Urdu writers asked to declare books are not anti Govt, national- Some Facts

The day began with a lot of frenzied outrage over yet another alleged attempt by the GoI’s to victimize Muslims and smother their freedom of expression, using Ministry of HRD.

The news selling like hot cakes in outrage circles is about National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL). Indian Express published an article this morning with the headline “Urdu writers asked to declare: My book not against the govt, nation”

NCPUL

The Headline is framed such that it appears every Urdu writer has to fill this declaration for writing books. But the article says:

The National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL), which operates under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, has introduced a form which requires authors of books NCPUL acquires annually to declare that the content will not be against the government or the country.

About a year ago NCPUL introduced a form for Urdu authors whose books NCPUL acquires. This form asks authors to declare that the content will not be against the government or the country. Here’s the declaration as Indian Express produced it:

“I son/daughter of confirm that my book/magazine titled which has been approved for bulk purchase by NCPUL’s monetary assistance scheme does not contain anything against the policies of the government of India or the interest of the nation, does not cause disharmony of any sort between different classes of the country, and is not monetarily supported by any government or non-government institution”

The express concerns here are that Freedom of Expression has been curtailed since authors are not supposed to criticize the government or country. The other implicit concern is that “Urdu language” is involved and in as much as Urdu is generally identified with Muslims, this is a gag order on Muslims authors!

This was the “news”, now let us look at facts:

  • NCPUL is a government body under MoHRD.
  • The form, as reported, is only for authors whose books are approved for bulk purchase by NCPUL, not all Urdu authors of India.
  • One of the stated objectives of NCPUL as per MoHRD website is, and we quote from MoHRD’s website:

NCPUL has been given the role of networking of Urdu organizations throughout the country so that the policies of the Government are implemented in all Urdu speaking areas of the country.

It cannot be expected that a government organization using the medium of Urdu to reach out to a section of population and educating them, including on government policies, promotes literature which talks against the government or the country. But it does not mean that literature critical to government is banned. It’s just that the government does not pay to promote it .

This is clearly not a new expectation. The report in Indian Express quotes NCPUL director Irteza Karim, citing a precedent where one such publication carried misinformation on Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a national figure. A huge controversy erupted and MoHRD was accused of spreading Misinformation. NCPUL was earlier looking into works themselves and sanitizing the content. But there were practical problems. Mr Karim explains and Indian Express quotes:

“The council has to face many problems; sometimes books written by one author are submitted under another’s name and we get embroiled in legal issues. Since we do not have the manpower to scrutinise every single line of each book, this form helps us place the onus on the authors”

Though the MoHRD is yet to come out with a statement on this controversy, it is amply clear that this is not a new expectation as it is made out to be, nor is the rationale of NCPUL at fault. It is merely a technical change. A shift in the onus of maintaining standards of content from NCPUL to the author themselves.

The outrage seems unwarranted and coming after one year of the said change, it seems it was dug out, rather than an issue which presented itself. Attention may also be drawn to the fact that MoHRD has been pushed in the docks very frequently by the media and this issue also has the same effect.

 

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