Official Languages Policy & its fallout

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BY: Latief U Zaman Deva

Addition of 03 more languages to the 01+01  official languages in J&K, the latter having been on the analogy of the position at national level excepting Urdu  swapping Hindi, aims  at pampering the ultra  chauvinists from a particular ethnic and linguistic  community representing 21% of the J&K UT population apparently as a vote bank strategy. However, it is fraught with (a) potential for linguistic polarization inasmuch  as these chauvinists getting isolated territorially in face of total unanimity amongst almost  all sections of UT for retention of Urdu as the official language and use of the English till Urdu is enabled to replace it fully (on the pattern of the position about Hindi vs English at national level) and (b)  imminent threat to the territorial unity of JK assiduously nurtured since 1846 by successive regimes through various measures  including by the use of Urdu  as an official language having the attributes of a lingua franca for  the State (now UT) followed by mounting demands for inclusion of Gojri, Pahari and Punjabi in the list which  are mother tongues of linguistic  communities forming 10%, 09% &  above 2.5% of  the population especially the 1st & 2nd even holding territories in full in Pir Panchal region consisting of  the 02 Districts of Poonch & Rajouri and in parts of  remaining districts.

Sooner the Government, in response to popular aspirations, may  yield  the better for the reasons of these communities extra- ordinary contribution to fostering of national interests and in that eventuality the number of languages shall shot up to 08. No administration worth its name can afford transaction of official business in 05 to 08 languages except at its peril. Imagine the fallout of correspondence and public services in multiple unknown and unfamiliarised scripts except 01 to 02  languages known to the  concerned stakeholders and desirability for translations at various levels in the hierarchy, prima facie a stupendous unproductive avoidable job with diminishing benefits leading to administrative anarchy.

The managing of sharpened linguistic backgrounds in UT, with Kashmiri, Dogri and Gojri/Pahari spoken by absolute majority in 13, 04 ,02 Distts respectively and in remaining 01 Distt of Reasi in various proportions, shall be a daunting and hilarious job pregnant with scope for scant satisfying outcomes in an era where quicker and hassle free planks are the buzzwords more so when sizeable numbers of people from these communities are also spread in districts where majority is of other linguistic societies.

However in recognition of total sweep of Hindi in the 04 Districts of Jammu plains, the supply of revenue records and delivery of services in other public utilities could be  in Hindi also apart from Urdu as is the position in the  matter of electoral rolls for these Districts  – Udhampur, Jammu, Samba and Kathwa.

Jammu and Kashmir is an embodiment of unity in linguistic, ethnic, geographical and historical diversities unlike the other states in the country. Most of these states are linguistically homogenous (mostly) and therefore declaration of the mother tongues in these states as official languages has not been as problematic as the position in JK would be in the scenario unfolded in the proposed Bill which even has not addressed the sequential status of the 05 languages.

Declaration of Urdu as official language followed by Hindi as 2nd official language in the above 04 Districts would not have acted as something alarming with sinister designs. A somewhat similar dispensation is available in Delhi and UP. Bowing before the ground realities the Dogra regime headed by Mahraja Pratap Singh replaced Persian with Urdu and same was carried forward by the Constituent Assembly of  J&K while adopting the State Constitution.

The Promotion  of regional languages is undoubtedly necessitated but by taking the linguistic profile into account for purposes of interventions by the Government which so for have been grossly inadequate to Kashmiri representing 56% of the population and spread across the UT and in absolute majority in Kashmir Valley and Chenab Valley. Be it in Cultural Academy or creation of posts in Higher Education Deptt, time slots earmarked by Central broadcasting organizations for electronic media and in other spheres both at Central level and in the UT under the camouflage of parity the language spoken by more than half of the population has got relegated to levels wherefrom its retrieval is called for to ensure its optimum growth assuaging the hurt sentiments of people spread across the UT.

The Regional linguistic cum ethnic profile of J&K is here in below for appreciation of the readers.

  • – The author can be reached on his twitter handle: @aaluzdeva; e.mail: [email protected]

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