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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXIV (2000-2001)

Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Language

Manmohan Dhar

English are very fond of under-statement. Describing Kashmir in a tourist magazine, an Englishman stated as follows : If you have seen Switzerland, Black forests of Germany, Tyrol in Austria, Lake Districts of Scotland and if you can think of all these places at one and the same time; you will get some idea of what Kashmir is like. A greater tribute to Kashmir, I believe, has not been paid.

Kashmiri language is the product of unparalleled beauty of Kashmir, its flowers, fauna, lakes, rivers, mountains, birds, beasts, men, women and weather, all vying with each other, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, for excellence. He, further, states that there is no country like this anywhere in the World.

Kashmiri language as it is today is an amalgam of Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi, Urdu, English and ancient dialects having their origin in antiquity. Without going into the details of its origin, one can safely say that like the people of Kashmir, Kashmiri language has also been stifled by persecution. None-the-less this language became the vehicle of the greatest minds, poets, savants and saints of Kashmir. Names are legion. It has features singularly its own. In Kashmiri love poetry, it is always the woman that addresses her lover. Laleshwari, Nunda Rishi, Parmanand, Rupa Bhavni, Haba Khatoon, Arnimal, Wahab Khar, Mahmood Gami, Samad Mir, MasterJi, Krishna Razdan, Mahjoor, Shamas Faqir, Nadim and many others, too numerous to recount here, have covered a wide range, covering spiritual realization, philosophy, pangs of love, political aspirations, social inequity, beauty of Kashmir and many other aspects of every day life. Flowers, birds, brooks, mountains, snow, waterways have been accomplices in their total quest for a full life. The bracing climate of Kashmir and the overwhelming surfeit of beauty of nature and the people around expressed itself in their temperament and their language.

What We Must Do

Our Diaspora, like that of Jews, has been centuries old. Three million Jews were killed by Hitler. Diaspora as a word refers to the dispersion of Jews after their Babylonian exile in 538 B.C. and their settling in scattered colonies out side Palestine, from where they were again thrown out. Since then they wanted a Home -land. In their quest for a home-land, they have now got a piece of desert land which they are defending with their life and blood. As against that we were given marching orders and we took it lying down and in the bargain we got monthly allowance of a pittance for which we have bartered our Most Beautiful Home-Land in the World.

Our Diaspora has also been centuries old, during repeated thrusts of history and persecution. But we are great survivors. From eleven houses we grew to respectable numbers. We owe our existence to those eleven houses only and not to any other glorified persons. But over the centuries, preoccupied with our struggle to survive, we have lost our co-ordinates of identity. In Kashmir we reconciled to live as second rate citizens. Bata, Batagi, Batil, Dali-Bata, or Dali-Gadva were derogatory terms summing up the assessment of the majority community of our ability to stand up and defend our-selves. We lost our verve and nerve. They should know we can fight back. And fight we must.

To salvage our self-respect, bolster up our ego and to display our superior intellect, we preferred to display our proficiency in speaking and writing English and Kashmiri, our own mother tongue, became a casualty in our pursuit of undignified survival.

We must find our strong-hold. We should speak from a position of strength. If we can succeed outside Kashmir why can not we succeed in Kashmir. Even Kashmiri Muslims should feel proud of us. We have a lot to give to Kashmir and we should work jointly with like-minded Kashmiris for economic, technological and cultural development of Kashmir. This will give a broader base to our sense of belonging to Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. Times are changing fast and next ten years, for more reasons than one, will justify my suggestions. Fanaticism, conversion by force or compulsion, or coercion will not be tolerated in this modern age.

We must speak Kashmiri at home. This is the greatest gift we can give to our youngsters. Give prizes to best Kashmiri speakers in the following age groups : over 50, 25 to 50, 10 to 25 and 5 to 10. Similar prizes can be given to Kashmiris singing and playing santoor, saz, sarang, nout and tumbaknaer. Kashmir folk singing is robust, virile and rich. It may be quite rewarding to arrange a Kashmiri folk singing festival in which, Hindu and Muslim groups can participate. Each regional Kashmiri Sabha could have folk singing clubs and there could be all India competition in Kashmir's folk singing with prizes for the best.

Kashmiri speakers, Hindus and Muslims from Kashmir and outside, should be called to speak in Kashmiri on the composite culture of Kashmir. Vitasta should have a Kashmiri section. Script could be Roman, Hindi or even Urdu. Youngsters may prefer Roman script, which they may prefer to Hindi, more so in foreign lands. Language, like a mountain stream, must maintain its freshness by a perennial of flow of creative writing and we must love it and be proud of it. It must become the main stay of our identity as one of the most cultured communities in the world.

Whereas, it is easier said than done, it would be very wrong to overlook the difficulties, howsoever laudable the objectives may be. Kashmiri language has the most complicated vowel system. Gur- a horse, goer-horses, geur- a mare, voen- water, vaen- grocers, voun- knowledge, vyen- now, czhe- you and many other words are difficult to write and even more difficult to read.

Similarly, in our fast moving technological world and in the rapidly changing life-styles we have to clearly lay down the role spoken and written Kashmiri language is going to or can play. Within those boundary conditions it is possible to make our language a distinctive feature of our ethnic and cultural personality.

The last two aspects are perhaps relevant with regard to our future generations outside Kashmir and outside India. But we have to make a well co-ordinated effort. There is no other alternative.ordinated effort. There is no other alternative.

[The author is a previous President of Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata and a patron of the Vitasta, Kolkata.]

Mailing address : C-50 Kailash Apartments, Lala Lajpatrai Marg, New Delhi-110048]
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