Friends of Urdu

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Jatin Gandhi has covered politics and policy for over a decade now for print, TV and the web. He is Deputy Political Editor at Open.
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It is a rare occasion in Parliament when leaders of all parties agree with one another. And when they do, you know vote-bank politics is lurking around the corner. It started during zero-hour one fine afternoon in the Lok Sabha. Basudeb Acharia of the CPM and Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI backed what SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had to say. Their bitter parting in 2008 notwithstanding, when Yadav drew the attention of the Government and fellow MPs to the state of Urdu language newspapers, he got support from the Left on the matter. Yadav was speaking for Urdu barely a fortnight after he had apologised to “the entire country and Muslims in particular” for his association with Kalyan Singh. “If you want to wipe out a community, you target its language,” he said, adding that government institutions were doing exactly that by not advertising in Urdu newspapers. The conspiracy to wipe out Urdu, he said, was aimed at ultimately hurting India’s Muslims. Of course, he used the opportunity to demand job reservation for Muslims too. No sooner had Yadav stopped speaking than Gopinath Munde, the BJP’s deputy leader in the house, extended support to Yadav’s cause. BSP leader Dara Singh Chauhan too discovered that his views were not different from the SP leader’s and the BJP’s. Leader after leader spoke in favour of Mulayam Singh’s demand that advertisements be restored to Urdu papers. Union ministers Ghulam Nabi Azad and Farooq Abdullah found themselves concurring with the BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha and Ganesh Singh. Abdullah even praised Bollywood for its service to Urdu. Azad praised Munde. The CPI and CPM found support in their concern for Urdu in Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee’s broken Urdu. Pranab Mukherjee assured action. Everyone agreed with everyone and the House adjourned for lunch. Long live Urdu!