Royal Holloway University of London Department of History
and The University of Leeds School of History
Event Date: 9 and 10 September 2010
Royal Asiatic Society 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1
Taylor Sherman – From ‘the language of the bazaar’ to a ‘minority language’: Urdu and the Idea of the Minority in Postcolonial Hyderabad, 1948-56
Between Independence in 1947 and the reorganisation of South India’s states along linguistic lines in 1956 Urdu experienced a dramatic fall from favour. It was reduced from being a candidate for the national language and holding the position of official language in Hyderabad State to being a minority language in the new linguistic states of South India. Shortly after the Police Action of 1948, Hyderabad’s multilingual order was reshuffled as Urdu was ousted from its position of primacy: in the lower and middle tiers of education and government it was replaced by local languages (Telugu, Kannada, and Marathi) and in the higher tiers it was often replaced by English. This paper explores these policies and some of the popular responses to them. It examines the debates amongst Urdu speakers about these changes and analyses the new ways Urdu speakers came to defend and promote the language. In so doing it explores the meaning of the idea of the ‘minority’ in early postcolonial India.