Need to encourage Kashmiri language

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By: Azhar U Din

“Losing the language means losing the culture. We need to know who we are because it makes a difference in who our children are.”—Dottie LeBeau

Language is congenital to the interpretation of culture. It is the medium through which we can communicate values, ideas, beliefs and customs thus, it has an important social function and cultivates feelings of group identity and solidarity among the different communities. It is the channel by which culture and its traditions and shared values may be transmitted and preserved. In other words, if the language of any community will become extinct, the culture of that community will naturally disappear.

Kashmir is the fulcrum of rich cultural heritage and traditions from the very past.  The Kashmiri language is mainly spoken in the Kashmir valley and the Chenab valley of Jammu division. It belongs to the Dardic subgroup of the Indo-Aryan Language family. It is one of 22 languages that are mentioned under the 8th schedule of the constitution. With the rapid modernization, the Kashmiri language is now in jeopardy. Modern youth of Kashmir feel shy to speak in the Kashmiri language. They consider speaking in Kashmiri as inferior in the society and among the peer groups. Most of the parents in the Kashmir valley too often speak in English.

It is a well-known fact that in the mother tongue a student can comprehend better than in any other foreign language.  In the schools and colleges of Kashmir, teachers give the main thrust on English or Urdu and teach students mainly in these two languages while Kashmiri a mother tongue is mostly neglected even teachers compel students to speak only in Urdu and English as the medium of their communication. Nevertheless, Kashmiri as a subject was made compulsory up to the 8th class but still less emphasis is given to it. Though many people in Kashmir can speak the Kashmiri language orally there is a very meager number of people in the valley who can speak as well write in Kashmiri.

The occupation over Kashmir by many foreign rulers has laid an impact on the native culture. The Mughal regime gave the main emphasis on the Persian language and tried very hard to spread it to every nook and corner of the Indian-subcontinent.  They did the same in Kashmir. Similarly, during the Dogra reign, Urdu was made as the official language and it further pushed the Kashmiri language into the back seat.  Moreover, when the Christian missionaries started modern education in Kashmir, they laid main stress on the English language and thus many English medium schools were established in Kashmir which further resulted in the downfall of the Kashmiri language.

In this modern busy life, people do not pay much heed on banners, road signs, and instructions, dashboards, shop banners, hospitals, public notices, instruction boards, and titles, etc. In Kashmir, it is very hard to find our language next to Urdu or English. This indicates the condition of the Kashmiri language. The authorities and education sector of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir also have not paid much attention towards Kashmir language and thus, have not maintained the status of it.

To put the Kashmiri language back on track, the first and foremost responsibility is of educational institutions that can play a vital role in this regard. To teach students in English or Urdu is not a bad thing but it will help them to learn extra languages however at the same time schools and colleges should also organize programs, workshops, seminars, essay writing competitions, quizzes, drama, literary debates, and discussions about the Kashmiri language and culture must be encouraged and the same method should be applicable for teachers under their training course. Individual efforts should also be taken to preserve our mother tongue. Intellectual, educationist, and Ex-Director late Atiqa Bano, from Sopore, is one among fitted examples. Being a woman, she showed interest in flourishing the Kashmiri language and decided to start a Newspaper in Kashmiri. She was having a deep interest in maintaining cultural and traditional norms. An example can be taken from her well-established museum at Sopore named Meeras Mahal and an exhibition in Srinagar which depicts the bulk of Kashmiri culture and artifacts.

Kashmiri as a subject must be introduced as one of the compulsory subjects up to 10th class. In addition, it should also be introduced in all the institutions of higher education. There is also a dire need for government patronage to preserve our indigenous language and culture. TV and Radio channels like DD Kashar and All India Radio Srinagar should also broadcast programs on different contents in the Kashmiri language so that people in Kashmir will be very close to their language and culture. Parents at home along with Urdu and English must also promote and encourage the Kashmiri language as well. NGOs need to hold programs at the grass-root level to make people aware of the importance of their mother language for the preservation of the cultural heritage of Kashmir. The young boys and girls in the valley should not feel shy and hesitate in speaking Kashmiri. The Kashmiri language is the part and parcel of our culture and we often feel proud to be a part of this rich culture so why do we feel inferior while speaking in our mother tongue?

Finally, it is the responsibility of every Kashmiri to promote the Kashmiri language to every nook and corner of Kashmir so that the Koshur, the soul of the valley will be preserved till eternity.

– The writer hails from Pahalgam and is a student of Geography at Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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