Punjab Urdu Academy is the rewarding outcome of tireless efforts of several committed Urdu intellectuals, scholars, poets, fiction writers, students and researchers. They all unitedly and persistently have been demanding the establishment of Punjab Urdu Academy on practical lines. For that matter, the demand for the Academy symbolizes the aspirations of the whole of Punjab.
Hope was always there - a day would come when dreams come true:
We know well that Punjab (Land of Five Rivers) and Urdu have been closely interlinked since ancient times. The renowned linguistic and researcher Hafiz Mehmood Sheerani has established with tenable historical evidences in his celebrated book Punjab Mein Urdu that undivided Punjab was the very fountainhead of Urdu language and literature. This indeed is commendable and something we feel so richly proud of.
Punjab today may appear smaller geographically as compared with other states of India, but with rich and varied traditions, Punjab enjoys a lofty and enviable state vis-à-vis other states. Punjab (Punj+Aab) is the sacred land hallowed and consecrated by great gurus, seers, sufis and saints. They taught us the lesson of brotherhood, mutual co-operation, love and devotion. Folk lore and romances flowered on this land. Dignified poets and scholars infused fresh blood among the masses and inspired and fired their imagination and love for the nation. India’s Nationalist struggle for freedom is the saga of sacrifices, secular ethos and the passionate desire to throw away the foreign rule. Urdu played a significant role in fulfilling the long cherished dream of an Independent India. Urdu captured the imagination of entire Indian masses. As a link language in India and the entire sub-continent, Urdu became mass culture and a potent medium for unity, integration and relentless struggle against the British rule. Poets with ardent fervour and zeal ushered in a new awakening (bedari), a new era and a new dawn in the history of India. People love Urdu not merely as a language but as a culture that prominently stands out in the national memories of a Resurgent and Renaissance India. Any history of Urdu will remain incomplete without references to Punjab that nurtured the composite language and its humanistic culture.
Unfortunately, the Partition administrated a severe blow to the Punjab and its people, and the Urdu language in particular. Lahore, the hub of culture and literature, had occupied a place of honour in the undivided Punjab. Lahore enjoyed a special bond with Hyderabad, Rampur, Delhi and Lucknow. Lahore was proud of poets such as Allama Iqbal, Hafeez Jalandhari, Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, Dr. Mohammad Din ‘Taseer’, Abdul Majeed Salik, Imtiaz Ali Taj, Zafar Ali Khan, Krishan Chander, Pitras Bukhari, Sahir Ludhianvi, Hari Chand Akhtar, Yaas Yagana, Mohan Singh Deewana, Mehmood Sheerani, Kanahya Lal Kapoor, Gopal Mittal, Fikr Taunsawi et al. The literary life in Lahore was vibrant with their luminous presence. There were ardent lovers of Urdu who formed a mainstream for Urdu language and literature to flourish with progressive socialist ideas, new trends and tendencies in literature. They opened new windows for fresh air to come in. They immensely enriched Urdu literature with their writings.
Lahore was the hub of literary journals and newspapers. These included Jafar Ali Khan’s “Zamindar” Ghulam Rasool Mehar’s “Inquilab”, Murtaza Ahmed Khan Maikash’s “Ehsan”, Mahashai Krishan’s “Partap”, Nanak Chand’s “Parbhat”, Lala Lajpat Rai’s “Bande Matram”, Lala Dinanath’s “Desh”, Pandit Mela Ram Wafa’s “Veer Bharat”, Bhai Parmanand’s “Hindu”, Sardar Amar Singh’s “Sher-e-Punjab”, Shorish Kashmiri’s “Chattan”, Anjuman Ahrar-e-Islami’s “Mujahid”, Sayyad Habib’s “Siasat”, Hameed Nizami’s “Nawa-e-Waqt” and Nawal Kishore’s “Koh-e-Noor” et al.
Apart from the newspapers mentioned above, there appeared a number of literary digests and journals. These were greatly popular among the masses as they were read and discussed with keen interest. They sharpened reading habits and polished and refined the tastes of the readers. They generated a healthy climate and created love for language and literature.
Unfortunately, this all proved a temporary phase that could not endure. Certain unexpected happenings vitiated harmony among the people and disrupted cohesive climate and brotherly living. Communal tensions erupted, centuries-old integration suffered a severe setback. Prejudices, hatred and acrimony prevailed and suppressed all that was fine, noble and elevating. The cherished dream of freedom was eclipsed by gloom and bloodshed. India got freedom from foreign rule but in its work, it brought death and destruction. Jagan Nath Azad, the veteran Urdu poet-scholar said:
A mood of despair gripped the nation. Punjab was the worst hit region. Geographical division changed and disfigured its very complexion. Partition brought great damage to life and property. The land of five rivers was divided. Its culture too suffered loss and division. Rahi Masoom Raza, the famous Urdu poet portrayed divided Punjab in these heart-rending words:
After the partition, much damage was done to the Urdu language and its composite character. The language became a victim of frenzy. A majority migrated from the eastern Punjab and settled in Pakistan. The fear that Urdu language and literature would forever leave this part of the country proved baseless. The language and its culture not only survived, it flourished and grew. The government of Punjab has fulfilled a long-cherished desire of the masses by establishing the Punjab Urdu Academy. This is a dream come true. Aspirantions of millions of people, writers, poets, readers, scholars and intellectuals have been honoured. Urdu in Punjab has received its due, no matter after oddities, difficulties, thoughtful considerations, care and concern.
Punjab Urdu Academy is as new as old is Urdu to Punjab. Efforts have ever been on for the Academy to take shape, do its work towards the dissemination of a composite idiom and culture that bind us together irrespective of caste, creed, and religion. Our collective duty is to strengthen it, make it meaningfully functional and reach out to the interesting discerning readers and scholars.
There were many stumbling blocks and hurdles in the path. But the ardent efforts of well-wishers and literary organizations finally bore fruit and the academy was established on positive lines. To quote Allama Iqbal:
Keeping in view the enthusiasms of Punjabis, and demand for the Urdu Academy by a wider section of society, the Government of Punjab finally established the long-cherished Academy on 20th September, 2005 under the Society Registration Act 1869. This opened up new possibilities for the development of Urdu in the state. A new era of hope was ushered in. Further, honouring the aspirations of the masses, Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister Mrs. Rajinder Kaur Bhattal laid formally the foundation stone in 2006. Malerkotla, an oasis of literary culture was chosen as the city for the noble purpose. A city known for peace, harmony, love, national integration was deemed to be an ideal site. Working, no doubt, on the building of the Academy started with matchless effort and dedication. But in 2007, a new government was formed in Punjab. Under the dynamic leadership of Hon’ble Sardar Parkash Singh Ji Badal, Akali-BJP government was elected.
The high-rise building of the Academy was raised in an incomplete form. Then, it fell into neglect and indifference. Again, a mood of despair prevailed. A great project, a symbol of cultural aspirations came to a halt. Secretaries of the Academy one after the other kept coming and going.
In 2012, Punjab politics created history. A new chapter was scripted. Malerkotla witnessed for the first time a highly cultured lady Legislative Member Madam Farzana Alam Sahiba. As Chief Parliamentary Secretary, in collaboration with her husband Padamshri Mohd. Izhar Alam (IPS, Former DGP, Punjab) added a new chapter in the harmonious development of Malerkotla; its culture, language, past glory and splendour. They infused a new life in the city’s ethos-unity, harmony, co-existence to promote all-round development. Another epoch was written and a new dimension added to the saga of cultural survival and revolution. Both performed a commendable job by infusing a new spirit in the Academy. Soon after becoming member of Punjab Legislative Assembly, a meeting of the Governing Council of Punjab Urdu Academy was held on August 14, 2012 in Chandigarh. Sardar Parkash Singh Ji Badal, Hon’ble Chief Minister, Punjab, who is the Chairman of the Academy, presided over the meeting. Those who graced the meeting included the Vice-Chairperson of the Academy, Mrs. Farzana Alam Sahiba and Chairman of Punjab Wakf Board Sri Izhar Alam, as special invitee. The Principal Secretary (Higher Education, Punjab), Secretary (Dept. of Finance), Director (Dept. of Languages, Punjab) and the Secretary (Punjab Urdu Academy) were among those present.
After long deliberations, many significant decisions were taken. These included the appointment of the staff, the completion of the Auditorium under construction, asking the PWD for the estimate towards the completion of the second floor so that the finance Dept. could expedite release of the grant for the completion of the pending works. The Director, Dept. of Languages, Punjab was apparently appointed the Nodal Officer of the Punjab Urdu Academy. Ironically, the secretary, Punjab Urdu Academy was subordinated and in a way Secretary’s position was nullified.
This gave rise to many problems. Most of the decisions taken during the meeting remained unimplemented and unfulfilled because of the conflicting relations and lack of co-ordination between the Secretary of the Academy and the Director, Dept. of Languages, Punjab (Bhasha Vibhag, Punjab). This was rather unfortunate. As a result, all work come to a halt. The amount lying in the Academy’s a/c, a sum of Rs. 12.50 Lakh remained unutilized- this was the first installment for the functioning of the Academy. Out of this amount, only the electricity bill was paid off. This state of affairs continued. After the meeting until the time Dr. Mohd. Iqbal quit as Secretary, tension prevailed unresolved.
At long last, Professor (Dr.) Manzoor Hasan was appointed Secretary of Punjab Urdu Academy on January 10, 2014. It was an additional charge. What the new secretary saw was heart-breaking - a deserted, lifeless building telling a sad tale of utter neglect and apathy. There was no staff, no infrastructure inside. The window panes were broken. It was like a scene of battlefield where riots had taken place. A place meant for literary activities had become the haunt of miscreants, thieves and looters. Washbasins were broken and stolen. Some expensive items also had disappeared. It was heart-rendering to witness a Nadirshahi invation-a brutal attack on all that makes us civilized human beings. Glory was gone – like Shah Jahan’s Takht-e-Taoos, a precious possession of the Academy was taken away.
Eventually, the Government of Punjab made solid practical plans for the betterment and promotion of Urdu in the state. The Punjab Urdu Academy had got a boost and is in a stable condition now. It can now function on positive lines and can create an environment for the progress and promotion of Urdu language and culture. Now, the administrative and financial powers have been given to the Secretary, Punjab Urdu Academy. This was a welcome move that encouraged the Urdu fraternity. Smooth functioning is possible now.
Then followed another development. The Government issued order dated July 2, 2014 for the recruitment of staff comprising 6 members on ad hoc basis a per DC rates. Through proper advertisement procedure, these posts have been filled. Best available equipment was arranged by the Purchase Committee for use in the Academy. Efforts were made to upgrade and bring the Punjab Urdu Academy at par with other Urdu Academies in India, by using modern technology. Books worth Rs. 20,000/- have been purchased for the Academy library. Though begun on a small scale, online facility is underway. Now, it appears space is created around the Academy. Windows are open and fresh air comes in. ‘Jaise weerane mein chupke se bahaar aa jaye’ (Faiz)
A new chapter is being scripted by the generous Government of Punjab. For the ongoing year, i.e. 2015-16, a budget of Rs. 50 Lac has been allocated. It is a historic gesture by the progressive government which is all out for the growth of our languages and culture. We all pray the Punjab Urdu Academy succeeds in its Mission. AAMEEN!