On Saturday (16th December), a video of incumbent Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim endorsing Urduisation of West Bengal went viral on social media.
In a video shared on X (formerly Twitter) by user ‘Mintu Roy’, Hakim was heard saying, “Inshallah, one day will come when half of the population of Bengal will speak Urdu and recite poetry.”
His remark aimed at the promotion of Urdu in West Bengal was greeted with applause by Muslims present at the event. It must be mentioned that Bengalis have a history of resisting the imposition of non-native languages particularly Urdu.
In fact, one of the reasons leading up to the Bangladesh Liberation War was the imposition of Urdu over Bengali in then-East Pakistan.
As such, the prophecy by Kolkata Mayor that half of the State of West Bengal will one day speak in Urdu was meant to spark controversy. The viral video of Firhad Hakim was recorded on 11th February 2021 during an event hosted by the West Bengal Urdu Academy.
During the event dubbed ‘Mushaira 2021’, he was heard saying, “There was a time when Urdu speakers did not feel like they belonged to Bengal. There was no official status for Urdu. I want to thank Mamata Banerjee for making Urdu the second official language of Bengal.”
“We have increased the budget of the Urdu Academy to ₹15 crore,” he informed. Firhad Hakim said that his ancestors came from Bihar and spoke Urdu at home. He also called upon the West Bengal Urdu Academy to take measures to propagate the language in the State of West Bengal.
It must be mentioned that Mamata Banerjee engaged in appeasement politics soon after becoming the Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2011. A year later in February 2012, she made Urdu the second language in areas of the State where Urdu speakers were equal to or more than 10% of the population.
The Trinamool Congress government had identified a total of 18 such Urdu-speaking areas -Goalpokhar I and II blocks, Islalmpur block, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Islampur Municipality, Garulia Municipality, Titagarh Municipality, Kamarhati Municipality, Bhatpara Municipality, Champdani Municipality, Bansberia Municipality, Bhadreswar Municipality, Rishra Municipality, Asansol Municipal Corporation, Jamuria Municipality, Raniganj Municipality, Kulti Municipality and Bally Municipality.