Noting that Urdu is one of the strongest links between India and Pakistan, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) chairman Sudheendra Kulkarni has said that its power has not been harnessed to bring people across the borders closer.
"Urdu, a language born in Indian soil, reminds us of the common linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage of India and Pakistan. It is one of the strongest links between our two countries. However, the power of Urdu to promote better understanding and closer people-to-people relations between India and Pakistan has not been harnessed so far," he said.
"Urdu is also a force for secularism, communal harmony and national integration. Its promotion is the common responsibility of Hindus and Muslims," he added.
Kulkarni was felicitating Shamim Tariq, a noted Urdu writer who has won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award 2015 for his scholarly book Tasawwuf aur Bhakti: Tanqeedi aur Taqabuli Mutalea here recently.
The book describes the beautiful confluence of Islam and Vedanta philosophies in India’s Sufi and Bhakti traditions, he said.
The function was jointly organised on Saturday by ORF Mumbai and Urdu Markaz, a Mumbai-based literary and cultural organisation.
Shamim, an eminent Urdu columnist and director of the Karimi Library at Anjuman-i-Islam, was felicitated with a citation and a cash honor of Rs.50,000. Doing the honors was Dr Zahir Kazi, President of Anjuman-i-Islam, one of the oldest and largest educational institutions in India.
The function saw soulful rendering of Sufi-Bhakti songs by Smita Bellur, a Hindustani classical singer who is also a visiting fellow at ORF Mumbai.
In his talk on ‘The Sufi-Bhakti Heritage: Its Importance for India’s National Integration’, Tariq covered vast terrain of works of Sufi saints (Amir Khusro, Bulleh Shah, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, others), Bhakti saints (Tulsidas, Surdas, Namdev, others) and even ‘secular’ poets such as Iqbal, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hasrat Mohani and Tagore.
He explained how Bhakti poets have extolled basic principles of Islam (Unity of God being the foremost among them) and how Sufi saints have praised the love of God and humanity in the Hindu tradition. The common endeavour of both was to spread the message of compassion, justice, peace and brotherhood, he said.
One of Tariq’s ongoing projects is the creation of a digital archive of rare manuscripts of the Ramayan, Mahabharat and other Hindu texts in Urdu and Persian, many of them 300-400 years old, at the Karimi Library.
In a unique initiative, ORF Mumbai and Urdu Markaz have decided to work together in the activities of the Mumbai-Karachi Friendship Forum, ORF’s newly created platform to promote India-Pakistan people-to-people relations, Kulkarni said.
The two organisations will also jointly organise a statewide Urdu-Marathi Literary and Cultural Conference in 2016. Its purpose is to bring Urdu-speaking and Marathi-speaking people closer and to promote understanding about the best of each other’s literary and cultural traditions.