Inder Kumar Gujral, the 12th prime minister of India who passed away on Friday was described by people in Hyderabad as "the last of the veteran Urdu lovers from united India days" who had come to Delhi from Lahore during the partition of the country in 1947.
"I would call him the last of the noble souls that represented the culture of undivided Punjab and loved Urdu genuinely," noted humour writer Padmashree Mujtaba Hussain said.
Gujral headed the Committee for Promotion of Urdu that had been formed by the then PM Indira Gandhi in 1972 to go into ways of bringing back Urdu into schools and administration. He invited Mujtaba Hussain to write a chapter on journalism in the report. The panel which came to be known as Gujral Committee had luminaries of Urdu as its members who toured all over the country for three years and submitted the report to the government. As fate would have it the report was never implemented completely. When Gujral became PM in 1996 he formed a panel headed by poet-critic Al Sardar Jafri to find ways of implementing the report. The Jafri Committee Report too remained on the shelves.
Hussain believed that though the report could not see the day of the light Gujral was able to push some of its recommendations. For instance, he said, the formation of Urdu academies in AP and elsewhere and the setting up of the Council for the Promotion of Urdu in Delhi were part of his recommendations.
Gujral, a regular visitor to Hyderabad, had good relations with communist leader and freedom fighter Raj Bahadur Gour, poet Maqdoom Mohiuddin, journalists and activists Abid Ali Khan, Mahboob Hussain Jigar, and former State Governor Krishna Kant. Gujral, though a Punjabi wrote in Urdu. The collection of his articles 'Mazameen-e-Gujral' was published by Siasat Urdu daily that was then edited by Abid Ali Khan.
When Maulana National Urdu University was formed Gujral became his first chancellor in 1999. Manuu vice chancellor said, in a statement, that formation of the university in Hyderabad was based on the recommendations of the Gujral Committee. "We have lost an avid lover of Urdu. It is an irreparable loss to the country," he said.