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Urdu now 2nd language in Bengal

Urdu now 2nd language in Bengal

Author: Saugar Sengupta
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 22, 2007

Buddha offers sop to Muslims

After getting a bloody nose from the Jamat-e-Ulema-I-Hind in the peasants' movement in Nandigram and realising that the agitation may affect the ruling Left Front's minority votes, the West Bengal Government is planning to win back Muslims through a host of schemes that include recognising Urdu as the second State language, besides launching a massive publicity blitzkrieg.

In a brief statement, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Wednesday said his Government was taking steps to accord the "most favoured language" status to Urdu. "We are taking steps to recognise Urdu as second State language," the Chief Minister said, adding the scheme will apply in select areas to begin with and "the district magistrates have been told about the Government's plans."

In the initial phase, the minority population residing at Asansol, Islampur and Metiabruz in Kolkata would benefit from the new measure, Bhattacharjee said. A set of Muslim leaders, including writers and professionals, had earlier drawn the Government's attention towards the "neglect" that the language had reportedly been suffering during the Marxist regime.

The shift in Government's policy comes in the wake of anti-campaign launched by JUH State general secretary Siddiqullah Chowdhury who went to town with the news that the Government was targeting the lands held by the Muslims while acquiring the farmlands for industrial purpose and SEZs.

According to Minister of State for Minorities Abdus Sattar, "the Government should immediately counter the motivated campaigns launched by Chowdhury who is trying to break the electorate along communal lines." Chowdhury has armed his campaign with the latest Sachar Committee report that speaks about the poor condition of the minorities in West Bengal underscored by the very fact that only 4.5 per cent of Muslims were in Government job while they form 25 per cent of the State's population.

Sattar is known to have written a letter to the Chief Minister who is also in charge of Information and Culture portfolio to start a publicity campaign highlighting the benefits the Muslim community has derived from land reforms and panchayati raj. "The communal harmony in the State would also be highlighted," Government sources said.

"Land reforms and introduction of panchayati system have combined well to uplift the condition of the Muslims in the State. West Bengal is today communally the most peaceful State in the country," said Sattar.

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