdu, say the non-Muslim students, is better understanding of its writers and their works.
Samruddhi Shyam Waghmare was confident that she would get good marks in Urdu in 10th standard (ICSE Board) exams this year. But she didn’t expect to top the class with 90% in Urdu at Dr A R Undre English High School (ICSE) and Junior College (ISC) at Borli Panchatan village in Raigad district. In the class of 64, she stood second but bettered the topper Madiha Muazzam Undre in the Urdu paper by two marks.

Samruddhi is one the four Maharashtrian Hindu students out of the seven who got distinction at the board exams and also excelled in Urdu. The marks in Urdu she and her other Hindu batch mates scored—Harshada Dilip Cherphale (86%), Simran Deepak Karambe (88%) and Kshitij Pradeep Khopkar (60%)—have excited her Muslim classmates. “I am not envious of Samruddhi, but feel proud that she outshone me in Urdu which I have learnt from childhood,” says Madiha.

But the proudest is the school’s founder, Mumbai-based noted surgeon Dr A R Undre. “One of the reasons I moved my school from SSC to ICSE Board was the compulsory Indian language of 100 marks students are required to keep. I wanted my students to not just get familiarized with Urdu but also hone the skill in it to the extent that they start appreciating its literary beauty,” says Dr Undre who established the school in 1980 as a way to “payback to my ancestral village.”

One of the benefits of learning Urdu, say the non-Muslim students, is better understanding of its writers and their works. So most 10th graders in India, including Muslims who have not studied Urdu, know Maulana Azad as a freedom fighter and India’s first education minister. But ask Samruddhi about Azad’s literary contributions and she immediately mentions “Ghubar-e-Khatir”, a collection of the great scholar-nationalist’s letters he penned in prison to his friends.

The non-Muslim students turned to their teachers and Muslim classmates for help in Urdu. “We mostly speak Marathi at home but when I put her in the English medium school where Urdu is compulsory, I knew she would clear it as her teachers are very cooperative,” says Samrudhi’s father Shyam Waghmare who teaches Marathi at a different school.

Simran comes from Danguri village where no one knows Urdu. “After my results came many relatives congratulated me especially for excelling in Urdu paper,” says Simran. “My relatives admire and are amazed when I speak or read Urdu texts before them,” says Harshada. TOI asked these students to read the headlines of daily Urdu Times and each read them fluently. “We ensure that our non-Muslim students don’t falter in Urdu and we encourage them to put in extra efforts,” says vice-principal, Arif M Ansari.

Urdu is often associated with Muslims, something many lovers of the language call a grave injustice to the language which symbolizes India’s Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (composite culture). But the achievements of these students debunks the fallacy that Urdu belongs to Muslims alone. “These students have proved once again that Urdu is a secular language and politicians should stop dividing languages on religious grounds. Urdu is Hindi’s sister and must be treated equally. It should get all the facilities to prosper in whichever state it is the second largest language,” says Prof Gopichand Narang, noted Urdu scholar and former president, Sahitya Akademi.


My name Is Urdu and I am not a Muslim



My name Is Urdu and I am not a Muslim
Urdu hai mera naam main Khusrau ki paheli
Main Meer ki humraaz hun Ghalib ki saheli

(My name is Urdu and I am Khusrau’s riddle
I am Meer’s confidante and Ghalib’s friend)

Kyun mujhko banate ho tassub ka nishana
Maine to kabhi khud ko musalmaan nahi maana

(Why have you made me a target for bigotry?
I have never thought myself a Muslim)

Dekha tha kabhi maine bhi khushiyo ka zamana
Apne hi watan me hum agar aaj akayli

(I too have seen an era of happiness
But today I am an orphan in my own country)

I don’t think anything can describe the state of Urdu’s neglect and decline than these lines by IqbalAshar.

In this article I want to dispel the notion that a language can have a religion by tracing its origin and the roots of how that tag got attached to it, leading to its subsequent neglect.

Language is a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition.

India is home to several hundred languages out of which 22 are scheduled languages and a rich cultural heritage attached to all of them.

After independence, the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights recommended that the official language of India be made Hindustani, as it was already the national language: “Hindustani, written either in Devanagari or the Perso-Arabic script at the option of the citizen, shall, as the national language, be the first official language of the Union.”

Had this been adopted there would just be a beautiful national language, Hindustani with a shared cultural heritage instead of two artificially created languages via kind courtesy of the British: Sansritised Hindustani called Hindi and Persianised Hindustani called Urdu. Unfortunately, this recommendation was not adopted by the Constituent Assembly.

Till the early 20th century Persian was the language of the elite and learnt by them (irrespective of religion) but Urdu was the language of the masses, and used as a medium of instruction. Our Prime Minister and the poet Gulzar, amongst other famous Indian personalities even today use the Urdu script for their writings.  Many friends who read this will say their fathers or grandfathers according to their age received education in Urdu medium schools and were fluent in the language.

So where did the language go wrong? When did it become associated with a religious community?

To understand this we must understand the aftermath of 1857 and the British ‘divide and rule’ policy.

Languages are a common cultural bond and having known this the British encouraged the use of Perso-Arabic and Devnagari script via the printing press to cement the division of Hindustani, the lingua franca of a majority of Indians, into the standardised Urdu and Hindi language.

In fact Bibles which were distributed by the missionaries to spread Christianity were also printed in the 2 scripts and distributed accordingly as per religion of recipient.

After partition, the death knell for Urdu as an Indian language was struck when it was declared as the national language of Pakistan. But today only 7.4 percent of the total population of Pakistan claim Urdu as their mother tongue (and I suspect these are the muhajirs who went from the Indo-Gangetic plains.)

Opposed to this is the figure of 44.15 percent Pakistanis who speak/ list Punjabi as their mother tongue. (In Pakistan, Urdu is spoken by a much larger percentage of people but they do not list it as their mother language and it’s the same case in India)

In India there are 5.01 percent of the population for whom Urdu is the mother tongue and Hindi is spoken by 41.03 percent.

Please note that the total population of Muslims in India is 13.4 percent of the country’s population. So if Urdu is supposed to be a language of Muslims why don’t the Muslims of Kerala speak it? Why do they communicate/ list their mother tongue as Malayalam? Muslims represent a majority of the local population in Lakshadweep (93 percent) and they all speak Malayalam. Having lived in Kerala for many years I have a first-hand experience that the only other language understood by the majority was English.

Why do Muslims of West Bengal, which has the second largest Muslim population in India, after Uttar Pradesh, list their mother tongue as Bangla? Gujarati Muslims use and list Gujarati as their mother tongue.

Yes, majority of practising Muslims in India as well as in the rest of the world read/ understand Arabic or at least try to. That can be called the language of the Muslims as the Holy Book was revealed in it.

Hindavi, Dehalvi, Gujri ,Dakhini, Rekhta were the names given to the language which evolved from Hindustani to today’s Hindi and Urdu.

The first writer to popularise Hindavi, which he referred to as Dehalvi, was the prolific and wondrous Amir Khusrau.

Sunil Sharma, the author of “Amir Khusraw: the poet of Sultan and Sufis” credits Khusrau as being the father of Hindi and Urdu.

Khusrau baazi prem ki main khelun pi ke sang,
Jeet gayi to piya moray, haari, pi kay sang.

(Khusrau, I play the game of love with my beloved,
If I win, the beloved is mine, if I lose, my Beloved I am yours.)

The word Urdu is derived from the same Turkish word ‘ordu’ (army) that has given English the word, ‘horde’. In fact according to S.R. Farooqui the term Urdu was used during Akbar’s time to denote ‘royal city’. When Shah Jahan built a new walled city in Delhi in 1639, known as Shahjahanabad, a market close to the royal fort (the Red Fort) was called Urdu Bazar (“Army/camp Market.”)Emperor Shah Alam II with his love for Hindi, gave it a position in his court with the nomenclature, “Zabaan e Urdu e mualla.’ (The language of the exalted city.)

Meer Taqi Meer( 1722-1810) used the words Rekhta and Hindi for the spoken language.

Rekhta ke tum hi ustaad nahiN ho “GHalib”
Kahte hai Nagle zamane meN koi Meer bhi thA

[rekhta = Urdu]

(You are not the only expert of Rekhta,Ghalib
Have heard tell that ere was a Meer too)

Mushafi farsi ko taaq pe rakh
Ab hai ashaar-e-Hindavi ka rivaaj

(Mushafi put Persian back in the closet
Custom is now to write verses in Hindi)

Showing that Hindi was exchangeable with Rekhta till the 19th century for the language. Mushafi (1750-1824) himself was the first to use the word Urdu meaning a language in his first Divan. Till then it was called hindavi and Rekhta.

The conversion of Hindavi/ Hindustani into Urdu, a language of Muslims started with Gilchrist (June 1759 – 1841) a surgeon turned Indologist who wrote and published ‘An English-Hindustani Dictionary, A Grammar of the Hindoostanee Language’ in Persian and Devnagari script.

Though the British accepted that Hindustani was spoken or at least understood all over India, they insisted on identifying it with Muslims.

According to S.R. Farooqui since the term Hindustani was ambiguous in its religious affiliation, the British insisted on Urdu, as “that didn’t have the faintest reverberations of a Hindu link.”

The earliest reference to the story of the Zaban e Urdu, Hindi being generated by Muslim invaders was in a book for teaching Hindustani (that is Urdu) to British bureaucrats, and was written and printed in Fort William College under the aegis of Gilchrist, by Mir Amman Dihalvi called Baagh o Bahar.

Mir Amman’s book had many loopholes and he also forgot to mention that the language he called Zaban e Urdu was in a sense the language of the city and referred to as Hindvi / Hindi, as it was called at that time. Soon the popularity of his text book ensured the perpetuation of the myth of Urdu as a language of Muslim invaders.

It took a long time to harden the khariboli into separate Hindi/ Urdu traditions and there is evidence that the Hindu populace for whom” a new linguistic tradition was being created in the 19th century, resisted the idea.

Peter Austin in his “One thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost” writes that Urdu  and Hindi have the same roots in the emerging Indo-Aryan language varieties spoken in an area centred on Delhi and specially the variety called KhariBoli which spread throughout India under the Muslim armies of the Delhi Sultanate (13th to 15th Century).

He says that in the early 19th Century the British chose KhariBoli as their administrative language, encouraging the use of Perso-Arabic and Devnagari script in parallel. The choice of scripts and source of vocabulary gradually became a source of religious affiliations and ultimately resulted in two standard languages, Urdu and Hindi.

The advent of the printing press meant that religious literature was translated for the common man. This deepened the growing schism amongst religions which was being fanned by the British and led to Sanskrtisation and Persianisation of Hindustani into a formal Urdu written in Persian script using Persian origin words and Hindi written in Devnagari with more words of Sanskrit origin.

The British rulers created texts and published discourses for Indians in the now rapidly getting standardised Hindi or Urdu by using Devanagari or Perso-Arabic script and distributing accordingly.

In the early days translations of The Quran and religious texts were commissioned and printed in Persian and Devanagari script. Later Urdu was the preferred medium for Islamic texts and treatises, further strengthening the belief of it being a language of Muslims. Though, today I have many relatives who read the Quran in Devanagari and many Gujarati friends who read it in Gujarati script.

There is a vast treasure trove of Indian literature, prose and poetry written in Urdu. Everyone in India has heard of the poetry of Ghalib, Meer, Daagh, Brij Narain Chakbast, Krishna Bihari Noor, Josh Malihabadi, Jigar Moradabadi, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni to present day Javed Akhtar and Gulzar to name just a few.

In prose we have Munshi Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishan Chander, Qurratulain Hyder,Ismat Chughtai. Munshi Premchand’s  first novella, Asrar e Ma’abid was first published in Awaz-e-Khalq, an Urdu Weekly, after which he became associated with an Urdu magazine Zamana, writing columns on national and international events. He wrote under the pseudonym Nawab Rai in Urdu script, afterwards transcribing them (or hiring some local helper to transcribe them) into Devnagari, so that he eventually published practically everything in both scripts.

A picture of the original manuscript of Kafan

Firaq Gorakhpuri, the famous Urdu poet, had been a champion of secularism all his life and was a chief crusader against the government’s effort to brand Urdu as the language of Muslims. He was also instrumental in the allocation of funds for the promotion of the language.

In 2010 Gujarat High Court observed there was nothing on record to suggest that any provision has been made or order issued declaring Hindi as a national language of the country.

Today Urdu is languishing because somewhere along the line it was adopted by Muslim parents’ and the common perception is that it had apparently converted to Islam too! Nowadays it’s just a malnourished, homeless orphan.

(Urdu is the 6th most spoken language in the country but of all the original Schedule 8 Languages, Sindhi and Urdu are the only languages, which are ‘homeless’ as they are not the principal language of any state. (Census 2001))

The percentage of people listing Urdu as their mother tongue is also declining. In many instances Muslims themselves are listed with their mother tongue as Hindi by census officers because they don’t know how to read and write Urdu.

Today Urdu is no longer linked to jobs and no language can progress or grow unless it can lead to economic rewards. Urdu newspapers are on the decline because of lack of advertising revenue. Schools/ colleges have stopped using it as medium of instruction because of dearth of Urdu text books for science and technology. Urdu medium schools lack qualified teachers.

Associated as it is in people’s eyes with Muslims, it has become nothing but a trap for vote bank politics, unkept promises and empty dreams. The only silver lining is that it still lives in the hearts of many across religious lines, in our Hindi films and TV serials, the crowds flocking to mushairas and the number of sites which provide sms lines on the internet.

After all everyone needs words to express love!

baad-e-nafrat phir mohabbat ko zabaan darkaar hai
phir aziiz-e-jaan vahii urdu zabaan hone lagii

(After hatred, once again love needs a language for expression,
Once again Urdu becomes beloved of all)

– Dr Mohammad Yaqub ‘Aamir’


‘My arrest was psychological warfare’- Urdu Journalist

On 6 March last year, the Urdu journalist Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi was arrested for his alleged role in the car bomb attack in New Delhi that injured the wife and driver of an Israeli diplomat on 13 February 2012. Out on bail after international outrage and seven months in custody, he is now set to launch his Urdu daily Qaumi Salamati (National Security). He tells Aradhna Wal what it feels like to be persecuted
Aradhna Wal

Aradhna Wal

2013-04-20 , , Issue 16 Volume 10

Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi | 51 | Journalist
Photo: Dijeshwar Singh


What led you to start Qaumi Salamati in Urdu?
Considering my experience with the judicial process, the police mentality, people I’ve met in and out of custody, I’ve realised there is very little awareness among speakers of Urdu and other languages. What we see is not the reality. The real issues are never discussed because people in the corridors of power, in India and elsewhere, don’t want the public to talk about those issues. Terrorism has become an industry for certain countries, and certain people. From what I know, most incidents are staged. Can you conceive of a series of bomb blasts [in Pune] that kill no one? After that, many people are arrested. Do you think the blasts were real? This is a flourishing industry. You set off a firecracker in a marketplace and sell thousands of CCTV cameras, security gadgets and equipment.

Do you think the government will keep a close eye on the content of your paper, considering your pending case?
Let them. The government and the citizens are bound by the law and the Constitution. Let the law take its course.

Will you use your newspaper to fight the politics of counter terrorism?
Through Qaumi Salamati, we will try to set things right. I see my arrest as psychological warfare. You catch one person and create a sense of insecurity among thousands. But many people came out on the streets to support a so called terrorist. Not just in India, but internationally too. Around 5,000 people turned out in London, demonstrating in front of the Indian Embassy. This is the beginning of the reversal of manufactured terrorism. I met people in jail who have been facing illegal detention for months, years. They’ve been praying for a chance to be produced in court, but there are more chances of an encounter happening before that. I was told that before 15 August, 26 January, Holi or Diwali, the police produce these people before TV cameras saying they’ve caught terrorists and foiled their plot.

Why do you think they came after you?
I have almost 30 years of experience writing for different media houses in Iran. I have friends working in Tehran. If someone approaches them for a contact in Delhi, they can give my number. If that person calls me, that can be used as evidence against me. The day of the blast, I was part of a protest in the Congress office. My close relations with Iranian media were used to justify Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement, which he made within hours, calling it an Iranian attack.

How do law and policy need to change to ensure that ‘sedition’ and ‘terrorism’ are not misused to target a particular community?
My lawyer Mahmood Pracha has shown that the police have been misinterpreting the law and implementing it wrongly for years. When I was taken to the Tis Hazari court on the first day, the sub-inspector gave me a folded document to sign. I could only read the last line, which said that I was part of a conspiracy. If they had a case against me, why did they want my signature at that point? The sub-inspector later asked me to sign another copy. This time I read the whole document, which turned out to be a confession. He said in police custody they always asked people to sign like this.

What is your view of the current state of journalism in India?
The media, both in India and other countries, is full of non issues to keep people from thinking. In India, we sit in front of TV new channels for hours without having heard any news. At least a Doordarshan or an AIR bulletin gives out information. There is a set of journalists I call ‘poultry eggs’. They do stories the way editors tell them to. Reading newspapers in custody, though, I still have hope for the print media. It is more responsible.


‘I was discriminated against because I am Muslim’ #humanrights



Express news service 

In 2008, a youth was arrested from my neighbourhood in Hubli for alleged links with the Student Islamic Movement of India. He was studying to be a doctor and had no history of indiscipline or run-ins with the law. His family was traumatised, and still is, for he continues to languish in jail. If that could happen to a young, educated Muslim like him, it could happen to me, too, I thought then. Five years later, that passing thought became an ugly reality.

On August 29, 2012, a posse of armed policemen barged into the one-bedroom flat I shared with four other boys in Bangalore. They pretended to be looking for my roommate Shoaib Ahmed Mirza, whom they accused of plotting to assassinate some right-wing Kannada columnists. Ironically, they had picked him up from the locality just a while earlier. In our flat, they slapped his brother, Aijaz Ahmed, abused the other three and suddenly handcuffed me too. I pleaded with them to tell me why they were taking me away. I asked one of the policemen, whom I had spoken to earlier when I was a crime reporter with Deccan Herald, what was going on. All I got was a sarcastic look. The brazen manner in which we were picked up was more like a kidnapping than an arrest. With my pleas unanswered, my mind slid into numbness. I went blank. I could not think. The story of that youth kept replaying in my head.

My first night in the cell was the longest night of my life. We kept pleading with the cops, including the junior-most constables, to not destroy our lives. During our 30 days in police custody, the cops abused us in every way they could. One policeman asked me, “So, you work for a Pakistani newspaper?” I don’t even want to get into the nasty things they said about my faith. I was surprised that unlike the others, I was not physically abused. Outside the prison, though, I was planted as the “mastermind”.

When we — the 15 of us arrested in the so-called assassination plot — were shifted to Bangalore Central Jail, for the first two months we were locked inside a separate barrack, which meant we were denied access to facilities available to other inmates, such as outstation phone calls, the gym and the library. Later, when we were shifted out from there, we could avail these amenities, but it exposed us to taunts from others. The prison authorities used to refer to us as the “bomb case people”, and other inmates seemed to believe them. They’d say in Kannada, “Enu ide iwaradu.” (They must have done something wrong.)

I did not mingle much with others. I spent time reading the Quran, that my sister and brother got for me during one of their visits, and taught English and Urdu to two of my co-accused. There were times when I ran out of hope, fearing that I may languish here forever. But then, my innocence reclaimed that hope, and I would feel confident that I would be out soon.

Six months later, on February 25, 2013, I was released. But even before I could get over the police hostilities I had endured, I was told about the the media onslaught during my time in jail. I had been dubbed the “mastermind” of the plot. Some of my former colleagues told me that a senior police officer, who was not even investigating the case, misled journalists that I had joined Deccan Herald with the sole purpose of blowing up the Metro station opposite my office. The media blindly, mindlessly, reproduced his words. Similarly, going by the police’s words, the media said “radical literature” was seized from my office computer. That computer had an Urdu poem about Republic Day, written by Sahir Ludhianvi, a Leftist ideologue, who was part of the Progressive Writer’s Association.

Honestly, after our arrest, I was prepared for such reportage. That I was called a “mastermind”, for example, did not surprise me. But some stories were painfully insensitive. A news channel “broke” the story about my father in Pakistan who “guided” me from there. My father died of a heart attack in 2006. I even have his death certificate. Can you imagine how it feels to deal with such bulls**t? Another news channel said I had Rs 50 crore in my bank. If I had so much money, I would certainly have owned a newspaper.

The way the police and the media reacted to my alleged involvement in the so-called plot has convinced me that there is an institutional bias against Muslims. When you put all the facts together — that I was picked up for simply sharing a room with a suspect, that an Urdu poem on my terminal was interpreted as a fanatical text, that so many other Muslim youths have languished in jails for terror-related cases only to be let off for want of evidence — how can you expect me to feel otherwise?

This is not a new feeling. When I was studying journalism in 2009, I had suggested “media coverage of terror suspects” as the subject of my thesis, which my teacher rejected. At that time, Muhammad Hanif, a doctor from Bangalore, was arrested in Australia on terror charges, which were later proved to be false. There were similar arrests for the Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts. The media reports sensationalised such arrests, and engaged in character assassination. It was as if they had taken it upon themselves to prove that the accused were guilty. When Hanif was exonerated, the Australian government issued a public apology to him — something the Indian government has not done for so many similar, wrongful arrests.

The media has reacted in the extreme to me — extremely cruel when I was arrested, and now, extraordinarily supportive after my release. I am inundated with phone calls from journalists, asking for my side of the story. Even though I am disillusioned by the media, I have not lost faith in it. That faith comes from some truly fair reporting, specially in the print media. I want to return to work as a journalist. My father, who used to run an Unani medical store, wanted me to become an Unani doctor, but I was good at languages and social science, and began working as a journalist in the Urdu newspaper Rashtriya Sahara in Dharwad in 2007, while doing a PG diploma in journalism. In 2009, I joined Deccan Herald, where I first covered crime, and then education. Journalism has always been close to my heart. But, I have become sceptical of reportage. I will always think twice before trusting a news story. I want to work on the desk and ensure the accuracy of a story.

I do hope to live a normal life. I am overwhelmed with visitors who have been pouring into my home, welcoming me back, and putting an end to my fear of being stigmatised for life. My ex-colleagues are also in touch with me. Throughout my life, I have never been discriminated as a Muslim. I have always believed that Muslims must stop feeling as if they are victims of the system, and must strive towards educating and empowering themselves. But my six months in jail as an educated, empowered Muslim, paints a contrasting picture — that I was discriminated against because I was Muslim. These are two extremities. And though one positive extreme gives me hope, as does my faith in the judiciary and democracy, the other extreme puts me in despair. I am trying to find a middle ground to this dilemma. I have truly experienced the uncertainty of life. I have reflected a lot on my own life, and if something good has come out of this ordeal, it is that I have emerged a better person. Now, I look at the larger picture of life, and can empathise with others’ sufferings.

As told to Irena Akbar


Delhi Govt Insults Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan by Naming Fish Market After Him #WTFnews

It is a matter of national shame that the insensitive authorities of
the Delhi Government have so recklessly renamed the fish market at
Ghazipur as Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan Fish Market supposedly to honour
the memory of this great son of India and famed Urdu poet.

To set this right, we have created petition to the Chief Minister of Delhi and
requested her to rectify this horrendous faux pas ASAP.

This matter not only relates to the Urdu-speaking populace, freedom fighters
and concerned citizens, it is a  transgression on the sanctity of the
Indian nation which was formed from the blood and toil of such freedom
fighters and martyrs as Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan.

The petition states that if  Delhi Government has run out  of
ideas to constructively and judiciously commemorate our martyrs,  poets
and intellectuals, it should at least refrain from making a  mockery of
their sacrifices and dedication to the cause of the nation.

Below is text of petition and do sign at

Ms Sheila Dikshit
Chief Minister of Delhi
New Secretariat
IP Estate
New Delhi-110002

Dear Chief Minister,

On the behest of Anjuman  Taraqqi Urdu ( Hind)   I would like to bring to your notice an intriguing issue thatcan only be considered a matter of national shame as it not only shows an Urdu poet, and by corollary the entire Urdu community, in poor light but also runs the risk of provoking the ire of freedom fighters.

I am sure many concerned citizens like me would not like that the erstwhile
Murga Machli Market of the the Jama Masjid area (shifted to Ghazipur
area) should be named Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan Fish Market. The fact
that it is located right in front of the Murga market is double jeopardy
which even a student of class V will testify. This supposedly to honour
the memory of a great son of India and an eminent poet of Urdu, the
national language! There cannot be a more apt example of myopic policies
and bad taste. It is even more surprising as this atrocity has been
committed under the auspices of an urbanized chief minister such as you
who claims to be a Dilliwali! To drive home my point let me quote a few
lines on the sights and sounds of Delhi, with reference to this market,
described in one of Delhi’s premier magazines Time Out:

‘If you are up for a more pungent olfactory sensation, dive into
Shaheed Ashfaqulla Khan Fish Market, created in 1999 in the sahdow (sic)
of a landfill as a replacement for the famously filthy Jama Masjid fish
bazaar. Around 4am daily, the trucks roll in with catfish and crabs in
water tanks, lobsters, tuna, mackerel, kingfish, prawns and hilsa on
ice.(Time Out on August 31 2012 9.51am, Time Out website, emphasis

Do we want to pay homage to our national heroes with glowing
commemorations or shower them in a deluge of crabs, lobsters, tuna and
prawns? Is this the legacy we want to bequeath to our young generation?
This is surely nothing but a disservice to the memory of this brave
freedom fighter and martyr for the cause of the nation and also to Urdu
which has been a victim of linguistic genocide by the State in free

Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan should only be remembered as an Indian who was
an Urdu shayar par excellence, a brave freedom fighter and a martyr who
gave up his life for his country at the young age of 27. Therefore, it
will be a great service to his memory, if you rectified this grave faux
pas and reconsidered honouring his martyrdom in a more appropriate
manner befitting his stature.

I will be grateful if you could put right this bungle as soon as
possible and an acknowledgement of this note will be greatly



Afzal Guru’s last letter to wife yet to reach her in Kashmir #humanrights

IANS | Feb 11, 2013, 08.07 PM IST

Afzal Guru's last letter to wife yet to reach her in Kashmir
Afzal Guru was hanged for his role on 2001 Parliament attack on February 9 at 8am in the Tihar Jail complex where he had lived in a solitary cell for many years.
NEW DELHI: Hours before he was to be executed, Afzal Guru penned his last letter to his wife, Tihar Jail officials said on Monday. The letter, written in Urdu, was posted on Saturday but is yet to reach his wife in Kashmir.

Speaking to IANS, officials at Tihar jail said that Afzal Guru, convicted for his role in the 2001 Parliament attack, was told on February 8 evening that he would be hanged the next morning.

“When he was told about his execution, he was cool and calm. He just expressed his wish that he wants to write a letter to his wife. The jail superintendent gave him a pen and paper,” an official told IANS under condition of anonymity.

“He wrote the letter in Urdu, which was posted to his family in Kashmir on the same day,” the official said. However, when IANS contacted the family, who live in Sopore, they said they are yet to receive it.

“We haven’t received this letter. Maybe like the letter that we got today about his hanging, we will get it later,” Yaseen Guru, Afzal’s cousin, told IANS on phone.

Afzal Guru was hanged on February 9 at 8am in the Tihar Jail complex where he had lived in a solitary cell for many years.

His family has demanded that they be allowed to conduct his last rites.

“The government will take a decision in this regard,” another official told IANS.

Afzal Guru, who used to spend his time in the jail by reading and writing, has left behind many books and hand-written articles.

The family has asked the jail authorities that all his belongings should be returned to them.

“The government will have to take a decision on this issue,” the official added.


PRESS STATEMENT- Justice Markandey Katju on #Faizabad



Oct 30, 20012 – Press – Realease


I have received a letter from Ms. Teesta Setalvad, Co-editor of Communalism Combat mentioning in detail a serious communal accident which occurred on the evening of October 24, 2012. According to this letter, a huge group of people attacked the Nawab Hasan Raja Masjid in the chowk area of Faizabad for four to five hours committing arson and looting including looting of a large number of shops. The aforesaid Masjid was totally gutted and destroyed by the vandals as also the office of the bilingual Hindi-Urdu publication ‘Aap ki Taaqat’ that stands for communal amity and promotes the Ganga-Jumna Tehzeeb, and the concept ‘Hindi Urdu do Behen’. The office of the aforesaid newspaper is in the first floor of the aforesaid Masjid.  The editor of the publication, Manzar Mehdi, is President of the Urdu Press Association and the publication attracts 80 per cent advertisement support from the Hindu community. The Masjid every year welcomes the Durga goddess processionists and other processions with floral tributes. The mosque that dates back to 1790 A.D. has always practised and preached communal harmony.


What has hurt Mr. Mehdi most is the ambivalence of the national media (except the Hindustan daily which published the true facts) and he has alleged that the media has not seen it as an attack on the freedom of the press. “Why is the media deserting its own, especially a small publication that has become a symbol of intercommunity harmony?” asked Mr. Mehdi.


It is alleged in the letter that the lock of the Masjid was broken, and the Masjid looted and gutted down. The newspaper Aap Ki Taaqat’s office located on the top floor of the Masjid was also not spared, and it has been vandalized. Books were trampled upon and torn, the computer was destroyed.


On receipt of the aforesaid letter from Ms. Teesta Setalvad, I have today appointed a one man committee of Mr. Sheetla Singh, Member of the Press Council of India and a very senior journalist who is also editor of Jan Morcha of Faizabad to enquire into this complaint and submit his report at the earliest. I have spoken to Mr. Sheetla Singh and Ms. Teesta Setalvad on telephone.


If the allegations in the letter of Ms. Setalvad are correct it is a serious criminal offence which tends to disrupt the secular framework of our Constitution and society, and deserves condemnation and harsh punishment.


A children’s magazine, newspaper, Urdu poetry – anything can land you in jail in India #draconianlaws

Muzamil Jaleel : New Delhi, Tue Sep 25 2012,  Indian Express


In the story of men getting branded “SIMI activists” and charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), innocuous objects take the form of “incriminating material”. The list of such “material”, in which anything written in Urdu or Arabic comes right at the top, is by now predictable — and includes Urdu poetry, pamphlets issued by Hindu groups, newspaper articles about the Sangh Parivar, pictures and videos of the Gujarat riots, books on Islam, complaints against discrimination, as well as verses of the Quran.

* Shabir Ahmad Masiullah, Malegaon, & Nafis Ahmad Jameer Ahmad Ansari, Mumbai

In his statement that was treated as FIR (No. 1106/06, dated August 11, 2006), Assistant Police Inspector Shripad Balkrishna Kale of the Greater Mumbai Police, currently DCB Unit 7, Ghatkopar, Mumbai, claimed that on August 1, 2006, he got information that Shabir Masiullah of Malegaon and Nafis Ahmad of Shivaji Nagar, Mumbai, were “preparing to commit some sabotage acts in the coming Ganesh festival”. Though Shabir and Nafis were picked up immediately, police records show the date of their arrest as August 11, 2006. Kale claims that Shabir, who made and sold batteries and inverters in Malegaon, and Nafis, who worked as a DTP operator in Shivaji Nagar, were both “workers” of SIMI and had received arms training in Pakistan.

Shabir’s case takes a twist. While he was in police custody for his alleged plan to bomb the Ganesh festival from August 1, 2006, five weeks later, the ATS accused him of masterminding the Malegaon blasts of September 8, 2006. In January 2011, Malegaon blast accused Aseemanand confessed that a Hindu group was involved in the 2006 attack. On November 16 last year, Shabir was among the seven who were granted bail and walked free.

A day after Shabir and Nafis were arrested, DCB, CID Unit 7, Ghatkopar, had invited Pradip Pandurang Shirodhkar and Sunny Jogmohansingh Sidana as witnesses. According to the panchnama, Nafis was taken to his home where he “voluntarily’’ took out a “black rexine bag’’ and handed over “incriminating material”. Here is what the police claim to have found: an Urdu-language children’s monthly journal Umang published by Urdu Academy, Delhi. The police also claimed to have recovered a SIMI pamphlet, SIMI Rudad—1998-2000 (The story of SIMI from 1998 to 2000).

These pamphlets had been printed before the ban on SIMI in September 2001 and were seized in bulk from various SIMI offices across the country.

* Younis Khan, Juna Risala, Indore

FIR 135/08, dated April 10, 2008, filed at the Sadar Bazar police station in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, says Mohammad Younis was arrested from Smrati Talkies for “propagating” SIMI and “inciting” the Muslim community against the arrests of SIMI members. In his affidavit before the UAPA tribunal in 2010, J D Bhonsle, Town Inspector, Depalpur Police Station, said that on April 10, 2008, “the accused was arrested and pamphlet seized from him in which there was statement about the status of Islam and Muslims in India and reference to the Pakistani organisation ISI, where it is insinuated that all Muslims are being equated with ISI. In this way, the disaffection of SIMI towards India and the sympathy with Pakistani organisation ISI is clearly evident’’. The inspector doesn’t explain how a complaint that Indian Muslims are being wrongly suspected to be ISI agents can be interpreted as sympathy towards a Pakistani organisation.

Inspector Bhonsle also reveals that the police seized the previous day’s newspaper, the Indore edition of Dainik Jagran, dated April 9, 2008, from the accused. According to Bhonsle, it was “incriminating” material because it had “news of the 13-hour-long narco test of SIMI activists Safdar Nagori, Kamruddin Nagori and Amil Parvez”.

Bhonsle also says the accused “admitted” that he had joined Dars-e-Quran (learning of Quran) classes at Chhoti Gawl Toli mosque from 1999 to 2000. Dars-e-Quran is basic Quranic education and is not illegal.

* Faisal of Holikhut; Irfan and Shakir, Narsinghgarh, Madhya Pradesh

In his affidavit before the UAPA tribunal in 2010, Inspector Vikram Singh Bhadoria (who was Station House Officer, Narsinghgarh, when the case was filed) alleges that Faisal, Irfan and Shakir had met SIMI leader Safdar Nagori during his visit to Narsinghgarh. Though the police claim that the three came to the police station after they were summoned, they were arrested and a case was lodged against them (FIR No. 142/08, date April 5, 2008).

During investigation, Inspector Bhadoria claimed, SIMI pamphlets with an aim to “propagate enmity between religions’’ were recovered from the accused. According to the final report, the police seized two papers from Faisal which had “bhadkane wali aayaten (provocative verses)” from the Quran against other religions.

The story of this document is interesting. The document, “Quran ki kuch aayten jo Iman walon (Musalmanon) ko anya dharamvalambiyon se jhagda karne ka aadesh deti hain (A few of the verses from the Quran that order the Muslims to fight those belonging to other religions)”, had been printed by the Hindu Writers’ Forum, New Delhi, in which they had made derogatory remarks about the Quran. Another “incriminating” document is a one-page document in Urdu that talks about the basic tenets of Islam—namaz (prayers), fasting, zakat (charity), and Hajj.

 * Abdul Razzak, Nayapura, Indore

In his FIR (159/08), M G Road Station House Officer Inspector Kailash Chandra Malviya says that the police arrested Abdul Razzak on March 30, 2008, for “doing propaganda against the government”. Malviya says Razzak was standing on the street near Ghadi Wali Masjid in Nayapura, Indore, and the police team heard him say: ‘What will happen if the government has banned SIMI? I am a member of SIMI and will remain a member of SIMI.’

Inspector Malviya says they arrested him and “found two books of Urdu language in the pocket of his kurta”. One of them was on the essence of employment while the other was about Hindu religion and the concept of a single god. Malviya says that one of the books had “SIMI written on it by pen” while the other had a SIMI seal. The police also claim to have recovered 36 other “incriminating” books from him that include ‘Life of Mohammad’ published in New Delhi, Darse Quran (Teachings of Quran) and a self-help book, Herbert Fensterheim’s ‘Don’t Say Yes When You Want To Say No’. All “incriminating evidence”.


* Jamir Ahmad and Abdul Rehman @ Papa Bhai

Jamir Ahmad and Abdul Rehman had two FIRs filed against them — one on May 28, 2001, four months before the ban on SIMI, and then on September 28, 2001, a day after the ban. The FIR in the first case (FIR 250/2001), filed at the Seoni police station in MP, says that Jamir and Papa Bhai were arrested after Raja Bhagel of Ganj, Seoni, complained that the duo had sold him a book that “contained material which was against the feelings of other communities and was a SIMI book.” The police say that the two were arrested and were later bailed out.

On September 28, 2001, Seoni police station acted again and arrested Jamir and Papa Bhai “while they were standing near Choti masjid’’. The police registered an FIR (423/01) and charged them under the UAPA. The FIR claims that “they were discussing matters related to SIMI and proclaiming that if America or any other country attacked Taliban, then all Muslims and followers of Islam must be ready for jihad’’.

In the challan filed by the police on May 31, 2003, the police accused him of participating in “Seerat Pak Jalsa” on June 10, 2001, which the police claimed to be unlawful. ‘Pak’ means pure and is generally used in reverence while referring to the Quran or the Prophet’s life and ‘Seerat Pak Jalsa’ was a gathering on the life of the Prophet. But the police challan translates ‘Seerat Pak’ as “goodness of Pakistan”. Also part of the “evidence” was a letter that the police claimed had been written by Jamir to the Prime Minister seeking action against the VHP.


* Khalid Mucchale

In the case against alleged SIMI activist Khalid Mucchale at Vijaypur Naka police station, Solapur (FIR 3036/2008, dated April 1, 2008), a couplet of Mirza Ghalib, which was part of a one-page complaint against harassment of Muslims, was declared “incriminating”. The police also claimed to have seized a document published by the Rashtriya Vichar Manch from the accused. This document talks about alleged “growth of Muslims and Christian population and its devastating effects” and seeks “effective anti-conversion laws”.


The Nai Duniya: Then and now, now and then #Narendramodi #mustread



By Mohammad Sajjad,


As a school student in the 1980s in rural north Bihar, I have grown up reading few news periodicals, some of these occasionally, others almost regularly; these include, the English weekly Sunday, Urdu weekly Nai Duniya, Urdu daily Akhbar-e-Mashriq, Calcutta, which reached my remote village by post almost after a week, English daily the Searchlight, Patna (closed down in 1986), and a Hindi periodical from Allahabad, Maya (now dead), besides sparingly purchased issues of the Blitz (Urdu), Bombay.

Even though too early for me to comprehend many things in the early 1980s, yet, I could somehow make out, vaguely, that the overall tilt of the Nai Duniya, as compared to all other news periodicals studied by me, was something I was not much comfortable with; it had communal overtones, pushing the community in retrogressive direction. The Nai Duniya used to carry the cover stories in red coloured and big-sized fonts in a rather specifically provocative manner. One such story I can still recall was, “…aur puri duniya pe Islami hukumat qaayem ho jaayegi”. (It was on Nostradamus’ predictions). It will carry its sports column on cricket implicitly injecting pro-Pakistan sentiments; will publish coloured photographs of Pakistani cricket icons. Its sale will get boosted once a communal riot broke out, and the decade of the 1980s had horribly more of it.



The Matiya Burj (Calcutta) riots, which had killed the Dy. Comsr. Of Police, Mehta, and his bodyguard, Mukhtar, had made the news even more sensitive. The coverage of such riots in the Akhbar-e-Mashriq
and in the Nai Duniya will be done with different approaches; the later will be more sensational. My father will enquire it from his IPS friends like Mr. Taiyab Khan, and Mr. Mohd. Nizam about such issues and share with us, only to help us understand the ‘mischievous’ ways of the Nai Duniya, with greater clarity.

After the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, what one could unmistakably feel that the Nai Duniya no longer remained as much popular among the Muslims of Bihar and U.P. (After coming to Aligarh I came to feel that compared to Bihar Muslims, greater proportion of the UP Muslims were less familiar with Urdu script; they wrote letters to their parents in Nagri). In the early months of 1993 there were ‘Muslim Intelligentsia Meets’, and views started coming out from within the community; they were critical of their pre-existing leadership pursuing politics more around the emotive issues of identity. Much before the demolition, the Frontline, in 1991, would publish about violent preparations of the Hindutva brigade, “Polishing the Claws”, etc. The more radical CPI-ML, and its student wing, AISA, besides bringing the data of poverty, backwardness, and underrepresentation of Muslims in the structures and processes of power, will publish pamphlets persuading “confrontationist secularism”, whereby the violent Hindutva brigade had to be taken on physically, and that the law enforcers were mostly on the side of them; their words proved prophetic on 6 December 1992. Whereas, other progressive sections of the mainstream English language print-media were engaged in combating the Hindutva canards about appeasement of Muslims by the ruling Congress. These sections of the print-media will reproduce statistics showing acute poverty among the Muslims and their painful underrepresentation in education and employment. The Communist Parties will bring out booklets like, “Hindu Communalism X-rayed”, “The Myth of Muslim Appeasement Exposed”, much before the demolition, the Frontline, in 1991, will publish, violent preparations of the Hindutva brigade, “Polishing the Claws”, etc.

No such statistics/report was to be found in the Nai Duniya’s editions of the 1980s. Not even translations of such contents published in these pamphlets/booklets. Understandably, the beleaguered Muslim community of Post-demolition India had come of age, and had grown up enough to see through the game-plans of the newspapers like the Nai Duniya. Ever since then I did not hear much of the Nai Duniya, except the fact that its editor, Shahid Siddiqi was doing deft political foot-working and had succeeded in carving an image of crassest opportunist, every now and then shifting his political affiliations. I could recall what a rustic, illiterate, landless labourer of my village had angrily told his own representative (in the Lok Sabha) during an election campaign, “The whores might take longer to change their clothes than you politicians take to change your party affiliations”.

The 30 July 2012 edition of the Nai Duniya, and what I am reading about it in the Tehelka 11 August 2012, has made it clear to me that what I felt about the Nai Duniya during my childhood, stands vindicated and endorsed today. Moreover given the fact that Zafar Sareshwala, an Ahmedabad-based businessman close to Narendra Modi, has been an interlocutor in arranging the five page interview of Modi in the Nai Duniya, makes it pretty clear that the editor Shahid Siddiqui has really discovered a “Nai Duniya” (i.e., new world) for his own future prospects. Is it another version of the Vajpayee Himayat Committee of 2004? Only Shahid Siddiqui can tell us!

Mohammad Sajjad is Asstt. Prof. at Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University.

Related articles

Sunday Reading–Who’s afraid of Saadat Hasan Manto?

The Union of India is eager to embrace the great writer, whose 100th birthday falls on this week, as one of its own. But how would Manto have looked at India had he stayed on? By Garga Chatterjee

15 224 

The left-wing student organization I belonged to in my college days in Kolkata used to have a poster exhibition every year. This exhibition has begun to take place every year after the 1992 demolition of the Babri structure. One of them had those memorable words calligraphied red-black in a typical Bengali left-wing style – “The child noticed the coagulated blood on the road, pulled at his mother’s sleeve and said, ‘Look, ma, jelly’.” That, I discovered, was a fragment of a very short ‘story’; and to read the rest, I had to go to Manto.

Why did he leave Bombay? India would have been so much of a ‘natural’ home for him, they say

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There is a lot of hushed and not-so-hushed lamentation in this year of Saadat Hasan Manto‘s birth centenary. Why did he leave Bombay? India would have been so much of a ‘natural’ home for him, they say. Somewhere between pronunciations such as these, so characteristic of the self-congratulatory strain of elite public-secularism and a second-hand appreciation of Manto’s raw exposition of the chasm between our private and public lives, somewhere between those things lies the attitude with which we in India look at Manto. The Anglicized literati and their patron, the Indian Union, wants to own Saadat Hasan Manto. They are masters at making cages for living writers – some gilded, others iron-made. Some cages become sarkari mausoleums after the writer’s death. Zoo tigers do not bite, generally. Clearly, the enthusiasm of some folks on this side of owning Manto comes from a hope that sooner or later, a suitably golden cage could be made for him in the Union of India, for us to cheer and clap at. But I am not so sure.

The Anglicized literati of India want to own Saadat Hasan Manto. They are masters at making cages for living writers

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Today, in Delhi and other places, Manto is dramatized, commemorated, written and read, largely in English. Urdu’s currency as one of the pervasive languages of the common public sphere (and not ‘qaumi’ affairs) of the Upper Gangetic plain has seen progressive ruin. Read primarily in English, would Manto resign himself to having a smaller following than, say, Chetan Bhagat? Would Manto have loved this loss of readership, would he have wanted to be primarily remembered for getting a Filmfare award for “lifetime achievement” in writing stories for Hindi movies? I am not so sure. He might have written about the gosht the Union would serve up, not only mazhabi gosht, but gosht from a thousand faultlines. He might have written about the garam gosht cooked up in Delhi in 1984, when Sikhs were massacred on that city’s streets, or about the gosht of Muslims burned and killed in Ahmedabad in 2002, if he lived to be 90 years old. Would he, a “Muslim” writer in our times, not be accused of writing only against “Hindu” violence? I am not so sure. He certainly would have written about a lot of gosht served up in East Pakistan in 1971. He certainly wouldn’t have had a postage stamp of the kind issued in 2005 with his image on it. Dying young has its benefits.

Read primarily in English, would Manto resign himself to having a smaller following than, say, Chetan Bhagat?

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He might have looked at the Saltoro range and the slow-killing heights of Siachen. He might have peered into that deathly whiteness, peered deep into it and among the frostbitten parts of the limbs would have located the new coordinates of Toba Tek Singh. Not content with “obscenity”, there might have been calls for him to be charged with sedition. That would have been true, irrespective of his leaving Bombay or not. He would have continued to write about the sensuality that permeates life in the Indian Subcontinent. Invariably, they would have intersected with more than one faith, belief and god(s), for they too pervade public life in the Union of India. Like Maqbul Fida Hussain, that sterling admirer of the goddess Durga who liberated her from the patently mid-19th century blouse-clad look, re-imagining the holy mother in her naked matriarchal glory, Manto’s run-ins with “public sensibilities” might just have been enough to eject him from Bombay. Almost surely, as it happened with MF Hussain, a robust on-the-ground counter to hate-mongerers would have been found wanting. Hardly being ‘Pak’, in the long run, perhaps he would have been easily pushed out of Pakistan also, where he “had only seen five or six times before as a British subject”.

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