The Baba-e-Urdu : Abdul Haq and the role of language in Indian nationalism



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Abdul Haq was the secretary of the Anjuman Taraqqi-e-Urdu from 1912 to 1961. He was also a founder of Osmania University, one of the first universities in India to provide instruction in an Indian vernacular. He had a lifelong devotion towards improving the status of Urdu and of the Indian Muslim community at large. He was the figure most involved with the standardization of Urdu and establishment of this language as a symbol of Muslim identity. Through an analysis of Abdul Haq’s involvement in language reform movements and the politics of the early 20th century, especially considering the fallout after the 1936 meeting of the Bharatiya Sahitya Parishad, I seek to show the nature of language as a nationalist tool. I argue that language is not inherently associated with the nation-building process, but that it must first be standardized into a form which can be used as a political tool and a point of identification for the community rallied behind it.