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How Punjabi lost its linguistic individuality

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza



MUASIR International; Editor-in-Chief Ataul Haq Qasmi; pp 728; Price Rs. 500 (pb); Published from 6/13 C, Glamour Heights, Waris Road, Lahore; e-mail qasmi@brain.net.pk.

This thick issue of the quarterly literary magazine of Urdu is not supposed to have anything related to Punjabi language and literature but it has something very interesting about Punjab and Punjabis in a research article on a major poet of last century Yaas Yagana Changezi written by Haider Tabatabai, an Indian scholar. Thank God Yagana was not a Pakistani, particularly in the period of the late General Ziaul Haq, otherwise he would have met death like that of Salmaan Taseer or Z.A. Bhutto. He wrote something sacrilegious which was published by Maulana Majid Daryabadi, a great scholar who also rendered the Holy Quran into English. On the publication of those verses, Yagana’s house was ransacked by Sunni and Shia Muslims of Lucknow and he took refuge in the house of another literary giant Masud Hasan Rizvi Adeeb. Yagana’s unpublished work was put on fire and one day he was humbled by the Lakhnavi pucca Muslims. His face was blackened, he was put on a donkey and was forced to parade throughout the city. That was Yaas Yagana Changezi a senior contemporary of Josh Malihabadi and contemporary of Aziz Lakhnavi, Nawab Jaffar Ali Khan Asar, Allama Iqbal and many other stalwarts of Urdu literature.
Yaas was also known as Ghalib Shikan … both belonged to Taimuri tree. Born in Azimabad, Yaas was settled in Lucknow, the hub of Urdu literary activities … a tradition established after Lucknow and Awadh got freed themselves from the Delhi government.
The decision of the British government to introduce majority language Hindi as a medium of instruction with the status of second official language side by side Urdu till the only medium of instruction in UP provoked the Muslims of not only UP and Bihar but also of other provinces, particularly Punjab, which now started leading the Urdu movement and Muslims as well many non-Muslim Punjabis devoted their creative energies for the promotion of Urdu. They extended their support to those whose mother tongue was Urdu or more than 16 dialects of the language mainly Purabi. Incidentally, the Punjabi competitors were leading ahead of other provinces which caused a jealousy in Urdu-speaking areas and they did their best to ridicule the Urdu language used by Punjabis and every Punjabi writer of Urdu was ridiculed. Even Allama Iqbal was not spared who had attracted fame and acceptance from every nook and corner of India. But Yaas Yagana and even Piarey Sahib Rasheed, a great poet of Marsia, ridiculed Iqbal.

Haider Tabatabai in his above-mentioned article quotes how Yaas spelt Iqbal’s name as Ik-bal and the line was In Punjabi (or for that matter in Urdu Ik-bal means a child). About Piarey Sahib Rasheed after listening verses from Iqbal in Urdu he ridiculously said, now please recite your Urdu poetry?
This sort of relationship between Punjabis and UP wallas is not yet over and the reason was genuine. The Urdu dailies, weeklies and literary monthlies published from Punjab were far ahead of their counterparts coming out from other Urdu areas. From Iqbal to Faiz the Punjabis were again far ahead of poets of other areas. In the field of fiction Krishan Chander, Saadat Hasan Manto, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and Rajinder Singh Bedi were well appreciated in Urdu areas. In other forms of literature almost the same was the position and even after partition Quratul Ain Haider had to write in Adab-i-Lateef. These voices from Punjab were much more powerful than the voices from the heart of Urdu-speaking areas.
The Urdu people could not realize the democratic rights of other languages, cultures and nationalities even after partition and the first victim of their wrath was Bengali and second was Sindhi. And the last but not the least was Punjabi. Some of Punjabi writers demanded that Punjabi should be made medium of instruction in Punjab at primary level and they included Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Hameed Nizami (the founding editor of daily Nawa-i-Waqt), Dr. Muhammad Baqir, Maulana Abdul Majeed Salik, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and many others.
With that demand even the Punjabis like Maulana Salahuddin Ahmad and Dr. Syed Abdullah openly opposed the demand and the first thing they did was that they suggested to the writers in the south Punjab that they should claim that their dialect Multani was an independent language and they should oppose the Punjabi demand. Moreover, the first thesis on this subject in which doctorate was granted by the Punjab University was about the relations of Urdu and Multani written by the late Dr.Mehr Abdul Haq under the guidance of Dr. Syed Abdullah in which it was specially pointed out that Multani and Sindhi had more commonalities than Multani and Punjabi. After that Urdu scholars based in Karachi started vigorous campaign in favour of Multani and at a later period Seraiki, which was imported from Sindh during early period of Z.A. Bhutto’s government. Ziaul Haq unofficially gave a full language status to Seraiki and now the political expediencies may hit hard the single-language province Punjab…the logical end of the carelessness of the Punjabis, specially the intelligentsia which somehow picked up the idea of cultural and linguistic superiority or inferiority from Sheerani’s “thesis Urdu is the developed form of Punjabi”.

The current issue of Muasir contains translation of some of the verses of Mian Muhammad Bukhsh by Dohrra writer Dr. Tahir Saeed Haroon. There are many special sections on prose and poetry writers including Quratul Ain Haider, Maulana Rumi, Mushfiq Khwaja, Asad Muhammad Khan, Tehseen Firaqi, Shabnam Shakeel, Sarmed Sehbai, Nazeer Naji and Faisal Ajmi. It also includes a travelogue by Salma Awan and now an original Punjabi verse by Mian Muhammad and its translation in Urdu. — STM
CURTSY:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED MAY 05, 2011





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