In an article last month (“A silent invasion”) carried by another Pakistani daily, I argued for a ban on Indian movies and entertainment programmes and on children’s programmes dubbed in Hindi, because of the negative effects they are having on our language, culture and value system. My article had been prompted by the Prime Minister’s casual use of a Hindi word (“vishvas”), while addressing the Supreme Court in the NRO implementation case. The concern expressed by me was also voiced by some other commentators in the media.

Not surprisingly, there has been a sharp reaction from our so-called “liberal elite” to these comments. Khaled Ahmed, Director of the SAFMA Media School, has practically gone to the barricades. In an article in an English daily, he takes me to task for my “naïveté”. To some others, he is even more disparaging, calling one of them “intellectually challenged.”

After having lambasted those who disagree with him, he waxes erudite about the Sanskrit roots of the word “vishvas” and “bharosa”, the alternative which I had suggested Raja Pervaiz Ashraf could have used. It is of course no revelation that many words derived from Sanskrit are common to both Urdu and Hindi. They enrich our language as much as those of Farsi and Arabic origin and no one can possibly argue for discarding them.

Though both are of Sanskrit origin, bharosa is an Urdu word but vishvasis not. It does not exist in classical dictionaries of Urdu, such as the Farhang-e-Asafia (ed. 1898) or in Shakespeare’s Urdu-English dictionary (ed.1834).It was picked up by Raja Ashraf evidently because he has imbibed too much of the vocabulary of the Bollywood movies. If we do not draw a line, we could have a Prime Minister who greets his visitors with namaste and would be addressed by them as Pardhan Mantri Ji.

Khaled asserts that the “Pakistani ideologue” borrows words freely from Farsi, while shunning Sanskrit. But this preference goes back to centuries before anyone ever dreamt of Pakistan and is attributable to a natural cultural affinity felt by the Muslims of South Asia, rather than the machinations of the modern-day “ideologues”. After Independence, during the supposed heyday of the “Pakistani ideologues”, there has in fact been a sharp fall in the adoption of Farsi words, largely because of a decline in the teaching of Farsi in the schools. Thus, a suicide bomb explosion, a phenomenon of the last decade, is khud-kush dhamaka and, quite rightly, not infijar-e-intihari as in the Farsi term of Arabic origin.

Khaled distorts my article when he writes that I had expressed the fear that Indian cultural inroads would destroy Pakistan’s “ideology”. My objections to the import of Hindi words had as little to do with “ideology” as those of the French and Chinese governments, which have passed laws to protect their languages from the onslaught of English. Their aim is not to protect ideology, but to guard against the contamination of the national language by unwanted alien influences. For us, there is also another justification: with the Bollywood movies come also highly permissive moral standards, which are incompatible with our value system.

It is no coincidence that the same circles that have been remiss in protecting our languages against the influx of English and Hindi words have also been pressing for a rewriting of our history to bring it in sync with the version that Indian nationalists have been trying to popularise since the beginning of the Muslim freedom struggle in pre-partition India. This campaign, which used to be conducted surreptitiously, has now come into the open. Its main theme is a denial of the two-nation theory. From this central thesis flow a number of other false propositions: for instance, that the Muslims and Hindus co-existed in peaceful harmony for centuries before the advent of British rule; and that divisions between them were created by the British colonial masters in pursuance of a policy of divide and rule.

The latest success of the advocates of historical revisionism is the decision of the Punjab government to rename the Shadman Chowk in Lahore after Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter, who was hanged at the place in 1931 for the murder of a British police officer, an event which has as little to do with the history of Pakistan as the execution of Irish nationalists for the Easter Rising of 1916. Although the renaming was formally announced by the DCO of Lahore, the decision was actually taken by Nawaz Sharif. According to Indian press reports, the promise to rename the chowk was “extracted” from the PML-N Chief by Indian journalist Kuldip Nayyar in March this year.

It has been claimed that Quaid-i-Azam too had defended Bhagat Singh in a speech in the Central Legislative Assembly of India in September 1929. The truth is somewhat different. The Quaid never defended Bhagat Singh’s deeds and never called him a martyr. In this speech, he only defended the right of Bhagat Singh to a fair trial and opposed an ordinance promulgated by the British Governor General setting up a special tribunal to try him under a procedure that curtailed the opportunities of defence.

Yes, Shadman Chowk should be renamed. But it should bear the name of a Pakistani or Kashmiri shaheed, who can serve as a source of inspiration to those who are fighting for justice against heavy odds. There would be no better person after whom to rename the chowk than Maqbool Butt, the Kashmiri freedom fighter, who was hanged by India near Delhi in 1984, allegedly for the murder of a police officer, precisely the same offence for which Bhagat is celebrated as a hero in India. Bhagat’s statue was placed in the Indian Parliament in 2008, while Maqbool Butt is reviled in India as a “terrorist.”

Besides naming the chowk after Maqbool Butt, we should shift the Kashmir Solidarity Day, which is observed on February 5 every year, to February 11, the anniversary of his hanging. By doing so, we would be honouring the memory of all those Kashmiris, who have laid down their lives for freedom from Indian occupation

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.    Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com