ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Language of the 'Ummis'

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Danial Latifi, while bemoaning the fate of Urdu speaking inhabitants of Uttar Pradesh, has made a statement which bears no resemblance to facts (May 29-June 4, 1999). He states: “But this language (Urdu) survives among the ‘ummis’ (illiterates)”. Such a statement betrays a total ignorance about the life and living conditions of the ummis. The illiterates in the northern belt of the country speak their mother tongues, which are derisively called dialects by the upper strata of the Hindu and Muslim elites (represented by Latifi). What Latifi describes as ‘cultural genocide’ with reference to Urdu is more applicable to the relationship of the dialects with Hindi and Urdu.

There are nearly 20 distinct dialects spoken in as many regions in northern India. One of these dialects, Avadhi, was developed with the common endeavour of Hindus and Muslims to a level of sophistication where it produced outstanding literary works. The most towering among the contributors to the growth of this language have been eminent Muslims like Malik Mohammed Jaysi who produced works like Padmavat, acclaimed the world over. Padmavat had preceded Ramacharitmanas of Tulsidas by nearly a century. Contemporaneous to Tulsidas was Abdul Rahim Khankhana whose couplets reign supreme to this day.

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