Islamic Voice
Rabi-ul-Akhir 1422H
July 2001
Volume 15-07 No:175

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Self-Made Wordsmith
U.S. Report on Religious Freedom: 'Minorities Unsafe, Attackers Go Scot Free, Laxity in Rule of Law'

Self-Made Wordsmith

Urdu can boast of a comprehensive, modern Urdu-to-English dictionary by next year, thanks to the painstaking efforts of a self-made lexicographer

Yakoob Miran Mujtahedi

Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

He sits behind a small, half oval table, flanked by an Urdu typewriter on one side and English on the other. Bent with age, he pores over an array of cards laid before him. Frequently his fingers reach out for keyboards and rattle off a few lines which are then passed on to a computer operator working inside a glass case.

Meet Yakoob Miran Mujtahedi! He has been at work for two full decades. His mission: To offer the world a modern Urdu-English dictionary with over 100,000 entries. His life’s mission is reaching fruition. By next year this time, the dictionary should be out. And the world of Urdu literature that has not seen work of such monumental proportions for decades, should be bowing its head in acknowledgement.

For Mujtahedi, an Urdu-English dictionary has been a consuming passion. Having been a translator in Andhra Pradesh government, he had often felt helpless for want of an Urdu-to-English dictionary that could aid translation from the language. This aroused a quest that kept burning in him till he himself decided to take a plunge and embarked on compiling a dictionary. Languages being organic, ever-evolving and constantly absorbing changes in the wake of developments in natural and human sciences and fast pace of science and technology, were no longer static. Urdu was no exception. While all English magazines regularly monitored the changes through literary columns, Urdu had suffered as there had been no systematic effort in lexicography. Words were accepted out of compulsion.

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Contours of the work Mujtahedi had to do became clear even while Mujtahedi worked with the Government as a translator. He had begun writing Urdu words on cards and their possible English equivalents and had been compiling them alphabetically. Trays of cards bearing alphabets kept piling up and were stored row upon rows in a series of shelves. Today Mujtahedi sits almost in a bookhive and spins entry after entries for his upcoming Urdu-English Dictionary, the outcome of his life’s labour.

Though there were three Urdu-to-English dictionaries compiled by John Shakespeare, Duncan Forbes and S. W. Fallon, they were over 150 years old. While on one hand they had become respositories of hundreds of obsolete words, lack of updating had rendered them irrelevant when it came to thousand of words being added to Human knowledge every day. Other works of recent origin were too limited in their purpose and left a lot to be desired. All along there had been no attempt at periodically updating them.

Mufukhkham Jah inaugurating the Computerization work of Dictionary

Mujtahedi visualized a modern dictionary where besides meanings, pronunciation in Roman script, usage, part of speech, vocabulary associated with Lucknowi, Deccani and Lahori variants of Urdu etc. were provided. Proverbs emanating from Urdu words were also listed with proximate English equivalents. In one instance, 500 proverbs coming out of the term Aankh (eye) were listed. Culture-specific words such as suhag (happy and auspicious state of wifehood) did pose ticklish moments for Mujtahedi as no single-word equivalents were readily available. These were explained through notes. Entry like Abdaal took almost 80 words to explain. One even feels surprised to know that commonly used English words such as Interview have Urdu equivalent i.e., Musaharat.

UdruDictionary3.jpgAccording to Mujtahedi, his dictionary with nearly 1.25 lakh entries would be the most comprehensive and authentic work of its kind. Says he, “Meticulous research has gone into ensuring the accuracy of the meaning and translations of the word. Even those who cannot read Urdu script can benefit from the work as all information in the entries is also provided in transliterated form thereby widening the scope for usage in India.”

Words from other languages commonly finding use in Urdu and Urdu denizens in English too have been shown. Similarly, the dictionary comprises words that are technical in nature but are used in common parlance, idioms, phrases, several bureaucratic and administrative terms coined during the Nizam era such as abkari, atiyat etc too have been included. Hindi words making forays into Urdu due to audio-visual media such as pradhan mantri, tamas, atankvadi etc have also been introduced.

Though English to Urdu translation has been easy, thanks to presence of the dictionary of Maulvi Abdul Haq, the vice versa has always posed problems. Mujtahedi’s long experience enabled him to come to grips with practical problems involved in transferring the sense from one language to another.

Thanks to help from several philanthropists and HEH The Nizams Trust, Mujtahedi’s dictionary is now being compiled on computer. Likely to be spread over 3,000 words and four volumes, nearly three-fourths of computer pages are now ready. The computerization work was inaugurated last July at a public ceremony by grandson of the seventh Nizam, Prince Mufukhkham Jah in Hyderabad. The Syed Hashim Memorial Trust will be publishing the dictionary. “Allah willing, the first comprehensive dictionary will see the light of the day in India next year”, says Mujtahedi with a sigh of satisfaction. Mujtahedi can be contacted at: Dictionary House, 16-3-807/1/A, Chanchalguda, Hyderabad-500024, phone: 040-4577172.

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U.S. Report on Religious Freedom

'Minorities Unsafe, Attackers Go Scot Free, Laxity in Rule of Law'

India is placed in the category of ‘CPC’ Nations

By A Staff Writer

New Delhi: The US has warned India that it was close to being labeled a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for violating religious freedom and failure to safeguard the religious minorities.

In a strongly- worded 188-page report released in Washington on April 30 the US Commission on International Religions Freedom, asked the Bush Administration to take up the twin issues of religions freedom and human rights with Vajpayee government “as the US Government pursues greater engagement with India on a full range of issues.” It even recommended linking the trade and investment and waiving of economic issues with the improvement in protection of minorities issue. It also urged the US government to allocate funds from its foreign assistance programmes for the promotion of education on religious tolerance in India”. For year 2000, $48.5 million in development assistance was earmarked for India and $82.4 million in PL-480 food assistance.

Expressing concern over the spate of violence, the US Commission second annual report says: “The violence is especially troubling because it has coincided with the increase in political influence of the Sangh Parivar, a collection of exclusivist Hindu nationalist groups of which the current ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party is a part.”

Curiously, the report, a corollary of a 1998 legislation aimed at making international religious freedom an integral part of the US foreign policy, was released on a day when New Delhi was otherwise ecstatic about the US State Department Report on Global Terrorism which is highly critical of Islamabad. It is to be mentioned here that labeling a country as a CPC amounts to almost designating a state as a ‘sponsor of terrorism’ in the 1998 law.

The report is critical of Vajpayee government’s failure to prosecute the culprits involved in violence, thereby helping to foster a climate in which Hindu extremists believe that violence against religious minorities will not be punished.

Citing the glaring examples of government’s abject failure to prosecute Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thakeray and Bajrang Dal member Dara Singh, the report says; “A magistrate in the state of Maharashtra dismissed charges against Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray for his role in initiating violence against Muslims in the riots following the destruction of the Babri Mosque. Similarly, Dara Singh remained at large even after he was directly implicated in orchestrating the mob that murdered the Staines.”

Highlighting the deficiencies in India’s judicial and law enforcement infrastructure, the Report says, National Minorities Commission and National Human Rights Commission have been hampered by limited authority, lack of cooperation by the state governments and in the case of the former, decision of questionable objectivity.

Providing an incisive account of violence against India’s second largest community, the Report notes that , “as Hindu Nationalist groups have gained ground in India, the concerns of the Muslim Community have heightened.” Riots following the destruction of Babri Masjid left up to 3,000 dead, mostly Muslims. The Srikrishna Commission found that the Shiv Sena Party government in Maharashtra state engaged in deliberate and systematic effort to incite violence against Muslims. However, the Sena government called the report “anti-Hindu” and refused to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

The Report also takes note of Prime Minister Vajpayee’s utterances proclaiming that the building of a temple on the site was ‘an expression of national feeling’ and part of the ‘unfinished agenda’ of his government.

Terming the attacks on Christians and their institutions as most troubling the report says, “Since January 1998, violence against Christians has increased dramatically in India. In fact, there has been more violence recorded against the Christian Community in India in the past two years than in the previous 52 years since independence - 116 attacks including killing, torture, rape and harassment of Church staff, destruction of church property between January 1998 and February 1999 - and unofficial figures may be higher. Catholic church sources in India put the number at 400 (by the end of 2000).

Dwelling upon issue of conversions, the report criticizes Indian governments attempts to introduce national bills that would ban conversion of Dalit and tribal people, the report mentions Supreme Court ruling against conversion.

Under a chapter titled as “ Hindu nationalism and the BJP’, the Report flays the Hindutva ideology. “The recent increase in violence against religious minorities has been associated with the rise in power of Hindu nationalist organizations, political wing, BJP.” The ideology of Sangh Parivar holds that only Hindus are “real” Indians, suggesting that non-Hindus are foreigners and thus deserving of suspicion and even attacks. Sangh Parivar groups argue that previous leaders of India failed to create a nation sufficiently grounded in Hindu culture (Hindutva), and the western thought including the concept of secular government, is dangerous and detrimental to India, along with conversion to what they claim are “foreign” religions such as Islam and Christianity.

One alarming development in the past year was the call by RSS leader K. S. Sudarshan for the government to ‘nationalise’ the minority religions in India. The VHP website proclaims that “ the teaching of Bharatiya Culture (Bharat is the motherland of the Hindu nation) and dharma (should) be made compulsory” and that “Hindu interest is the national interest.”

The report suggests that rising tensions between the ruling BJP and its associate organizations are at least partly behind the Vajpayee governments reluctance to pursue perpetrators of sectarian violence in India. It is also critical of Home minister L. K. Advani’s presence at RSS annual meeting in October 2000 at Nagpur. Advani who may succeed Vajpayee as leader of the BJP, attended this meeting.

The report has been produced by a 10-member Commission. Three of its members are appointed by the President, three others by the President’s party and four by the Congressional leaders of the party which is not in the White House.

TheCommission’s recommendations and its harsh tone and tenor against India would have caused heartburn in the South Block and would have seen as US attempt to interfere in India’s internal affairs. For example, ‘the US government-should make clear its concern to the BJP-led Governmnent that virulent nationalist rhetoric is fuelling an atmosphere in which perpetrators believe they can attack religious minorities with impunity.”

In light of recent statements from RSS leaders, the Indian Government must continue to make absolutely clear its opposition to any move toward establishing “nationalized churches” or state controlled religious institutions, or to interfere improperly with relations between Indian religious communities and their foreign co-religionists.”

“The US should press India to allow official visit from government agencies concerned with human rights, including religious freedom.

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