Bhopal: Through years of toil, Sameer Kumar (name changed), a student of class 9th, mastered the Urdu language. The boy who was struggling to read the tongue-twisting words and curved alphabets of the Urdu language two years ago, is now well versed with the couplets of well-known Urdu poets like Mirza Ghalib, Meer Taqi Meer and so on.
Sameer was so fascinated with the new language that he wrote his name in Urdu in all his books, copies and often searched for Urdu writers and poets on YouTube. Seeing his keen interest in the language, his
father, who is a state government official, appointed a home tutor for Urdu. But Sameer was left devastated when St Joseph’s Co-Ed School, Arera, where he studies, announced they will drop Urdu from class 9th syllabus and offer only Hindi and Sanskrit.
St Joseph’s Co-Ed School - Arera, which was established in 1986, is one of the most reputed schools in Bhopal. The city itself was ruled by Nawabs for centuries. Once, Urdu was the official language of the city, widely spoken by the majority of the population.
“He grasped the language very well and was scoring good numbers in it as well. I love our Indian languages and Urdu is the politest language I have ever heard,” said Sameer’s father, adding that he was upset when the school announced to discontinue Urdu without any explanation.
The missionary school, governed by the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) guidelines, offers four languages -- Hindi, Sanskirit, Urdu and French -- to class 9 students. But, it dropped French when less than ten students opted for the subject. However, even after nearly 50 students of the school (from all sections of the society) opted for Urdu, the school decided to discontinue it without any specific reason.
Left with no option, Sameer chose to take up Hindi, said his father.
The missionary school’s decision did not only upset Sameer, but many, including Huneza Khan (name changed) who wanted to appear in Civil services examinations by opting for Urdu language.
“The school’s decision left Huneza so devastated that she cried for days and quit eating until we promised to meet the school authorities and urge them to reinstate the subject,” said her 42-year-old mother.
When a delegation of parents met with the principal of St Joseph’s Co-Ed School, Melvyn CJ, asking to reinstate Urdu, he apparently replied saying, “Go to Madarsa if you want to teach Urdu to your kids,” according to one of the parents.
His reply left many of the parents speechless. "She was studying there from KG 2 and now the principal is asking to take her to a Madarsa to study Urdu. Is it a religious language?" lamented Huneza’s mother.
This is the fourth such attempt by the school in the last five-six years to discontinue Urdu. But they reinstated the language every time after backlash. However, this time, the school authorities are extremely reluctant to roll back the order, forcing students to opt for Sanskrit or Hindi, an anxious parent alleged.
While another parent said, “Urdu is one of the officially recognised languages of the country in the eighth schedule of the constitution and a missionary school is bluntly denying to teach this. This is not only shameful but also a sheer violation of CBSE guidelines. How can they do so?”
As per the CBSE guidelines, School cannot deny to teach any language to the students even if there is one taker, she added.
State Urdu Academy, NGOs Wrote to School
After the row, the Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy and several NGOs approached the school as well as Bhopal Archbishop Dr. Leo Cornelio to incorporate Urdu. A complaint has also been made to the National Child
Rights Commission referring to the mental harassment faced by the students after the school’s decision.
Backing the demand to reinstate Urdu, in a letter to the school authorities,the Director of Madhya Pradesh Urdu Academy, Nusrat Mehdi wrote, “Urdu was born, developed and grown in India. It is not only a language of communication but a symbol of national unity. Many states have separately formed a department for the promotion of Urdu language just like MP’s Urdu Academy.”
“Hence, we humbly request you to continue Urdu as a subject because it’s not just a language of literature and poetry, but also a language of love and affection,” the letter said.
While Masood Khan of Muslim Coordination Committee asked that in a city where Urdu was a State language for centuries and majority of Bhopal’s population still speaks Urdu, how could a school under CBSE drop the subject when the students were willing to learn it.
“Dozens of missionary schools offer Urdu as an optional subject in Bhopal, but a few schools are deliberately trying to discontinue it,” Masood said adding that it was not a small issue or just about one language alone, but also about injustice to hundreds of students who are not being allowed to use an option or being forced to abruptly stop learning a language.
But, even after months, St Joseph’s Co-Ed School authorities are firm on their decision despite widespread outrage.
When contacted, Leo Cornelio, Chairman of the missionary schools in Bhopal, said, “I have also received some requests to reinstate Urdu and have conveyed the same to the school. But, I’m not part of the school’s day-to-day affairs, and the school principal should be questioned over the issue.”
Even after a week-long attempt, the school’s Principal Melvyn CJ did not respond to Newsclick’s calls or messages. The Public Relation Officer of the School, Vasundhara Sharma, refused to comment on the issue.