Awards were presented to Urdu scholars and poets in Madras University

It was Urdu that astronaut Rakesh Sharma used when he was asked by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to describe how India looked from space. “He said, Saare jahaan se achcha Hindustan hamara using poet Muhammad Iqbal’s poetry,” said Fathima Muzaffar of Indian Union Muslim League. That is enough reason to take pride in the language and promote it, she told a gathering of Urdu scholars and poets at a function in Chennai on Tuesday.

She said non-speakers of the language tend to dismiss it as a language used for mushairas, quawwalis and gazals. But it is a rich language with a literature of its own. “There is a mistaken belief that learning Urdu may be a hindrance to improve one’s economic prospects. But everywhere in the world, mother tongue is respected. In European countries children learn in their native language,” she said. She urged R. Thandavan, vice-chancellor of the University of Madras, who inaugurated a seminar on Sardar Jaffri – life and contributions - to create more job opportunities for Urdu speakers.

Dr. Thandavan recalled that his childhood was spent largely amid Muslim community and said he had high regard for the language though he did not understand it as well as Hindi. He launched five books and distributed awards to Urdu scholars and personalities who had contributed to the language and the community.

Syed Sajjad Husain, head of the Department of Arabic, Persian and Urdu, which organised the seminar, said 25 eminent scholars, poets and personalities were honoured for their contribution. “Every year we honour elderly scholars and those who have served the community. The programme had been suspended for several years now. We revived it this year,” he said.