Other States

In BHU, this madrasa-trained Hindu teaches Urdu

R.K. Sharma  

While the Sanskrit Department of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), has been at the centre of protests for two weeks now over the appointment of a ‘Muslim’ teacher, across the campus, the Urdu Department counts among its faculty Rishi Kumar Sharma, whose journey with the Urdu language started during his formative years in a madrasa in West Bengal.

One of seven teachers — the other six being Muslim — teaching Urdu at the department in the BHU’s Arts Faculty, Mr. Sharma’s story not only throws light on the history of the language in India, but also busts the myths regarding its perceived association with a particular religion.

Born in West Bengal’s Uttar Dinajpur district to a family from Bihar, Mr. Sharma’s family spoke Bhojpuri at home. Since other schools were a long distance away, his father, who ran a small hardware shop, sent him as a child to the village madrasa to learn Hindi.

“But, the madrasa teacher told me, since you are already here to study Hindi, why don’t you also study Urdu,” Mr. Sharma, 35, told The Hindu over the phone from Varanasi.

It was then that Mr. Sharma started developing an interest in Urdu and Persian. “Even as a little boy, I had decided that when I make a career, it will be in the Urdu language,” he said.

Mr. Sharma argues that madrasas in the country play an important role in the teaching and learning of the Urdu language. “Given its current state, Urdu is, in a way, being kept alive by madrasas,” he said.

Family support

Despite the popular misconception that today limits the Urdu language to the Muslim community, Mr. Sharma says his parents supported his education, delinking it from religion.

His fascination with the language continued into high school, where he chose Urdu as his “first language,” and continued till he completed his Class XII from a college in Kishanganj in Bihar. Mr. Sharma then went on to graduate from the Aligarh Muslim University before completing his M.A and M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

After working for five years at a local college in Uttar Dinajpur, he joined the BHU in 2015 as an Assistant Professor and specialises in contemporary fiction. His religious identity as a Hindu has never been a cause of negative discussion in his department, where he has always felt “welcome,” says Mr. Sharma.

Mr. Sharma feels that Urdu, like other subjects, should not be linked to a particular religion or community. “Urdu is a Hindustani zubaan (language), an Indian language. Anybody can and should study it, be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian. It is not a language of any particular religion,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 10:36:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/religion-no-bar-to-this-professor-of-urdu-in-bhu/article30041220.ece

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