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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXIV (2000-2001)

Kashmiri Pandits in Cyberspace:

Kashmiri Language Script and its Standardisation

Sunil Fotedar

Introduction

In an earlier article published in the Vitasta Annual, 2000 (pg. 155-56) we detailed various activities of our Kashmiri Overseas Association (KOA) related to Internet and related Information technology. In this article I am presenting some further developments in this connection and other related information that may be of interest to Kashmiri Pandit community globally.

The KOA a non-profit cultural organization of the Kashmiri Pandits settled in the USA, has been actively involved in the Internet and World Wide Web for creating a repository and disseminating information related to our culture, history, religion and tourism. This web site carries Kashmiri music in "Real Audio" format, bhajans, pujas for several KP festivals. It also contains articles on our language, festivals in addition to the thousands of articles from several Kashmiri periodicals/journals. This web site also carries paintings by artists, video documentaries, chats, announcements, appeals, tributes and information about KOA gatherings in the USA. KOA also offers free on-line matrimonial services since August 1998. So far over 150 matrimonials were carried on this web site and about 10% have established relationship. Our expectation is that this will be the resource used by our community worldwide.

I have been managing and developing this web for the past 5 years with the help of a few dedicated KPs. It is a pleasure to mention that Vitasta Annual is also now accessible on this web site on the URL address : www.iKashmir.org/Vitasta or www.vitasta.org and we are making all further efforts to keep the subsequent Vitasta publications also available in future.

Kashmiri Language and its Script :

The recent addition to the KOA web site has been Prof B. B. Kachru's book, "An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri". This addition has consumed 230 Megabytes of disc space. It took about five months to complete the project that was finished on Jan. 1, 2001. Some volunteers contributed their valuable time towards its development. This can be made available on CD which could be sold to all those interested for a reasonable fee; the proceeds thus raised could be donated to some charity. This is a step closer to preserving our language, Koshur, for generations to come. Actual conversations in Kashmiri have been recorded in "Real Audio" format, just as Kashmiri Music on the KOA web sites. The original book has two images. The URL addresses of this site are : www.iKashmir.org/SpokenKashmiri or www.koshur.org or www.kachru.com

Kashmiri Language and its Script :

It is gratifying to inform that a great development has been perfected about the Standardization of Devnagri-Kashmiri script and its incorporation in 1-LEAP software of CDAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing) Pune, in which I was also involved. We should be proud of such youngsters within our community as Shri Sandeep Bhat, Kuldip Misri and Shri R. K. Kaul for taking an initiative and making sure that a font for writing Koshur was created, based on the inputs provided by the concerned experts as mentioned herein, practically implemented and integrated with one of the products (ISM) for further integration with LEAP range. This product (ISM) can be used with nearly 15-16 applications (window based) e.g., MS-Word, MS-Excel, Page Maker, Corel Draw, Venture, Dream wearer, Oracle, D2K, Quark Express, besides Note pad, Word pad etc. Shri R. K. Kaul, who was the Co-ordinator of this project approached, after developing the modified font as required, Dr. Hari Krishen Koul, Shri Shambu Nath Bhatt "Haleem" and Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani on behalf of we four, involved in evolving a separate software for easy typing of Kashmiri language on computer and also using it on internet, to verify the correctness of the changes identified for this purpose. Accordingly a meeting of the experts was held at Pamposh Public School, New Delhi, on 19th May, 2000. The following minutes of this meeting as published in July 2000 issue of Koshur Samachar, are self-explanatory. The experts who participated in this meeting were as follows

1. Dr. Roop Krishan Bhat, Principal, Northern Regional Language Centre (Ministry of HRD, Govt. Of India), Punjabi University Campus, Patiala 147002

2. Mr. Shambu Nath Bhatt 'Haleem', Editor, Kashmiri Section, Koshur Samachar, Delhi

3. Dr. Rattan Lal 'Shant', Educationist and Editor, Kheer-Bhawani Times, Jammu

4. Dr. Hari Krishan Kaul, Eminent Kashmiri author.

5. Mr. R.K. Kaul, Internet enthusiast and Kashmiri web-developer (as coordinator of the project)

The following transpired at the meeting :

1. The demonstration of the I-LEAP software was given with emphasis on the usage of its phonetic-English keyboard. This was appreciated by all as this could enable amateur computer users to type in Indian Languages. It was observed that for obvious reasons, this keyboard doesn't incorporate the few vowels and consonants that are typical of Kashmiri speech. In this regard Mr. R. K. Kaul explained that C-DAC is willing to incorporate these sounds, in case an authoritative and genuine list of modification was given to them.

2. The linguists (1-4) agreed unanimously that the present script used in Kashur Samachar and Kheer Bhawani Times, though popular in Kashmiri community, is not perfect and has to undergo certain modifications sooner or later. The letter received from Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani was also discussed in this regard. It was also pointed out that there is a great demand for standardization of the script, letters having arrived from Dr. B. K. Moza of Calcutta, too.

3. After deliberations, it was finalized that these vowels and consonants will stand changed as shown in the attached table.

4. Mr. R. K. Kaul will coordinate with Mr. Sandeep Bhatt of C-DAC and seek his opinion about the adaptability of these additional symbols in I-LEAP.

5. Sh. Haleem and Dr. Shant will announce the changes in their respective journals with necessary explanations, and subsequently start using the changed script in their journals.

6. Dr. Roop Krishan Bhatt in his capacity as Principal, Northern Regional Language Centre, which is associated with Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore. These institutions are promoting Kashmiri langugage in Devnagari as well as in Persian script. He will also ensure adoption of the script arrived in this meeting, and also offered to coordinate with C-DAC in the capacity of a government organization.

This being a very important development, we are now looking forward to confirmation about the satisfactory implementation of the modified and computer friendly font for Devnagri script of our Kashmiri language by our community journals having Kashmiri sections, like Koshur Samachar, Kshir Bhawani Times and Vitasta on a routine basis.

For any further development or modification I offer full co-operation.

KOA, KIN and Kpnet Web sites :

In addition, KOA offers a KPnet, private e-mail based information exchange for Kashmiri Pandits, as an open forum to share news and views on social, religious, cultural and political issues with other KP subscribers. Each subscriber is encouraged to provide personal views/comments about any relevant issue. Comment on the public actions of our community leaders and participate in discussions on any issue that touches our community. The purpose of the KPnet is to provide a healthy and encouraging environment for timely exchange of information, views and opinions. This is a free e-mail service to any KP worldwide but one has to register with the KOA's KPnet Administrator for this service. People have used this service to seek information, locate friends, express opinions, share news and exchange greetings. This service is also offered through the web under KPmail.

We plan to link all KP organizations together using the Internet to minimize physical distances. We offer our free services to any KP organization to get on the web and be connected through Internet. Our appeal to all the organizations is to get an e-mail account and get connected through KPnet for news and views. We want to create our own KPcyberspace where we may share information provide support system and walk together holding hands.

On the political front, pro-Pakistani and fundamentalist Kashmiri Muslims seeking separation from India have used the Internet and the web for misinformation and disinformation on the Kashmir issue. To counter this campaign launched against the minuscule KP community, a team of dedicated KP individuals, grouped under Kashmir Information Network (KIN) in the USA has created another web site. KIN web site carries information about the ongoing struggle of the KPs as refugees in their own country, the conditions that prevailed in the Valley before their exodus, their history of survival through centuries of persecution at the hands of cruel Muslim rulers in the Valley, the detailed case analyses of various KP individuals killed by the Pakistan sponsored militants and several masscres of them which have taken place after their exodus. This web site is also a repository describing the ethnic cleansing of the KPs from the Valley. KIN is recognized internationally as the top web site representing Kashmiri Pandit political viewpoints and is ranked at or near the top among all Kashmir-related web sites by several web "search engines". A portion of KIN, Kashmir Terrorism Index, has been referenced among the top counter-terrorism sites in the world.

KIN website includes the following key sections Kashmir Terrorism Bulltein. Between Kashmir and Islamic Fanaticism The Real Heroes, The Continuing Civilian Toll of Terrorism in Kashmir, Online Videos and Ethnic Cleansing Glimpses. In addition, KIN has launched a monthly electronic newsletter, Kashmir Chronicle, which carries current news and reviews of terror and tragedy in Jammu and Kashmir. The newsletter is e-mailed to over 750 e-mail addresses of US Congressmen, US Senators, policy makers, thinktanks, US and Indian newspapers, Canadian parliamentarians and well-wishers. We plan to add European and Indian elected officials and other newspapers to this list. The past issues of this e-newsletter are available from KIN's website.

For information or questions regarding KOA, please send the e-mail to : koausa@koausa.org and for information or questions regarding KIN, please send the e-mail to kin@kashmir-information.com

[The author has been a website incharge of KOA, USA. Kashmiri Community is indebted to him for his creative contributions of putting, Kashmiri literature, Language Manual and other information on Kashmiri Pandit culture and heritage on internet during last five years.]

[Mailing Address : Sunil Fotedar, Allen, Texas, U.S.A. e-mail : sunil@fotedar.org

URL : http://SunilFotedar.com]

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