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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Politics of Language: by Abdul Jamil Khan

Urdu/Hindi: An Artificial Divide
African Heritage, Mesopotamian Roots, Indian Culture & British Colonialism
  • Abdul Jamil Khan

EXCERPT: Syed Mohammed Hanif Akhgar, the leading US Poet .....

Book overview

In a blow against the British Empire, Khan suggests that London deliberately set India's Hindu and Muslim populations against each other in the 1800s by artificially splitting their one language in two, then burying the evidence in obscure scholarly works outside the public view. "Divide and rule" - the British were experts at that. All language is political - and so is the boundary between one language and another. The author analyzes the origins of Urdu, one of the earliest known languages, and propounds the iconoclastic views that, (1) Hindi came from pre-Aryan Dravidian and Austric-Munda (rooted in the Middle East/Mesopotamia), not from Aryan Sanskrit, and (2) Hindi's script came from the Aramaic system, similar to Greek. Urdu/Hindi: An Artificial Divide integrates the "out of Africa" linguistic evolution theory with the fossil linguistics of the Middle East, and discards the theory that Sanskrit descended from a hypothetical proto-Indo European language and by degeneration created dialects, Urdu/Hindi and others. It shows that several tribes from the Middle East created the hybrid by cumulative evolution. The oldest groups, Austric and Dravidian, starting in 8000 BC, provided the grammar/syntax plus about 60% of vocabulary, Sanskrit added 10% after 1500 BC and Arabic/Persian 20-30% after AD 800. The book reveals Mesopotamia as the linguistic melting pot of Sumerian, Babylonian, Elamite, Hittite-Hurrian-Mitanni, with a common script and vocabularies shared mutually and passed on to Indo-European, Sanskrit, Dravidian, Arabic and then to Hindi/Urdu; in fact the author locates oldest evidence of Sanskrit in Syria. The book exposes the myths of Sanskrit or Hebrew as "revealed" languagesand examines the fiction of linguistic races, i.e. Aryan, Semitic. The book supports the "one world concept" and reveals the potential of Urdu/Hindi to unite all genetic elements, races and regions of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. Khan bolsters his hypothesis with copious technical linguistic examples and quotes masters of Urdu/Hindi prose and poetry of the last three centuries, showcasing the passionate expressiveness of the language. * Abdul Jamil Khan, MD, served as chairman of a teaching hospital and as a professor of pediatrics he taught infant speech development in New York. From there, his research has extended into linguistics and history. His impetus stems from his early education, as he learned six languages by 10th grade and had to face political claims regarding "Divine Arabic" and "Divine Sanskrit," and experienced the tragedies of the British division of India and its language.

Limited preview - 2006 - 400 pages

Sound Bite
“Divide and rule” — the British were experts; and in creating out of one language the notion of a separate "Hindi" for Hindus in colonial India and "Urdu" for Muslims, they used even the definition of languages to set their colonial subjects against one another. Further, this language had its origin from Austric and Dravidian and not from the Indo-European Sanskrit, as is the dogma.

About the Author

Abdul Jamil Khan, M.D., of New York, served as chairman of a teaching hospital and a professor of pediatrics specialized in infant speech development; he has now extended himself into linguistics studies, challenged by the pseudo science of race- and religion- driven linguistics, which he implicates in the anti-Semitic holocaust; its Indian parallel, the partition massacre; and other human right violations, a gross anathema to a physician-humanist.

His drive, though, stems from early education, learning six languages by 10th grade, facing political claims of a “divine Arabic” and “divine Sanskrit” and experiencing the tragedies of British division of India and its language.

Dr. Khan, an author of some hundred medical publications, has lately spoken on humanities, linguistics and cultural themes at universities and elsewhere, including Brooklyn Historical society. He also authored a book on his Afghan ancestors' migration to India. Dr. Khan is a co-editor of a periodical “Health Message” and has received media attention in the US and in India. He was featured by Brad Gooch in God Talk (Random House 2002), and Linda Cateura in Voices of American Muslims (Hippocrene Books 2005).

In re-synthesizing the genetic history of Urdu-Hindi and exposing the myth of the Sanskrit language and its script, he builds on ideas promoted by Italian linguist Cavalli Sforza and the newest classification of languages by Merrit Ruhlen.

Book News | More »
DAWN, the English-language Pakistani news
To understand what impact language can have on culture, nationalism and politics, and how it can even influence the writing of history in hindsight, one should read about the strange phenomenon called the Hindi-Urdu controversy. This linguistic conflict inspired Hindu nationalism in 19th-century India and became one of the contributing factors in the creation of Pakistan.

The Urdu language has had a varied nomenclature through history. In the beginning Urdu was called Hindi or Hindavi. It was popularly known as Hindustani. Some Europeans called it Indostans and some of them even Moors, that is the language of the Muslims. Its other name was Zaban-i-Urdu-i-moalla-i-Shah Jahanabad, which became Urdu-i-moalla and ultimately Urdu.

But the origin and genesis of Urdu has always been a bone of contention among linguists. It is generally held that both Hindi and Urdu belong to the Indo-European or Indo-Aryan family of languages and both have their origin in Vedic Sanskrit.... What mars a scholarly debate with acrimony, though, is the question of religion, identity and nationalism that somehow has been associated with Urdu/Hindi: Muslims favouring an Arabic script to write the language with a vocabulary which is predominantly Arabic/Persian and Hindus, on the other hand, writing the same language (grammatically, that is) in Nagari script with a marked inclination towards a vocabulary that is Sanskrit or Dravidian in origin. The issue boiled down to a situation that said Urdu for Muslims and Hindi for Hindus .

The author, unlike several others who have dealt with the topic, has remained unaffected by his own cultural and religious background and is unbiased. In fact he feels that languages are not sacred. Neither are they related to religions or races. They are just a means of communication and are non-communal and secular and, therefore, should be seen as such. Instead of giving credibility to the notion of either side on the issue of Hindi-Urdu discord, he has unemotionally gone through the history of the language, meticulously sifting through the historical evidence of how the chasm between Hindus and Muslims was widened by carefully thought out policies of the British colonialists. The famous divide and rule policy not only divided the Indians on religious and political grounds but on linguistic grounds as well. Dr Abdul Jamil Khan has very rightly mentioned that the establishment of Fort William College at Culcutta (now Kolkata) by the British, in the year 1800, sowed the seeds of the conflict.

Dr Abdul Jamil Khan, being an expert in medical sciences, has given a lucid explanation of why the theory of man s origin out of Africa and its subsequent differentiation holds water. He says the recent discovery of a language gene code, named FOXP2, gives support to the estimation that a common African language started branching out about 100,000 years ago.

Another good aspect of the book under review is that it gives in brief the introduction of Urdu s foremost authors along with brief excerpts from their writings that are at times rendered in English. Anybody interested in an overview of Urdu literature will find it handy.
--Reviewed by Dr Rauf Parekh

Book News
The 'lingua franca' of the Indo-Pakistani people is one language, claims Khan, called Hindi when written in Nagari and Urdu when written in Arabic. He says it is not descended from Sanskrit, as conventionally believed, but is 10-12,000 years old and was influenced early by the Austric-Munda and Dravidian language families. Leaving aside any religious argument, he buttresses his theory with evidence from evolution, Sumerian, and the European concept of mythical races linked to linguistic families. His experience teaching pediatrics and infant speech development led him to the study of linguistics and history.

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