The vows of scripts
I have often read/heard people rant about the bad status of Urdu in Hindi heartland, place where it originated and from where some of its best poets and writers came. Cities like Aligarh, Lucknow used to be centers of Urdu adab but no longer.
As usual blame goes to the government, a claim of systematic bias against Urdu due to which it was removed as a medium of instruction by the early governments of UP. It was only in the last decade that Urdu was again given the status of official language in UP and that too because of political considerations and not any love for the language.
I have no reason or evidence to doubt that indeed there might have been bias against Urdu in the years right after Independence. Partition and creation of Pakistan, the usual association of Muslims and Urdu, adoption of Urdu as the official language in Pakistan may all have played out in the minds of early policy makers, consciously or unconsciously. But even before partition, Hindi literature saw very strong movement towards more Sanskrit oriented vocabulary and attempts to replace Persian, Arabic and Desi words. This lead to the creation of some Hindi literature that was beyond the understanding of large masses because the spoken and day to day language retained its character and vocabulary.
I however have a very different caveat and my own explanation of why Urdu continues to suffer and I draw from my own personal experience. First thing to point out is that I have come across many people who wish they could read and understand Urdu. Urdu has a special appeal to young, primarily because of its poetry, its sher-o-shayari that is almost entirely love poetry. So the question remains, why does it continues to loose ground then?
I think one of the main reason is the almost exclusive use of Arabic script to write Urdu. I come from Lucknow and my language has a fair amount of Urdu but if you write something in Urdu in front of me, I cannot read it at all. If somebody could read it to me, I would understand but I am paralyzed by this lack of reading ability. USA and Britain are called two nations divided by the same language. I think Hindi and Urdu remain the same language divided by a script. Just by removing this high entry barrier, we can be sure that Urdu will attract many more admirers and pursuers. But just like religion, matters of languages are sensitive. I don't know how deep, if any, the attachment to the script runs but I once hared that Basheer Badr's original poetry collections were available in only Arabic script for a long time.
I have been making efforts to learn Urdu script to be able to read more of poetry and probably some other literature as well. My interest is strong enough to do it. Majority of the people just give up and rely on whatever small they can find or get their hands on which is really sad. Urdu is a beautiful language and I believe that making it readable without extra effort will go much further than an artificial identity forged around a script.