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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXIV (2000-2001)

Importance of Language and Culture for Survival as a Kashmiri Community

Dr. Roop Krishen Bhat

Kashmiri language is one of the major Indian languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the constitution of India. It is spoken by over 50 Lakh people. In the state of J&K there are about 40 Lakh people speaking Kashmiri. Rest of about 10 lakh people who have migrated out of the state during the course of time are scattered in other parts of the country and the world over. Since no census has been possible since 1981 in J&K the figures are approximate. Besides there are Kashmiri speaking people living in the Pakistan occupied part of Kashmir. Kashmiri language has rich literary tradition and history of about 600 years of literature. Kashmir has produced many eminent scholars whose contribution in various fields has been globally recognized.

It is unfortunate that throughout the course of its history Kashmiri language has never got appropriate government patronage. It was never made the official language of the state. As a matter of fact this language could not become a vehicle for transmission of history, information or knowledge. Mostly Kashmiris had to rely on other languages for acquiring information and other competitive skills. From time to time there have been conscious efforts to marginalise Kashmiri language and literature in a bid to alienate a large section of people of valley from the national main stream. This became obvious during the foreign sponsored terrorism being perpetuated in the state of J&K for past more than a decade now which resulted in a lare scale migration from the valley. As a result of displacement Kashmiri Hindus have been scattered all over the world.

Immediately after the mass migration during early 90's the very existence of the community was threatened. However, with hard work, knowledge, education and tireless efforts at individual and collective levels, by now the community has come out of the onslaught. By now people have readjusted and reconciled to the new environment and new role in the society. However, the migrations as usual have the expected fallouts. The major one being loosing of the language and culture. It has been observed that people are gradually loosing their language and culture. It may be underlined that language and culture are symbols of identity for a community and a ommunity is known and named only through their language. It is therefore obligatory for each and every member of the community to keep his/her mother tongue alive. Culture is deeply embedded in language; rather language is the lone carrier of cultural heritage, culture flows through language. There is a difference between surviving and living. To make it precise Kashmiri Hindus after the post migration period have simply survived. Living would necessitate performing of our cultural rituals, customs, celebrating festivals etc. in their original form and spirit as was done prior to the migration, there by living a full, complete and holistic life.

The main question, which bothers every one of us, is how to keep our language alive in the absence of Governmental support. In the absence of Governmental support onus lies on the speakers themselves. Parents have a big role to perform. They have to encourage their children to learn and speak Kashmiri in their homes, social and religious functions. NGOs like the Kashmiri Samitis within the country and across the globe the IEKF etc have bigger roles to play by co-ordinating various social and cultural activities and organizing their community. Opening cultural centers, organizing get togethers, functions, seminars, workshops and providing language teaching materials to the members. There are language learning materials available in Devnagri and Roman scripts as well which could be of great help for retaining/learning of the language. Issues of Kashmiri language have been of prime concern to the scholars and researchers all these years, but such issues have not bothered the speakers in general. Unless every speaker realizes consequences of ignoring his/her mother tongue or culture, much could not be achieved. The luke warm attitude towards language would definitely threaten the very existence of the community. Hence to live as a community will obligate us to keep our language and culture alive.

It should be the responsibility of the non-Governmental organizations or Kashmiri Samitis to run the courses for learning of Kashmiri language. The use of script should be no bar for learning a language. Script could be choosen as per requirement, as materials are now available in all the three scripts i.e. Devnagri, Persio-Arabic and Roman. The Central Institute of Indian languages, Mysore and its Northern Regional Language Centre, Patiala have recently produced a three vol. Audio Cassette Course in Kashmiri which could be of great help in learning or retaining of the language. Scientifically it is said that learning of the script should not take more than 20 Hrs and spending of this much time should not be very difficult for any one to whom the cause of survival as a community member is of prime concern. As pointed out language is the only bond which binds us together in one spoken community, sharing same origin, same emotion and cultural moorings.

I have been insisting that we open Kashmiri Cultural Centre in every city with sizable Kashmiri population; such centers should have all such facilities which are required for living as a community, including facilities for learning and speaking of Kashmiri language. Such centres could function as nodal centres with complete cultural ambience, an art gallery, library, audio visual corner, folk games etc. To begin with such centres could be established in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Banglore where a sizable Kashmiri population have resettled after migration. It should be responsibility of these centres to preserve, propagate and promote Kashmiri language and culture by providing all necessary facilitates, organizing seminars.workshops.social functions and exchanging language related materials.

A perfect planning and meticulous execution shall make all this possible provided we move ahead with sincerity and honesty and devote some little time for this common cause. We should keep Jews in mind who after hundreds of years of their displacement and migration got reunited and resettled as a country in Israel because they never compromised their language, literature and culture. Our community is fortunate to have amongest us most celebrated scholars, writers and linguists whose services could be utilized for achieving our objectives in this regard.

Mailing address : The author is the Principal of Northern Regional Language Centre, Punjabi University Campus, Patiala­147002
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