Is Urdu Dying? A Fact Check

Of the prevalent languages of the subcontinent, Urdu is leading in articles available on Wikipedia. This study Nullifies the concept that it is dying.


 In 1977, a well-known journalist and writer late, Kushwant Singh, called Urdu a dying language.

A few months ago, while hearing the case of the Shiv Sena split, a clip related to Urdu became quite viral and a topic of discussion on social media. During the Debate, Tushar Mehta, the solicitor general of India who was pleading on behalf of the Governor of Maharashtra, read a couplet of a renowned Urdu poet Bashir Badar; it reads:

Main chup raha to aur galat fehmiyan badhain

Wo bi suna hai us ne jo m ne kaha nahi

(I remained Silent, and misunderstanding increased, He also heard what I did not say)

On this, the courtroom was turned into a laugh for a while. Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud, who generally talks in English, expressed his interest and asked in Urdu what is the relevance of “Us ne kaha nahi” in this legal Parlance. Tushar replied, sir! This is a couplet in URDU that the poet said about someone else. The chief justice then invited Udhav Thakrey’s lawyer Kapil Sibal to intervene. Sibal had made his comments and winded up the debate by saying that Urdu is a beautiful language, but now it is dying. This is a fact, and we are losing our culture.

Is Urdu dying? Let’s have a look.

Recent data show that Urdu has the highest number of articles on Wikipedia among the major languages ​​spoken in the subcontinent. In today’s times, business is becoming digitalized rapidly. Delivering your content to the customer with the help of technology is called digitization;If we summarize the word digitization in capsule form; it is “Delivering your content to the customer with the help of technology is called digitization”.

You may have noticed that the newspapers you buy are also available online on their respective websites. Some require a subscription, while others are freely accessible. The news or programs you watch on TV can also be found on their YouTube channels and other social media platforms as well.

There are three ways to measure the development of any language:  First, there are newspapers and books; in which language how many  Newspapers are printed and sold—second, TV programs in which language the public watches the news other debates and understands. TRP is a measurement unit of the popularity of a TV channel. Thirdly, digital media, meaning how much content is available online in which language, works better the more articles or content in which language will be available.

Since people’s general preference nowadays is digital searching, we will discuss only this perspective in this article.

Vignesh Radhakrishnan, in the popular daily English newspaper ‘The Hindu,’ has presented the statistics on the articles available on Wikipedia. According to those charts, among the 320 world languages, most Wikipedia articles are in English. Not Surprisingly, it has a total of 66,71,236 articles;  Second only to English is Cebuano, a regional language of the Philippines, with a total of 61,23,197 articles available. Other popular languages ​​in the world, including German (28.6 lacks), Swedish (25.1 lacks), Dutch (21.2 lacks), and  French (25.3 million), are the number of languages ​​with a good number of articles on Wikipedia; Chinese has 13.6 million articles.


Among the constitutionally recognized languages ​​in India, Urdu has the highest number of articles available on Wikipedia. The number of articles available in Urdu is 1.91 lakh, followed by Hindi (1.57 lakh), Tamil (1.54 lakh), and  The number of Bengali (1.4 lacks).


The Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India deals with recognizing languages. There are 24 languages ​​in the schedule recognized so far.  ​​Punjabi and Sindhi are the official languages ​​of the two provinces of Pakistan, Punjab and Sindh, respectively. Bengali also has the status of a recognized language in India. It is the official language of Bangladesh in addition to the state language of the Indian state of West Bengal. There are 15,000 articles on Wikipedia in Sindhi. Punjabi, Malayalam, Telugu, and Marathi are state languages ​​ in the Constitution of India. The number of articles on Wikipedia ranges from 50,000 to 100,000 each.

Urdu is also one of the languages ​​included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. Thus, the root of Urdu is Indian, but due to the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, it also suffered a lot. The misery is that once the language was spoken in India irrespective of religion and caste and was considered a Lingua Franca, now, unfortunately, deemed to be associated with Muslims in India.

Off course, Urdu is an Indo-Aryan language, and the most solid theory about its evolution is believed to be by Masood Hussain Khan. According to the idea, Urdu came into being from the dialects of Delhi and its neighboring. The dialects of the surrounding Delhi from which Urdu was developed are Braj Bhasha, Khadi Boli, Haryanvi, Kanoji, and Mewati.

Thus, Urdu had come into existence centuries ago and had acquired the status of the lingua franca of India. Initially, the kingdoms of the Deccan played a significant role in its promotion. But the nineteenth century was a milestone in its development. In 1800,  Fort William College was formed in Calcutta, and a separate department of Indian languages ​​was established under the chairmanship of Gilgrisht, with a particular focus on Urdu. The main aim of the college was to acquaint British officers working in India with Indian culture and language.

In order to teach the officers Urdu, which was then called Hindustani, many books were translated into at the college, which is considered very important in its development.

In 1835, Persian was abolished as the status of the official language of India. Until then, it was an official language. Therefore, it is wrong to say that the Muslim rulers made special efforts to promote URDU. If this were the case, URDU would have been the official language instead of Persian. A linguist Suneti Kumar Chaterji has rightly said:

“If Muslims had not come to India, the modern Indo-Aryan languages must have been evolved, but their literary development would have been delayed.”

In the 19th century, Urdu was a secular linguistic revolution against Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit in the sub-continent. It was promoted under the leadership of the British government. How pitiful it is that Urdu, once a secular linguistic revolution, is now associated with Muslims and madrassas in India.

Urdu is an additional official language in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Telangana. At the same time, it is the first official language in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan is the only country outside India with Urdu as its official language, serving as the lingua franca throughout the country. It is also protected in the constitution of South Africa. Apart from South Asia,  Due to the Indians and Pakistanis who go to other countries, Urdu is spoken worldwide.

Rekhta, the most prominent Urdu website, is also based in India. According to data regarding the availability of articles on Wikipedia, its top ranking among languages ​​spoken in the subcontinent contradicts the claim that Urdu is dying.

Mohd Arshid is a Research Scholar from the School of Social Sciences, JNU, New Delhi



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