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Urdu Bagh faces last hitches in the way of its inauguration

Urdu Bagh faces last hitches in the way of its inauguration

KARACHI: An excited Dr Fatema Hassan is making hectic efforts, running from the mayor to the chief minister and to many others who matter, to get removed the last hitches in the way of inauguration of Urdu Bagh — a dream project of the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu named after a building in Aurangabad, India, where the non-governmental organisation had spent its initial days.

The building, in Gulistan-i-Jauhar’s Block 1, is located on a plot of land measuring 5,331 square yards. It was acquired over two decades ago by Noorul Hasan Jafri, husband of pioneer feminist poet Ada Jafri, the then president of the organisation and noted poet and scholar Dr Aslam Farrukhi from the Karachi Development Authority.

“We can have it inaugurated tomorrow if we want to. The two-storey block of the building that will house our offices and library has been completed — which is the first phase of the three-phase project,” says the Anjuman’s honorary secretary while talking to Dawn. “A PMT [pole-mounted transmitter] has been installed and underground cables are being laid. We have received challans, or fee payment vouchers, for a water connection and all utilities will be in place very soon.” She says the Anjuman has paid Rs5 million to K-Electric for the electricity connection and Rs1.45m will be paid to the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board. The Nespak Foundation has carried out the construction, overseen by a five-member committee of experts working on a voluntary basis.

The second phase will see an auditorium and a car park. In the third phase, it will have a 30-room hostel, a bookshop, a printing press etc.

“I have written a letter to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to seek his help for the reconstruction of a 300-yard piece of road, the only link between it and University Road, which is in tatters. I have met Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar to request him to have the encroachments on the stretch removed and the squalid conditions improved. Some people did arrive there, apparently on the mayor’s order, but they just removed some bushes and went away thinking that their job was done,” she says, adding: “For inauguration I want the surroundings tidied.”

She says the funds for the building had been given in instalments by President Mamnoon Hussain, totalling over Rs36 million, from his discretionary funds. The president has committed to finance its third-storey’s construction also. “We wish he could do it in his incumbency.”

A picture dated May 9, 2015 shows the president, former Sindh governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan and legendary humour writer Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi jointly drawing the string to unveil the plaque and launch the project.

Dr Hassan says the Anjuman’s manifesto clearly states that its base will not be shifted out of Karachi. So its head office will remain in Sindh no matter how much it expands and branches out in the future.

About the present building’s future use, she says this question has been asked by many people with various suggestions, including its sale. “But I have resolved that at least in my tenure no asset of the Anjuman will be sold,” she says. “However, the 1,000-square-yard bungalow could be rented out to help meet the increased expenditures of the much bigger Urdu Bagh project.”

She admits that the Sindh government has already approved an annual grant of Rs15m. “This amount is spent on the salaries of the staff, holding various events and on publishing a monthly magazine and some research papers.” Dr Hassan says a lot of the building’s work has been done on a voluntary basis.

Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu, whose seed was sown by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Allama Shibli Naumani and Maulvi Abdul Haq in Aligarh in 1903 to promote Urdu language and literature and related culture, has grown into a shady tree. It has to its credit big achievements since it was shifted to Karachi from Delhi by Maulvi Abdul Haq, who earned the title of Baba-i-Urdu for his struggle and accomplishments for the language.

This new premises to house the Anjuman will be another milestone on its journey that began in a government building near the Civil Hospital Karachi. Besides his literary work, Maulvi Haq established a college on the ground provided with the building that has grown into a federal government Urdu university with an additional impressive campus for science and technology studies on University Road.

Like her predecessor Jamiluddin Aali, Dr Fatema Hassan as secretary of the Anjuman, helped by Prof Sahar Ansari as treasurer and Zulqarnain Jamil as president, has been very active on all fronts of the non-governmental organisation. Myriad literary events have been held here on a week basis. She had taken over from Jamiluddin Aali in 2014. Aaliji had taken over the reins of the Anjuman after the death of Maulvi Abdul Haq, who had been its secretary since 1912, in 1961.

When Maulvi sahib died, Aaliji was in Japan and rushed to the city to look after the burial ceremony of Baba-i-Urdu. He declared that the deceased had willed to be buried on the Urdu College premises. In an interview with this writer in 2009, Aaliji, however, admitted that there was no such will but he himself wanted the great litterateur buried there.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2017

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