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…the debate continues!! And this time, the question is situated in the location where the language appears to have originated from.

Here are some excerpts from an article by Ajmal Kamal (Urdu editor and publisher), in the Dawn newspaper, last week.

In his remarkable book on the growth of Urdu’s literary culture, titled Urdu ka Ibtida’i Zamana, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi maintains that at some point in time between the lives of Mir Taqi Mir and Asadullah Khan Ghalib, what was called Hindi was first given the name — actually the title — ‘Zaban-e-Urdu-e-Mu’alla’, or the language of the exalted court or camp, and later started being called ‘Zaban-e Urdu’ and gradually ‘Urdu’
It is interesting that the word ‘Urdu’ in the original coinage mentioned by Faruqi meant not the language itself but the place it was purposefully attached to. It denoted the area in the royal city of Delhi which housed the Red Fort and the abodes of the nobility associated with the royalty in one form or another. Before the local language of the area was appointed as the language of the Urdu-e-Mu’alla area or the privileged people residing there, Persian had enjoyed this status for the past several centuries.

Taking the linkage of location to language further…
However, when it came to the local language of Hindustan, adopted (or rather captured) by the Muslim rulers and members of their ‘exalted’ court — all claiming an imported lineage — it was difficult to claim a foreign origin for it. Hindi was a language which had developed, exactly the way other local languages did, in a real geographical location and social context by real, local people. It was unlike the trajectory of Persian which was undeniably of a non-Indian origin but which had grown into a local language of intellectual and cultural expression and discourse — and still kept its genealogy intact — during the centuries-long rule of the dynasties of Muslim invaders from the north-west.

The need to detach the ‘Urdu’ language from its real geographical and social context, however, seems to be the reason why a supra-local origin was concocted for it. This clumsily invented, kaleidoscopic history therefore allows ever new imaginary locations to be added to the fiction — Deccan, Bengal, Punjab, Balochistan and so on, although nowhere can it be shown to have ever been present in any form that could be reasonably connected to the ‘Zaban-e Urdu-e Mu’alla’.

This takes us to another major consequence of the act of choosing a new name for an old language. By indicating, as Maulana Altaf Husain Hali did, that for someone to be proficient in ‘authentic’ Urdu, he is required to be from Delhi or the area around it — and a Muslim — a hitherto unknown religious identity was imposed on the language. It is interesting to note that Hali pushed the geographical boundary of the language-area seemingly to include Panipat where he hailed from, but at the same time excluded non-Muslims living in the same, freshly defined area.

So, are Hindi and Urdu two languages?
No one seems to have ever raised the question: if such an overwhelmingly large part of the Urdu vocabulary has ‘come’ from Hindi without any change, should these be treated as two separate languages or one and the same? …This is apart from the more obvious and undeniable fact that the grammar as it appears in the construction of sentences and phrases is identical in Hindi and Urdu. Also, the way we count is the same. And so forth.

Link to the article: http://www.dawn.com/news/1178324/column-two-languages-or-one