Urdu ka janaza hai zara dhoom se nikle
(It is the funeral of Urdu thus should be a flaunting one)
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
1972 Language violence in Sindh occurred starting on 7 July 1972 when the Sindh Assembly passed The Sind Teaching, Promotion and Use of Sindhi Language Bill, 1972 which established Sindhi language as the sole official language of the province resulting in language violence in Sindh, Pakistan.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s cousin Mumtaz Bhutto led the provincial government in Sindh then and it is said that the Sindhi Language Bill had overt support of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The proclamation of Sindhi as the official language of Sindh caused the Daily Jang, an Urdu language newspaper in Karachi, to publish a full-page story on their front page surrounded by a banner with the statement "Urdu ka janaza hai zara dhoom se nikle" (It is the funeral of Urdu thus should be a flaunting one) by Rais Amrohvi.
Resistance to the imposition of Sindhi from the Urdu-speaking residents of the province – most of whom were muhajir (migrants) from north India – was both swift and severe. It resulted in deadly riots across urban centres in Sindh. The riots in Karachi were the most widespread.
The frenzy claimed hundreds of innocent lives, destroyed property worth millions of rupees and created hatred that had never been seen in the history of Sindh for thousands of years.
Despite Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s appeals to end bloodshed, 22 lives were lost in three days, many were critical with 150 wounded, according to Dawn. On July 9, some 20,000 people took to the streets as fires swept through Sindh.
After nine violence-ridden days, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto arrived in Karachi and, after consulting with representatives of both segments, a fresh language bill was presented on July 16 declaring both Urdu and Sindhi official languages in Sindh.
This calmed the charged atmosphere but the riots left behind dwindling trust between Urdu and Sindhi-speaking peoples.
No exact figures are available on how many people died in the riots which were quelled days later after the army took control of Karachi and other cities, and imposed curfew.
Urdu: The language of defiance
On the International Mother Language Day [*], Reema Abbasi wrote an article in Dawn, Karachi on February 23, 2020, under the title: Urdu: The language of defiance
Reema Abbasi writes in part:
National Language Day is a reminder of a bitter truth — deaths cannot bury a cause. Through the decades, Urdu has been dicing with death, and much blood has flowed to sustain it. Impassioned, young have served as consistent catalysts of both social justice and linguistic equality.
One such historic moment rests easy in Karachi’s chaotic Liaquatabad. A lofty board stands in a busy side lane; it bears the slogan of a memorable movement — Urdu ka janaza hai zara dhoom se nikle — a tribute to the Martyrs of Urdu, July 9, 1972.
Opposite, across a congested street, is Masjid Shuhuda-i-Urdu. A small brown gate in the far corner of its mosaic courtyard opens into a small enclave of seven large white graves; their tall, scalloped tombstones resonate with defiance and triumph.
A marble plaque beside the gate is the thread that binds and immortalises each one of them with a synopsis of the upheaval.
It reads: “These are monuments of innocent martyrs of the Urdu Movement in July, 1972, who were killed on the orders of the first chief minister of Sindh, Mumtaz Ali Bhutto. The police opened fire at demonstrations by unarmed men raising the slogan, ‘Urdu ka janaza hai zara dhoom se nikle’.” Patrons of Urdu buried them by the largest intersection of the city in Liaquatabad with the belief that guardians and inheritors of the language will remember their sacrifice. Anjuman-i-Shuhuda-i-Urdu.
“I renovated the graves in 2016 and placed the commemorative tablet. It’s the only graveyard where the name of the assassin is mentioned. The mosque and madressah is ‘qabza’. We wanted a minar, library and an auditorium,” says Dr Saleem Haider, chairman of the Mohajir Ittehad Tehreek.
* International Mother Language Day is observed worldwide on February 21. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) initiated this annual celebration of linguistic and cultural diversity in 1999. Tellingly, this day is commemorated in memory of February 21, 1952 language riots when students demonstrated for the recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of Pakistan. Many of these students were shot and killed by the police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.May 17, 2020