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Hard times? Seeking to promote Urdu amidst 'efforts' to brand it as language of Muslims

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed* 

Those who believe that Urdu is a dying language, must come to the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), spend some time here and see that Urdu, like any other language, is on a fast track. For the connoisseurs of Urdu, it is a heaven!
In spite of the pitfalls in the way of Urdu, the language of syncretic culture, it is growing, owing to the never-say-die efforts of Prof Aquil Ahmed, its director, under whom thousands of poor Muslim boys and girls have been learning various computer courses all the year round in hundreds of areas from Kargil to Kanyakumari and Tripura to Goa while non-Muslims have been learning it with penchant.
When Ahmed took over as the Council’s director, he had a vision to upgrade Urdu culture through its literature both for children and adults. His basic aim is to take action for making available in Urdu language, the knowledge of scientific and technological development as well as knowledge of ideas evolved in the modern context. 
What’s interesting is that he has accomplished it rather than indulging in mere lip service which could be seen in the testing and trying days of Covid-19, where the council was managing exceedingly well.
As George Orwell and Prof Aquil were both born at Motihari (Bihar), they also share the literary and academic taste of course in different languages – English and Urdu. The way Orwell worked on fantasy in “1984”, Ahmad’s masterpiece is, “Urdu Fiction mein Fantasy ki Jamaliat”, also on the same topic.
When asked about his views on Urdu being branded as a language of Muslims, pat came his reply: Urdu was very much India's lingua franca, a language of our amalgamated cultural heritage belonging to all Indians, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. Umpteen Urdu publishing houses were manned by non-Muslims. Urdu was nurtured equally by litterateurs like Prem Chand, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Pundit Anand Mohan Zutshi, Krishna Chander, Gopi Chand Ram Lal and others.
A yeomen’s job that Aquil has accomplished in his tenure is the publication of the Urdu literature for children including a large number of storybooks with coloured pictures. Many of them have been translated from the National Book Trust children’s books in various languages including the works of Shankar, M Chalapathi, Manorama Jafa, Mitra Phukan etc. Eminent Urdu writers include Saliha Abid Hussain, Alqama Shibli, Ghulm Haider, Ather Parvez, Prem Pal Ashk, Meem Nadeem. MM Rajinder etc.
Besides being a dynamic, enlightened and go-getter academician, Prof Aquil also occupies a higher pedestal among the authors, writers and orators on the global fabric of Urdu world. Owing to his multifarious expertise at the language, which has enabled Prof Aquil Ahmad to enact a variety of roles in electronic media including a tele-film “Shanti Doot”, directed by Prakash Jha and the Door Darshan serial, “Gulistan Bostan”, the Urdu world visualizes him as a celebrity already.
Prof Aquil Ahmad
Though a professor of Urdu, he has marvelled his writing prowess both in English as well as Hindi to the extent that as a multi-lingual writer, many journalists have written columns upon him. His writings are bedecked with literary genius and journalistic excellence and hence, are a treat to peruse through by one and all and especially the connoisseurs of his creations!
The basic job of the NCPUL is to advise the government of India on issues concerned with Urdu language and having bearing on education or undertaking any activity for promotion of Urdu. Almost every year the NCPUL organizes the Urdu Kitab Mela, an Urdu book fair where books are sold for the students and connoisseur of the language at astonishingly low prices. These exhibitions have helped Urdu lovers a lot. NCPUL’s books are best displayed at cheapest rates.
In academic circles, the books published by the NCPUL have a very high rating owing to the quality printing and paper. An excellent effort has been made to reproduce the Urdu classics of the last 300 years. The Council has printed about 1,500 books including the three internationally acclaimed journals “Urdu Duniya” (Urdu monthly), “Fikr-o-Tehqeeq” (Urdu quarterly) “Bachchon ki Duniya” and “Khwatin ki Duniya” (Urdu monthly for women).
Conscious of the fact of the outstanding contribution of Urdu Press in freedom struggle and its important role in the social stability, communal harmony and mainstreaming of the minority thought, the NCPUL has also taken initiative by financially assisting the Urdu authors and writers by considering their work as well as involving them for errands in Urdu.
Owing to his multifarious expertise at the language, which has enabled Prof Aquil Ahmad to enact a variety of roles in electronic media including a tele-film “Shanti Doot”, directed by Prakash Jha and the Door Darshan serial, “Gulistan Bostan”, the Urdu world visualizes him as a celebrity already.
Though a professor of Urdu, he has marvelled his writing prowess both in English as well as Hindi to the extent that as a multi-lingual writer, many journalists have written columns upon him. His writings are bedecked with literary genius and journalistic excellence and hence, are a treat to peruse through by one and all and especially the connoisseurs of his creations!
Owing to his participation and expertise in a plethora of varied activities in the field of administration, publication, organization, his calling a spade a spade and honesty being his watchword during the disposition of his duty in his three-year tenure, Prof Aquil has been felicitated with a two-year extension as the director, NCPUL – something that many of his predecessors haven’t achieved.
It was owing to Prof Aquil’s fondness for Urdu that he took the language to the remote areas like, Goa, Kerala, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Manipur, Assam etc., ably proving that he is worth his salt (promotion of Urdu)! Not only nationally but internationally as well, Prof Aquil Ahmad as per the motto of the NCPUL, has promoted the cause of Urdu abroad as well.
Aquil has conducted more than 300 conferences, seminars, Urdu teachers’ and journalists’ refresher courses, calligraphy workshops, book launches, madrasa modernization programs and quiz competitions to focus that Urdu is a language of composite culture and syncretic ambience.
He has conducted Urdu book fairs, Urdu, Persian and Arabic calligraphy exhibitions, “ghazal” and “mushaira” (Urdu poetry recitation and singing) evenings, storytelling sessions, Urdu drama etc. besides many other activities involving the language, nationally/ internationally.
*Grandnephew of Maulana Azad, chancellor, Maulana Azad National Urdu University



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