Often one sees ‘liberals invoking Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb or the Syncretic Hindu Muslim culture of North India every time they hear the idea of New India. In reality, they see it as an attack on anything Muslim by the BJP.
In their perception the attack ranges from any mention of widening the scope of our history textbooks which is seen as an attack on the ‘glorious’ example of our syncretic culture – the Mughal Rule, to a mere suggestion of increased use of Sanskrit which is seen as a direct threat to Urdu, to dare I say Ram Mandir where all hell breaks loose.
I want to specifically talk about Urdu, a language I love and learnt to read and write. One often hears the lament ‘Oh Urdu has been made a Muslim language by these Sanghis’. This I would describe in the Urdu idiom as ‘Ulta Chor Kotwal ko daante’ or ‘pot calling the kettle black’.
Urdu is classified as an Indic language based on Sanskrit with verbs and adjectives borrowed from Arabic and Persian and was simply called Hindi till the 18th century and is even now the lingua franca of most of North India. However, the ‘Muslimization’ of Urdu started more than a century ago when the Muslim reformist Syed Ahmed Khan set out to translate western curriculum into Urdu in Persian script for the Muslims of India.
This was further intensified when the Muslim League chose to conduct its business in Urdu disregarding members from other parts of India who had no connection with this North Indian language. Urdu became a political symbol of Indian Muslims long before the S of Sanghi or the J of Jan Sangh (BJPs pre-curser) was even an idea.
An example of Urdu being the political symbol is the state of Jammu and Kashmir which has Urdu as its official language despite the fact the Valley dwellers speak Kashmiri yet claim Urdu as their ‘madari zubaan’ or mother tongue. This is also the reason why Sharda the Kashmiri Script has been wiped out from the valley because it resembles the ‘Hindu’ Devanagari script. Not surprisingly even in South India, you will see Urdu script on boards outside Mosques even when they don’t understand a word of Urdu!
Social media has given rise to a few stars, without naming them, one such celebrated star an alumnus of the Aligarh Muslim University and a fierce keeper of the Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb often shares meat recipes, pictures of dastarkhwaan, and shots from various Dargahs and Mosques.
Once I asked her on twitter why doesn’t she broaden the scope and include other symbols like the Kashi Vishwanath temple, the city of Varanasi, Mathura, Vrindavan which are as much a part of this culture? Naturally, there was no response. You either take it or leave it .. ‘you Sanghi’.
The other is a darling of Delhi’s Liberals, captures life in Delhi through his iPhone X and also writes a column in one of the daily newspapers. His posts are mostly in and around the Nizamuddin Dargah. I once dared to ask him if he could post from other aspects of our syncretic culture, and not limit it to Hazrat Nizamuddin, I think I greatly upset him and his followers.
In my Urdu happy life, I followed a few known liberals only to realise ‘Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb’ is not so ‘Syncretic’, it is a one-way street. So long as I abuse Modi violently, recite Faiz, visit Ajmer Sharif, cook shaljam gosht (turnip and lamb curry), listen to Begum Akhtar and read Arundhati Roy I am a fine liberal and part of the club. Everything else is Sanghi. It is as black and white as that!
It breaks my heart to write that Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb has no place for people like me who love Urdu, Faiz, Begum Akhtar, Shaljam Gosht, and vote for BJP.