Pakistan Connection

About Dr Zafar Cheema I may add to Bhanwar ji’s commendation. Zafar had around ten Ph D scholars researching on Sikhism [2005]. I have met a couple of them in conferences and their awareness as well as ability to relate Sikh precepts in English is impressive.

Dr Cheema chaired the session in which the main presentation was by me. His comments showed the facility of his understanding of Sikh ethos and in several cases he cited ayyats from Quran to buttress his views. An amazingly erudite and helpful person

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‘Munshi Mehboob Alam’s standpoint was that Punjab has two languages.  One is spoken by the unschooled and unsophisticated masses. It is named Punjabi. The other is the language of the refined and educated Punjabis. It is called Urdu. But Urdu is not an alien or borrowed language. It is only the refined and civilized form of Punjabi.’

I think this continues to be the general take in Punjab Pakistan even today. The educated families mostly converse in Urdu even if they happen to be traditional Punjabis and not progeny of migrants from UP etc. A similar trend is emerging in Punjab [India] where school children are speaking in Hindi in increasing numbers. The reason they told me was that in schools they are allowed to speak only in Hindi.

In both parts Urdu and Hindi are the preferred language of the elite – with English in a supra elite position.

This debate wears thin as we move away from the Hindi heartland – which incidentally is nearly the same as the Urdu heartland of earlier days.

Punjab has been at the center of this almost civilization clash between native Hindus and invading Muslims going back several centuries. We cannot however totally term it fallout of this divide. Even in the times of Gurus in spite of the prevalence of Arabic, Farsi and emerging Urdu on one hand the inner language hierarchy preferred by the Punjabi elites seems to have been Farsi, Braj and local language with Sanskrit and Arabic secure in their positions as languages of religious texts.

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