Urdu and its contemporary relevance in the Indian society:  A note on contributions of Jamia Millia Islamia


 It is glad to note that Jamia is going to complete 100 years in 2020.  To celebrate one hundred years of the centenary, several seminars, programs, exhibitions are going on in Jamia campus. In this respect, different centers and departments are organizing academic programmes and cultural activities which will continue till mid- 2020.

To commemorate hundred years, Department of Urdu has organized an inaugural session on 14th October 2019 in collaboration with Urdu academy, New Delhi. The Seminar will continue for three days and more than 35 research papers will be presented by the Scholars and renounced academicians.  The broad theme of the seminar is based on Jamia Millia Islimia Ki Urdu Khidmaat (the role of Jamia Millia Islamia in the promotion of Urdu).

On this occasion, Department of Urdu in collaboration with D. Zakir Husain Library (under aegis of Urdu Academy, Delhi) has also organized an exhibition (Numaish, from 14th October to 18th October, 2019) to highlight the contributions of Jamia’s founders in areas of culture, education, communal harmony, fighting against colonial rule under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and their role in the process of nation-building.  In this context, several academic contributions made by builders of Jamia, mainly in Urdu have been also displayed for the public. The writings of Tagore (in Urdu), and poetry of Ghalib, Akbar Allahabadi and Iqbal is also put on the tables for the public. Moreover, the writings of Mohammad Mujeeb on Indian Muslims, Sayed Abid Husain on national culture, Dr. Zakir Husain on the educational philosophy have also displayed for larger audiences. To note that these books are written also translated in Urdu.

In this respect, the three days Seminar is being organized by the Department of Urdu in collaboration of Urdu Academy Delhi. The several themes will be cover and presented by the experts, which includes topics like, mission, history, and vision of Jamia, and its contributions in literature, criticism and research areas. Besides, themes like contributions of Jamia in critical traditions of prose and poetry, including in the field of journalism will be also touched by the paper presenters.

Before these sessions, last evening (on14th, 2019), the inaugural session held which was presided by the Vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Prof. Najma Akhtar (It is to be noted that Prof. Najma Akhtar is the first woman vice-chancellor in the history of Jamia. Even progressive universities like JNU, Delhi University, and AMU, to take names of few have still not produced any woman vice-chancellor).

On this occasion, the former vice-chancellor of Jamia, namely Janab Najeeb Jung and Janab Sayed Shahid Mehdi both have also addressed the audiences at the Centre for Information Technology Auditorium, JMI and underlined that Jamia had in the past played a vital role in the promotion and publications along with the preservations of Urdu amidst difficult times and hence should not be easily forgotten. However, it is now challenging to continue the works at the same sprite which has been done by the Jamia’s founders (Baniyane Jamia, like Dr. Zakir Husain, Mohhamad Mujeeb, M.A. Ansari and others) and also took responsibilities to promote and inculcate this language to the future generations, added by speakers.

While delivering his keynote address, Prof. Shamim Hanfi currently Prof. Emeritus, Urdu Department, JMI has underlined that since its inception, Jamia had played a vital role in terms of producing literary works, translations, a culture of theater, and literature related to the women and children. While delivering his talk, former VC of Jamia, Janab Najeeb saheb has also noted that the foundation of Jamia is essentially based on the promotion of Urdu and without it’s the existence of Jamia as an institution is unthinkable.

While recalling the first encounter to the Jamia’s Maktaba in Gorakhpur, Shahid Mehdi Saheb said that at that time we used to purchase the books of Ghalib, Meer and other poets work even less than one or two anna (old Indian currency). It was the efforts of Urdu fraternity who translated the Gandhi’s autobiography “My Experiment with Truth” (Tlashe Haque in Urdu), said Mehdi saheb. While appreciating the works done by Prof. Hanfi Saheb, from whose efforts Jamia’s Resalas, a magazine (published since1921) has been documented in four volumes. But further work needs to be done by Jamia so that new generations should know and aware of these works, added Mehdi Saheb. However, he also underlined that unlike earlier, traditions of writing Urdu prose mainly by Jamia literary figures have now seemed to be diminishing over a period of time.

It is noteworthy to remind us that most of Jamia’s vice-chancellors were also happened to be prolific literary figures, underlined by speakers.  Besides, for the promotion and publications of Urdu, like Rasmul khat( literary scripts) is also diminishing in these days. Moreover, while underlining the crucial role played by Jamia Maktaba, in terms of publishing several Resalas (Magazines in Urdu), Mehdi saheb expressed satisfaction that Jamia as the institution has maintained and deepen the literary traditions in the context of the modern times.

While expressing his concern for Urdu, Najeeb Jung saheb opined that Department of Urdu should play a leading role (must take responsibility to become taj) in Jamia as far as the promotion of Urdu language is a concern.  Further Najeeb saheb asked the questions- Is it possible for Urdu to survive in a modern and changing world by adopting a traditional approach towards it? There is a need to think on this point also particularly when the country is passing through a critical phase. While recognizing the efforts of Rekhta groups, Jung saheb said that Urdu has still not developed rich vocabularies for its own. While citing the example of Oxford University towards Urdu, mainly when he was there for a short period of time, Jung saheb said that we in India lack the confidence to promote Urdu in comparison to other social science subjects, for instance, English and psychology. It is historically wrong to say that Urdu was the language of, and associated with the Muslim community alone.  In this respect, Najeeb Saheb said that during the 1960- 70s, the Indian cinema had played a vital role to popularize Urdu but today situations are not as conducive and demanding in the film industry for promotion of Urdu through cinema as done by earlier. Today this responsibility lies in Jamia which will decide the future of Urdu languages in the country.

While appreciating the works done by Jamia fraternity, Prof. Asaduddin, Dean Faculty of Humanities, JMI has said that Jamia since its inception was remained the centre for the promotion of Urdu language. The builders of Jamia  had contributed a lot in terms of producing literary works and translations, added by him. Prof. Shahpar Rasool Saheb (faculty member at Urdu the department, JMI and currently vice-chairman of Urdu Academy, Delhi) while expressing his welcome speech, said that the relation between Jamia and Urdu academic in the past remain deeply connected because eminent academics like Prof. Akhatural Wase, Gopi Chand Narang, Khalid Mahmood had served earlier to the Urdu academy in various capacities.  In short, the contributions which were made by Jamia builders like, Dr. Zakir Husain, Hakim Ajmal Khan, M. A. Ansari, Abid Hessian, Mohammad Mujeeb, Mohammad Ali Jauhar etc., must be remembered in years to come by the young generations and research scholars.

Historically speaking Jamia and other nationalists Institutions like Shanti Niketan with the help of Gandhiji and later by his son who had also played an important role in safeguarding the Indian languages, including Urdu. It is to be noted that Gandhiji’s son (Dev Das Gandhi veteran Journalist and freedom fighter) was also served as a teacher in the department of Hindi, Jamia Millia Islamia.

However, it would be utter dishonest if we as Jamia’s fraternity while celebrating Hundred years of Jamia’s centenary, forget the academic contributions made by  former vice-chancellor of Jamia,, the late Prof. Mushirul Hassan who has been  instrumental and played crucial role  as  a modern builder of Jamia  in times to come.

The writer is a, Research Scholar, University of Delhi.




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