She deems Sanskrit a dead language and believes that this death occurred because the language lost its ability to adapt to the changing times.
I heard her on YouTube expressing this view at more than one forum, including the one that I have discussed in this post.
On this particular occasion, Zehra makes only a cursory comment on Sanskrit (relevant part: 13:21 min), but there is another YouTube video I have watched in which she makes a fuller statement turning Sanskrit into a metaphor for linguistic extinction.
(In that video, she also suggests that Sanskrit became extinct because its use was restricted to “religion”.
I haven’t had time to locate that particular video and link it here, but reader can easily look for Zehra’s videos on YouTube. She has repeatedly expressed the opinion described above.)
Zehra made the remarks in question at Karachi Literature Festival that took place over three days in February 2017.
In this post I have commented on Zehra's remarks.
I have also commented on the utterances on Urdu of another guy who I learnt is a Delhi-based lawyer. He is Saif Mahmood. He made his remarks (relevant part: 16:50 min) at the 2016 edition of the same festival.
Arfa Sayeda Zehra is a glib speaker, but her portrayal of Sanskrit as an example of unavoidable death of a language through ossification of expression betrays the misconceptions that her milieu has knowingly harboured within itself.
She seems to call out the Islamism that has undermined cultural diversity and expression in Pakistan, but hardly realises that her own milieu is not unaffected by the same Islamism resulting in her holding pretty ignorant views about Sanskrit's relationship with cultures and consciousness of the people of India.
Associating Sanskrit -- which has continued to the present times to animate almost all Indic languages and cultural memes -- with "death" shows that she has pretty crude appreciation of that relationship and she herself has not been immune from the phantasmagoria that Islam's ethnocidal and epistemicidal system builds for itself everywhere.
Saif Mahmood says that a misconception has taken root in India that "Urdu is the language of the Muslims and Hindi is the language of the Hindus".
He says "everyone in northern and central India" speaks what he would term "Urdu" and yet there is this perverse "insistence" on calling it "Hindi"!
"Ninety to 95 per cent of the words being used are Urdu words, such as kursi, maiz, etc," contends Mahmood.
(Really? Doesn't that imply that thousands of non-Farsi and non-Arabic words like aana, jaana, uthna, baithna, dekhna, soonghna, ped, paudha, kapde, lakdi, betaa, beti, doodh, cheeni, kutta -- not to mention the entire syntactical structure of the language -- are Hindi? Of course not. It's "Urdu speakers" like Saif Mahmood the genius who invented the entire vocabulary and the syntactical structure of the language spoken for centuries by millions of native-born Indians!)
Dialogues of Bollywood movie Mughal-e-Azam were in "Urdu" but "wrongly branded" as "Hindi" on the censor certificate, Mahmood says, translating one in "Hindi" to show how bizarre that would sound, eliciting much laughter from his Pakistani audience.
(That must have been an act of great injustice that the producer of the film somehow forgot to contest in public or in a court of law!! That's why Indians need a genius like Saif Mahmood.)
So, going by Mahmood's argument, a phrase like Taleem par sab ka haq hai (my example) is "Urdu" and that's how an overwhelming majority of Indians would express that idea.
(Presumably, no one will phrase it as Shiksha par sab ka adhikar hai.)
But of course this overwhelming majority of Indians, according to Mahmood, are such idiots -- or secret conspirators -- that they would perversely call that expression "Hindi" rather than "Urdu"!
As for "Hindi" -- hardly anyone (perhaps no one) speaks it, according to Mahmood.
It takes an unsung and courageous linguist like him to call out this great dishonesty or perfidy (or both) of the millions of Indians!!
I think Mahmood, who is also a lawyer, should take the next logical step.
He should file a lawsuit demanding that all Bollywood films that have ever been made should be re-categorized as Urdu language productions!
He should file another lawsuit against the millions of his fellow Indians to make them correctly describe the language they speak in their everyday lives!
I have known very few people as honest and intelligent as Saif Mahmood.
I think he should be recognized as a great linguist and honoured with a Padma award as well as a Pakistani Sitara-e-Khidmat.
The following Web links have been used in this post in the order of occurrence.
(Karachi Literature Festival-2017 discussion on "Urdu Nu Kia Hua?". Discussants: Arfa Sayeda Zehra, Ali Akbar Natiq, and Afzal Ahmed Syed. Moderator: Saif Mahmood
(Idhar Urdu, Udhar Urdu, Kidher Urdu?: Urdu in India and Pakistan
Saif Mahmood and Arfa Sayeda Zehra
Moderator: Bari Mian