Iqbal Ahmad

Promoting Kashmiri as a spoken dialect

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We don’t need to teach it in schools instead should make it medium of instruction

“Kashmiri is our mother tongue and it will never die. Nobody needs to be worried about it”. These are the words of kashmiri musician, Bashmir Ahmad Lone. He says, it is deeply rooted in our mind and soul. In fact I also agree with him because a mother tongue is not adopted, it is our heritage which like other natural things has passed to us.  And it is also a fact that this dialect is not basically a written language, it is   almost a spoken one and mostly enriched and preserved by illiterate class of our society.  Interestingly, it is because of this fact that it is spoken in the remote corners of the valley, where there are no teachers available to teach it.

No one tries to teach a new born to suck milk from her mother’s breast?  Similarly, it looks irrelevant when one talks of teaching the people their very own mother tongue, because it is also naturally preserved in these tiny souls and mother’s lap enables babies in delivery of the dialogue. One cannot claim to teach someone his mother tongue. It comes naturally. No doubt if we vow we can teach our wards several other languages to make them well equipped to face the worldly linguistic challenges.

I   do not think that introduction of Kashmiri as subject in school and college levels has helped this dialect to such an extent to expand its borders,

Kashmiri is more or less a spoken language rather than a written one and its borders are limited upto Kashmiri speaking areas of this state.  If the government really intends to do something for this language, it should promote it as a spoken language and should review it again as a medium of instruction in the schools and at college levels rather than introducing it as a subject in the education curriculum.

This was the status, which it enjoyed, in early seventies. Kashmiri is the only known ancient spoken language of Kashmir. Though the linguistic history of this land makes mention of many ancient languages and scripts, which included Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian. These languages more or less served written purposes and were spoken in royal corridors only. But such languages never could become the language of common masses.

The language that actually served as a spoken language was Kashmiri. And it is still spoken by almost all Kashmiris irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Kashmiri Pandits are known as the best speakers of this dialect. Besides Kashmir Valley, Kashmiri is also spoken in Doda, Baderwah and many parts of Rajouri and Poonch  regions of the state. The Kashmiri Pandit families that migrated during the turmoil and settled in different parts of the northern India are learnt to have been doing everything to preserve this dialect.

It is our mother tongue, our national language. Although never served as an official language and never enjoyed any royal patronage, it did not vanish and would never.

It is a language which need not be taught in schools and colleges to its own people. They have learnt it from the lap of their mothers. Therefore, the question of its vanishing or dying does not arise at all.

If we talk of literature in Kashmiri language, like poetry, drama and music, it has mostly been cultivated by those who had never learnt Kashmiri as language in schools and Madrassas. In fact for centuries together Kashmir poetry and prose was unwritten. It was all oral. The musicians used to sing poems, which was just an oral tradition. The tradition still continues in Sufi Mahfils where Sufi musicians are seen singing the works of darweshes.

Of course, it is now available in a written form, yet the language cannot be categorized one among written languages as it has no original script of its own. Many of our readers will not see eye to eye with me on this account because they have been treating it   as a written language consisting of rich literary treasures.

While none can deny the fact of it being rich in terms of literature, but it is mostly not a written language? Though a person can write any dialect that too in any script, it does not qualify the written feature of that language. A written language has a prescribed script of its own serving that language since its origin. One may accept it or not but it is a fact that Kashmiri had no original script, no doubt it is now easily written in Persian alphabet or Devnagri script even some advocate Roman script for Kashmiri.

But the fact remains that it has no proper script of its own otherwise there would have been no debate on its scripts. But all this makes no difference to its speakers or to the people who have been cultivating it through their songs and music. Many institutions have been promoting this dialect on their own. The local Sufi schools and Bandh theaters are institutions, which since long have enriched this language by its speaking aspect and oral songs.

The local schools before eighties did take care of this language but not by introducing it as a subject in their schools but by encouraging children to sing its lyrics in morning prayers and at other cultural events.

The educationists of that time had a good sense of promoting the local languages. They knew that the local language could serve as the best medium of instruction in schools and colleges. That is why they had made it the main medium of instruction, which helped the students to understand other subjects easily. A language cannot be preserved by introducing it in schools as a subject. It can be promoted only if it is introduced as a medium of instruction.

If mere teaching or writing can save a language then plenty of literature published and unpublished is already available and dozens of new publications are added to it annually.

How many people read the written Kashmiri literature and get benefited?  Perhaps no one,  except a few poets.

If the powers are sincere in protecting the language they should introduce it as medium of instruction in schools rather than a subject. If this is done   it would definitely help this dialect to flourish. A Kashmiri environment can also be created in our homes and institutions by reviving and promoting local communication and music.

Kashmiri prayers if re-introduced at morning assemblies in schools would help to a large extent to promote the dialect. The introduction of Kashmiri as a medium of instruction in schools, besides promotion of cultural activities shall be an effective instrument to entertain the tiny tots and would in turn make them aware of their mother tongue.

Apart from the state government the society cannot shy away from its responsibility. It should discourage and discontinue the practice of creating a non-Kashmiri environment, which is in vogue across Kashmir. Our daily communication has been Urdunised. Most of us follow western culture. The usage of Urdu and English language in daily discourse has become the order of the day. This phenomenon is also visible in those families who advocate promotion and preservation of the language. Perhaps none of us is serious about protecting and preserving Kashmiri as a language.

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