For Urdu speakers in Jharkhand, it has been a long wait. The state came into existence more than twenty years ago but the Jharkhand Urdu Academy is yet to be established.
Ironic for a state that has such a large number of Urdu speakers. Most of the Indian states with substantial population of Urdu speakers, have Urdu Academies.
Even Chhattisgarh, an adjoining state, with comparatively less Urdu speaking populace, has an Academy, and small states or regions with lesser Urdu speakers– ranging from Punjab to Goa, now have the academies.
As Urdu is often a minority language, the existence of a government institution helps in promotion and propagation of language apart from publication of books and running language teaching courses, coordinating with Urdu school books, hosting events, literary activities as well as opening libraries and reading rooms.
Ever since the state was carved out of Bihar, there has been demand in this regard. Promises too were made but they didn’t materialize. The indifference of successive governments, has exasperated the Urdu speakers, who are now pinning hopes on Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) government.
Eminent Urdu litterateur Abrar Mojeeb acknowledges that this is a major issue for Urdu speakers in the state. However, he says that lack of proper representation is also the reason that academy hasn’t come into existence.
“Owing to politics and inability of people to come to a platform, unitedly, for the setting up of Academy, is the reason”, Mujeeb further says. In fact, Urdu has a strong base and is spoken by a large population in Jharkhand.
The Muslim population that mostly registers Urdu as mother tongue in Census, numbered around 4.8 million or 48 lakh in the State as per the last official count (2011). Since then the population has grown even more.
The state has several Urdu newspapers published from here. Apart from capital Ranchi, cities like Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Giridih, Sahibganj, Singhbhum and Bokaro are known as districts where people traditionally have a strong bond with Urdu.
Notwithstanding the perception, even in rural pockets Muslims have a strong link with Urdu in this region. This is clearly reflected in Census figures of Deogarh, Godda, Dumka, Lohardaga and Palamu districts.
Urdu Academies are functioning in many states including Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, MP, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Karnataka, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Goa.
Activists rue that no attention was paid to the demand despite repeated reminders, and even the issue was taken up with the Centre. Anjuman Taraqqi Urdu unit mentions that the language is fighting for its existence in the region and despite second language status, it faces government apathy.
Three years ago, the then CM Raghuwar Das made an announcement in this regard, but the promise was not fulfilled. Last year, the chief secretary of the state had reportedly assured the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) director Shaikh Aquil Ahmad, that the Academy would be set up soon.
But again nothing happened on the ground. Of late, demands have been made afresh by Urdu associations urging the Hemant Soren government to establish the Jharkhand Urdu Academy. It has to be seen how long the Urdu speakers will have to wait for the promises to materialize.
Views expressed above are author’s own.