Is Pakistan part of Arab culture or part of Indian culture?


Judge Markandey Katju-
Judge Markandey Katju

Judge Markandey Katju is a former Justice of the Supreme Court of India and former Chairman of the Press Council of India. The opinions expressed are his own.

Sulman Ali’s article ‘New wave of Arabization’ published in asks the question: is Pakistan part of Arab culture or part of Indian culture?

I submit that this is part of Indian culture, and no amount of “Arabization” can reverse this.

For example, in much of our subcontinent we both speak the same Hindustani language (called Hindi in India and Urdu in Pakistan, although they are almost identical) and the culture revolves mainly around the language.

Urdu is an indigenous language (desi), unlike Persian and Arabic which are foreign languages. Let me explain this to you. Verbs in Urdu (called ‘kriya’ in Hindi and ‘fail’ in Urdu) are all in Hindustani (Urdu being Persianized Hindustani and Hindi being Sanskritized Hindustani), although nouns and adjectives in Urdu are often in Persian or Arabic. It is the verb that determines which language a sentence belongs to, not nouns or adjectives (see my article ‘What is Urdu’ online and my talk on YouTube).

Urdu poetry is loved by both Indians and Pakistanis (often members of the parliaments of India and Pakistan quote Urdu shers or couplets in their speeches, and mushairas are frequently held in both countries). Verbs in Urdu poetry are invariably in Hindustani (i.e., simple Hindi or simple Urdu which is spoken by the common man) although nouns and adjectives are often in Persian or Arabic.

Take for example the sher of the greatest Urdu poet Ghalib (who lived in Delhi, India, not Saudi Arabia):

“Dekho mujhe jo deeda-e-ibrat nigah ho

Meri suno jo gosh-e-naseehat niyosh hai ”

Here, the verbs “dekho”, “suno”, “hai” are all in Hindustani.

Likewise, one can take the shers of any Urdu poet and he will invariably find the verbs in Hindustani (although nouns and adjectives are often in Persian or Arabic). If the verb were in Persian, it would become a Persian couplet, not Urdu, and if it was in Arabic, it would become an Arabic couplet. This proves that Urdu is an indigenous language of the Indian subcontinent and is not a foreign language like Arabic. So how can Pakistani culture become part of Arab culture?

It is true that the Quran is in Arabic, and the namaz is recited in Arabic. But Latin has been the language of the Church in Europe for centuries, and church services were in Latin, including in France, England, Germany, and Spain. Does that make these countries part of Italy?

There is no doubt that Hindus and Muslims have different religions, but for centuries they have lived amicably, helping each other and celebrating each other’s holidays. It was only Britain’s divide and rule policy (see ‘History in the Service of Imperialism’ by BN Pande online) that artificially sowed the seeds of hatred within us. However, whenever an Indian (whether Hindu or Muslim) visits Pakistan, he receives tremendous love and affection there, and the same is true when a Pakistani comes to India.

In fact, India and Pakistan had been one country since the time of Akbar, who actually moved the capital of the Mughal Empire from Agra to Lahore in 1585 (due to the threat of the Uzbek ruler) , where he lived for 13 years.

Indians and Pakistanis have many similar dishes (biriyani, etc.), clothing (like shalwar kameez and sari worn by women), etc. Famous Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano wore a sari while singing the revolutionary song “Hum Dekhenge” in 1985 at Lahore Stadium to protest against the repressive military rule of General Zia ul Haq. Indians and Pakistanis have the same classical music (khyaal, thumri, qawwali, etc.)

Indians and Pakistanis living abroad socialize and mingle as if the partition had never taken place, and they often help each other. This is what I noticed during my travels abroad.

Once, I went to Paris with my wife and while walking on the Champs-Elysées, I saw 2 young men selling balloons. I thought they were Indian and started talking with them in Hindustani. They answered in Hindustani, one was from Lahore and the other from Faisalabad. They said they were selling balloons because they had to wait a few more months to get their work permit and they had to earn money while waiting. They were so happy to see us and talk to us, like they had met someone from their own country, and they offered us cold drinks.

Once my wife and I had lost our way in Rome, and a Pakistani man, seeing our predicament, spoke to us in Hindustani and told us not to worry. He then escorted us on a bus to our hotel (although his own destination was in the opposite direction).

Would an Arab have done this for us? I doubt. So does Pakistan belong to Arab culture or Indian culture?


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