Urdu speakers

Samar Abbas abbas at IOPB.RES.IN
Tue Dec 1 18:08:23 UTC 1998

  The number of Urdu speakers in Bengal is a controversial topic; the
govt. of Pakistan did not recognize the Bengali language as being spoken
by Muslims and officially declared that all `East Pakistanis' spoke Urdu.
Subsequently after independance the govt. of Bangladesh only recognized
Bengali (the converted Hindus took over with the help of the Indian
govt.), and declared that only a few thousand persons spoke Urdu or
Hindustani. Both the views are wholly biased, although several `censuses'
have data supporting one view or the other.

  The best unbiased censuses were made by the British. Sir H.H.Risley in
his book, `The People of India' states that the number of `Foreign
Immigrant Mussulmans' in Bengal was estimated to be half of the total
Muslim population by the British Indian Census. These are all
Urdu speakers. I think this is a good compromise between the two extremes;
thus I would say about half of the Bengali Muslims speak the eastern
dialect of Hindustani ( I think it is called Sharqi but am not sure),
while the other half (the converts) speak Bengali.

 Otherwise some figures are given at the Ethnologue database at
http://www.sil.org/ethnologue but the estimate of 50-50 Urdu-Bengali is
still the best.


On Mon, 30 Nov 1998, Ruth Laila Schmidt wrote:

> Dear members of the list,
> I suddenly find I need to know the number of Urdu speakers in Bangladesh
> and Nepal, but do not have access to the censuses of these countries. For
> Nepal, I have the information provided by Wolf Donner in _Lebensraum Nepal_
> (1994) that there were 2,650 Urdu speakers there in 1961.
> As according to the last, Indian census there were 8,542,463 Urdu speakers
> in Bihar and 1,455,649 in West Bengal, it seems reasonable that there may
> be some in Bangladesh and Nepal as well.
> Is there some kind soul out there who has access to this information who
> can send me the figures or tell me where to find it? I have access to
> reference works but not to censuses.
> With grateful thanks,
> Ruth Schmidt
> ***********************************************
> Ruth Laila Schmidt
> Dept of East European and Oriental Studies
> University of Oslo
> P.O. Box 1030 Blindern
> N-0315 Oslo, Norway
> Phone: (47) 22 85 55 86
> Fax: (47) 22 85 41 40
> Email: r.l.schmidt at east.uio.no

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