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When teaching power of mother was lost

Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

Religion disallows photographs, says a group that included the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and its founder, Maulana Maudoodi. In the same fashion, objections were raised, after independence, against the statues of known personalities installed in different big cities of the country, including Lahore.

Some of the statues were of the personalities who had some political connotation, therefore, the anti-statue elements won the point without any resistance and statues were unceremoniously removed and one vividly remembers the fate of the statue of Queen Victoria which was carried on a bullock cart through The Mall (now Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam).

This photograph was snapped by famous press photographer F.E. Chaudhry and appeared only in The Pakistan Times, once a top newspaper now on a ventilator. Sir Ganga Ram's statue was also part of that sweep. The only statue which survived was that of a scholar and educationist, Dr Leitner, and after 64 years it is still there on the entrance gate of the Old Campus of the Punjab University.
Dr Leitner was particularly mentioned by a Punjabi activist, Nazeer Kahut, in his article on teaching of Punjabi, read in a seminar arranged recently by the Masud Khadarposh Trust on its silver jubilee.

A Lahore-based scholar, Dr Ikram Chughtai, has written a book on the life and achievements of Dr Leitner, the first vice chancellor of the Punjab University. The particular characteristic of Dr Leitner was that he opposed the education policy of the British in Punjab.
He was of the opinion that Punjabis should also be taught in their mother tongue instead of Urdu and English. His opinion was based on his observation and research which was published entitled 'Indigenous Education in Punjab', which clearly made this fact public that before the British introduction of their own schools in Punjab, there was more than 80 per cent literacy rate in the province. The target could not be achieved during 160 years.

The main reason was that Punjabi was not made the medium of instruction at the earlier level of education. It is unfortunate that the British education officers through the administration forcibly closed the indigenous schools of which many had the permanent source of income from attached or waqf (trust) cultivated lands.

The government cancelled these Ma'afis and clipped the wings of the local education system about which Dr Lietner has been quoted by Nazeer Kahot as Dr Tariq Rahman quoted the former as having said: “This vernacular was Punjabi which was not taught but was used as we have seen, as a medium of instruction at least at lower level before the British conquest. This practice continued even after the conquest and Dr Leitner mentions that in most Kor'an schools some elementary religious books in Urdu, Persian or Punjabi are taught. Female education has always been neglected among Muslims, but, according to Dr Leitner, among Muhammadans nearly all girls were taught the Kor'an; nor could a Sikh woman claim the title and privileges of a “learner” unless she was able to read the Granth Sahib…. Girls were also taught the Kor'an together with little boys and religious books and stories of Prophets etc were taught in Urdu, Persian or Punjabi.

The Sikh girls read the Granth and other books in Gurmukhi. Dr Leitner suggests that there had been a decline in female teaching since the British conquest because formerly the mother could teach the child in Punjabi. “Now, wherever the child learns Urdu the teaching power of the mother is lost.”

The articles presented in the seminar to mark the silver jubilee of Masud Khadarposh Trust have been published in a booklet which also refers to Masud's initiative taken while he was a senior civil servant. His two characteristics were commendable; one was about the question of mother tongue and the other was dress of local-made fabric like Khadar which was once politically associated with the anti-Muslim League, the Congress. But, Masud was never reluctant to own things which may be associated with some hostile or unwanted name. In his earlier career as a junior ICS officer, he worked in Bheels of Bombay in such a way that they named him Masud Bhagwan…the last word unacceptable for a majority of the Muslims. He was also popular with the name of Masud Hari in Sindh where he gave his revolutionary views on the land tillers and the owners of the land. His view was that tiller (the Hari) was the real owner of lands and not anybody else.

Masud as a person became most controversial when he openly preached that prayers should be said in Urdu/Punjabi so that the man could clearly understand what he was saying to Allah. The Arabic text does not convey the real meanings. Masud was very seriously challenged on this issue by the religious leaders and for a very long time the subject was the talk of the country.

Masud's last mission was promotion of Punjabi language and culture for which he formed a forum which arranged some seminars and a letter signed by more than one hundred writers, intellectuals etc was sent to the president and other functionaries of the state and the province, demanding introduction of Punjabi as medium of instruction at least at the primary level. If the ruling elite of Punjab had some foresight, they must have immediately accepted the demand and this clash on dialect basis in the south Punjab could have been easily avoided. And the fact is that Masud's all initiatives were quite appropriate and needed to be implemented when they were publicly aired. It would have brought back the teaching power of the mother.

Curtsey:DAWN.COM   SEP 05, 2011 







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