'Urdu's space in Kalina not Byculla'

May 13, 2018, 09:15 IST | Anju Maskeri

In 2014, the Congress-led government had sanctioned Rs 10 crore for the construction of an Urdu Bhavan at Mumbai University's Kalina campus to promote the language

The state govt’s proposal to set up a centre for the language outside of the university, where it even has an allocated space, has language lovers crying foul

In 2014, the Congress-led government had sanctioned Rs 10 crore for the construction of an Urdu Bhavan at Mumbai University's Kalina campus to promote the language. Land was allocated and bhoomi poojan was performed. However, the project never saw the light of day.

Cut to present: The state government has proposed building the Urdu Bhavan in Byculla,. “The bhavan will come up on a 10,000 sqft area near the Agripada police station. And, if we get a larger FSI, we will be able to construct a four-storeyed structure with state-of-the-art facilities. We have asked the Centre to provide us with R50 crore for this,” says advocate Waris Pathan, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) legislator from Byculla, who has been at the forefront of getting approvals for this project. As per the proposal, the bhavan will have a library, convention centre, a girls’ hostel and will offer a range of new courses. “The Urdu readership in Byculla is high so it will see a lot of traction,” says Pathan

'It's not a Muslim language'
Yet, the news of the bhavan coming up at Byculla has lovers of the language divided. Members of Jai Ho Foundation, a charity organisation in Kurla, have written a letter to the Union Minority Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, CM Devendra Fadnavis, Governor C Vidyasagar Rao, education minister Vinod Tawde and MU VC Suhas Pednekar, requesting them to reconsider the location. “We want the centre to be built inside the varsity because that will make it more accessible to students. By constructing it in a Byculla bylane, they are propagating the misguided notion that it’s a Muslim language,” says Jai Ho’s president Afroz Malik. Presently, the MU has a bhasha (language) bhavan dedicated to Marathi and Sanskrit.

There have been talks about building a Hindi bhasha bhavan as well. Malik says Kalina is a strategic location which makes it convenient for people commuting from both the suburbs as well as from South Mumbai. Moreover, setting it up in a healthy academic atmosphere will only help promote the language, he adds. "MU has people enrolling from all walks of life. It also has students from overseas. Urdu will get more exposure," he states.

A matter of space
Meanwhile, the land allocated to the Urdu Bhavan at Kalina remains vacant. This is in stark contrast to the buzzing Urdu department, which has seen a sharp growth in the number of students as well as non-teaching staff. “The increasing curiosity around the language has translated into more people signing up for courses. The MA course sees more enrolments,” Dr Sahab Ali, head of Urdu department, says. Presently, the department has an overall strength of 200 students. While Dr Ali is happy to learn of a bhavan coming up in Byculla, he says it’s not enough. “I would want the centre to be built here because we are running out of space to accommodate students,” he says. The Urdu department at MU was established in 1982.

In 2013, Dr Ali had written to the Department of Minorities Affairs requesting the need for a bhasha bhavan to cater to the growing needs of the language. The request received the green light in 2014. The change in ruling parties resulted in the project languishing for years.

Farid Khan, convenor of Urdu Caravan, an NGO that promotes Urdu language and culture, says he sees merit in NGO Jai Ho's stand. "I believe a language will thrive in an academic setting."

DISCLAIMER: mid-day and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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