India is an amazing mix of culture. The diversity in terms of religion, culture as well as language is astounding. Our nation has hundreds of different languages spoken in various parts of the country, and out of these, the constitution recognises 22 languages. Among these 22 is Urdu, which is spoken by over 50 million people in India itself, and is one of the world’s most artistic languages.
Known as the language of poets, Urdu is a sophisticated and beautiful language developed around the 13th century. Many famous poets such as Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib, Jaun Elia and many more have contributed to the world in the form of ghazals, shayari and poetry in Urdu. It is very similar to Hindi, as both the languages share most of their vocabulary and sound alike in a daily conversational setting.
Urdu also exhibits its presence in English — words like “cummerbund”, “jungle” and “loot” have their origins set in Urdu. It is the official language of Pakistan and is a symbol of identity for Indian Muslims.
But there is the problem. In a country such as India that supports many dialects, not every person can read or write them. A student of a university in Kerala will not use Hindi as much as he would use Malayalam. Likewise, Delhi University students wouldn’t come across Urdu during their graduation, unless they opt for it as a subject.
But here, in Jamia Millia Islamia, Urdu is an integral part of the university. A student can interact with the language in many ways. Urdu, along with English and Hindi, are present on signboards and notices across the college. It also appears in exam question papers (along with English), giving the student two linguistic options to choose from during a test.
It is also taught as a degree from Bachelor to PhD. Urdu holds so much significance in JMI university that it is a requisite or compulsory subject for an undergraduate student for the first two academic semesters. Although the syllabus of the subject is supposed to be rudimentary, its essentiality is still somewhat a matter of debate among the students of Jamia.
One student might say that Urdu is linked to our college’s very foundations, which gives it a unique identity among the various universities in India. Another might add that it is a beautiful language that should be used more widely. But there will be many pupils that are not comfortable with the idea of learning an entirely new script, all the while dealing with other main subjects on their plate.
JMI is a cultural hub. It harbours students from all across the nation. While some of these students are already familiar with the basics of Urdu, others are not. Not every student (irrespective of their religious background) can cope with Urdu’s fundamentals and ends up failing the subject during the end semester exams.
The topic is sensitive and a university has many good reasons to add a subject to a student’s academic curriculum. But considering all the factors stated above and opinions of various students, the argument leans upon the idea that the incorporation of Urdu as a compulsory subject should be discontinued, and instead, the students should be provided with the choice of opting for a language of their preference. This would aid them in performing better in their respective subjects, and also strengthen their career prospects.