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Towards Preserving Our Mother Tongue A.I.K.S., A Potential Thrust

Dr. B. K. Moza


Consequent to the fundamentalist terrorism in Kashmir, there has been a compelling exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from their ancient homeland. Presently this suffering community is in exile; most of them being in dilapidated dwellings in camps as internally displaced refugees in their own country or as migrants in scattered locations over here or abroad. Besides having lost their hearths and homes, preservation of their cultural heritage and their identity is, obviously, at stake. Being an infinitesimally small minority every where, their identity is threatened. The prospects of their rehabilitation in their own homeland are not in view in near future. However, it is a great tragedy if this community loses its glorious cultural heritage and tradition also. To preserve their cultural identity particularly its most important aspect, the mother tongue, is an uphill task unless there is a strong will and joint effort to do so. It is not possible individually or for any single community Association to uphold various aspects of our culture. For this a joint effort of all the organizations of Kashmiri Pandits, located at various places globally, is necessary. To coordinate these individual units, it was deemed very necessary to have a Federation of all the community organizations scattered globally to cater to their common agenda of preserving their roots and cultural heritage. With this in view, All India Kashmiri Samaj (A.I.K.S) was established as a central federation of all the scattered units affiliated to it for certain common objectives. In an earlier article, entitled "AIKS : A Potential Movement of Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora "published in the 34th Annual of Vitasta, 2000, (pages 93-96), the role of AIKS was detailed. With a view to rejuvenating this Organization and the Movement it is deemed to spearhead, another article, "AIKS A Potential Movement Still To Gain Momentum" was written by me which has appeared in Kshir Bhawani Times, Jammu, the Koshur Gazette, New Delhi, Milchar, Bombay and soon it is to appear in some more community publications. There are no alternatives to this Organization of federal recognition for providing much needed thrust to our common objectives. In this article it has been mentioned that AIKS should address to only limited agenda of common interest to the total community, spread globally. One of such common agenda is preserving our mother tongue for which a great effort is required by all of us jointly. It requires an adequate infrastructure of resources, human and financial, an innovative planning and time bound action-plan for implementation and follow up . This is possible if we have an appropriately strong federal organization, having the in-built objective of carrying along, its affiliates and providing them the much-needed leadership, direction and wherewithal. Preserving our mother tongue in global Diaspora is an urgent agenda. With this in view the above mentioned article is reproduced below to emphasize on the revitalisation of AIKS and thereby the thrust AIKS can provide, as the Apex Body, towards the preservation of our mother tongue:

"Original Background

All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS) was founded two decades back in 1980. The prpose was to have an Apex Body to coordinate the activities of Kashmiri Pandit organizations set up locally in various parts of the country and abroad. The emphasis of these units, at that time, was more on preserving Kashmiri Pandit identity locally amongst the community members who had migrated from Kashmir for earning their bread & butter or for finding better opportunities etc. Therefore the objectives of these units at that time were essentially, social, cultural and economic. The Apex Body, AIKS, was established to coordinate the activities of these local units for their common agenda keeping their commonalties in view. It was assumed that the local units would have a greater accent on the local issues and day to day problems faced by them locally. However, there was at the same time an upsurge, as intense as a responsibility, deeply invoked in them. It was about maintaining rapport with the roots in Kashmir and within the Diaspora for the purpose of bringing about cohesion amongst the community members for identifying and solving the common issues to the best interests of the community. The ultimate objective, however, being to preserve the health and identity of the community.

In the year 1989-90 there was an unexpected upheaval in Kashmir caused by the fundamentalist terrorism over there. This community being an infinitesimally small minority, it became the soft target for murder, arson, loot and all that is associated with the distressing terrorism, having its roots in the well planned strategy of proxy war, unleashed by our Islamic neighbour. This forced them to leave their hearths and homes in their homeland as a minority community and take refuge elsewhere for the security of their lives, safety of their honour particularly of their women-folk and for their livelihood. Though presumed to be a temporary displacement, it has continued with the full fury of distress for last eleven years with increasing setbacks. This internal displacement of this community, because of the fundamentalist terrorism in their homeland, added another dimension of responsibility to these local units of Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora. It was relief and refuge to the distressed community members, their rehabilitation, establishing their minority status, enabling their return to homeland and preserving the identity under distressingly adverse conditions. This community being infinitesimally small in numbers, it did not represent any vote bank and as such bringing political awareness and awakening to their distress, amongst those who mattered, shaped as a vital pre-requisite for the existence of this community. In 1991 therefore, for AIKS, the political agenda also shaped as the most priority one to ensure rights of safety, survival, and existence of the uprooted members of this community and for enabling, at an appropriate date, their honourable return to the homeland. Accordingly, AIKS assumed the expected role in 1991 to coordinate, as the Apex Body, its thirty-eight affilated units for the social, economic and also political objectives that confronted the community at that time. It was evident that this distress shock would bring awareness in the community towards its shortcomings and bring about leadership amongst them. AIKS was strengthened as the Apex Body with the hope that it would fill the leadership vacuum that has been maligning this community historically. AIKS duly assumed the responsibility in right spirit and called for this purpose the historical Jaipur Convention in 1991. It organized definite efforts at mobilizing the resources, both material and man power, brought about awakening and awareness to the magnitude of the Kashmiri Pandit distress and created a need for a united effort amongst the community members and their political and social organizations towards the emergent issues, particularly the relief and rehabilitation of the uprooted brethren, displaced internally. The problem before AIKS was definitely too big for it to solve; but it did make a resolute effort to attempt finding means and ways to solve it. In true sense it shaped as a remarkable movement of the century so far as Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora is concerned.

Present Scenario

This upsurge is continuing, AIKS is doing as per its claims a reasonably creditable job, the thirty eight units are not only thriving but these have multiplied to a still bigger number; many community news papers, journals and news letters are getting circulated with ever increasing passion for numbers. Each one is giving a feeling of being the last word in excellence and each organization is highlighting its special contribution to Kashmiri Pandit cause. There is undoubtedly an improved awareness to Kashmiri Pandit distress, there are seminars and symposia held at various places and at various platforms, focussing the role an individual organization is playing for the Kashmiri Pandit welfare. But the Kashmiri Pandit problem is static, if not worse, so far as rehabilitation, preservation of community identity and homeland issues are concerned. AIKS is also contented with the role it is playing. Its official organ, Naad, cried hoarse with gasping breathlessness for financial panacea, which apparently did not become available and as a result it has closed down; may be temporarily or, God forbidding, permanently. As reported in Koshur Samachar (June, 2000 pg. 3) AIKS had its main function of having elections in its poorly attended AGM, held on 13th and 14th May this year. But it did not make any significant contribution to the cause to which it is dedicated nor did it add any new dimension to the issues that have been plaguing the community for quite sometime. Sunder Vani, Chandigarh (Vol. V, No II, June 2000) and Milchar, Bombay (April 2000) have detailed these viewpoints vividly. The Sunder Vani has explained the dismay and disillusion about the problems facing us. It is true, as explained therein, that these problems cannot be solved individually by Samitis and Sabhas; for this, a strong centre and a strong working group is needed and in this context the role of the apex organization AIKS comes into play and this requires, undoubtedly, to be strengthened. The Chandigarh publication further explains the widely felt anguish as "We have no consistency. We come to meet, we discuss and we resolve. In our resolutions we are active and sometimes over-active but unfortunately at the end of the day we return to being inactive. In 1998 AGM held at Chandigarh, a Zonal Conference was formed by AIKS, which never took off, etc." The Vitasta, Kolkata (Vol. XXXIII, 2000, Pgs., 93-97) has made an objective analysis, which was intended to be presented and discussed in this annual meeting of AIKS. This, however, was not discussed because reportedly Naad could not publish it for circulation to enable its discussion in this meeting. The Kheer Bhawani Times, Jammu, the Kashmir Sentinel and the Koshur Gazette duly highlighted the proceedings of this Annual meeting. The Vitasta (June 2000) whilst reporting on this meeting of AIKS recorded its great concern on the breathlessness of Naad. Surprisingly AIKS meets only once in a year to discuss such matters; there are no monthly Executive Meetings either unless there is an emergency. So all constructive agenda is remaining for future consummation; there is generally limited follow up of what has been committed nor any meaningful review. There are meagre directions, action plans and such impacts as are required of an apex organization with global affiliations.

Wide-spread Concern

These are the facts which are presented with great concern, anxiety and involvement and these reveal, to call a spade a spade, that AIKS is not performing the expected and intended role as the Apex Body and there is no other organization endowed to perform this role. This organization has fatigued out as a player in the field, leave aside captaining the community organizations, as originally proposed and accordingly built in its constitution. Our problems are aggravating and these require a united, adequate and representative action by the Kashmiri Pandit organizations, scattered globally. And for this, very justifiably, all look to Apex Body for global mobilization. The ceremonial hoop-la and ornamental positioning are momentarily pleasant and indeed a great consolation. Yet, an Apex Body will be assessed only for its result-oriented performance at a different level of objectives for which it has been formed. Accordingly its performance may be remarkable as one amongst many others but that will not be creditable since it will be valued only for its contributions as an Apex Body.

The question arises can we afford this sad state of affairs? True, there are some affiliated or may be dissociated and unaffiliated units of AIKS which are playing a very significant role. That is a silver lining to this, otherwise, dark cloud; and an encouraging feature indeed. But none of these is having the objective of co-ordinating all the Kashmiri Pandit organizations for our commonly faced problems and issues. AIKS is the only organization, which has that built in objective, mandate and inherent potential to play this role. No thoughtful analysis will object to the growth of so many organizations, some playing the expert role for some cause pertaining to the community health and welfare. Though excellence is the essential ingredient, there is no serious objection to having, as reported (MIlchar, Bombay, July, 2000) mushroom growth of official organs and publications belonging to the community organizations and individuals. The fact is some of these are playing a definite special role or some of these by themselves may be the role models. But what is of utmost concern in the present context is that there is none, which is playing the role of a coordinator for achieving a united effort for highlighting the common agenda and an organized action programme of the community. The conclusion again emerges that there is one and only one organization, AIKS, and one and only one official publication, the Naad, which can play the coordinating role and a coordinating link to bring about community leadership and response for solving the problems and issues that our community at large, is presently facing.

Conclusive Measures

Kashmiri Pandits have a history of deep-rooted pathology of individualism and a record of prolonged sufferings as a consequence. Thee is, however, an awakening and some change in attitudes visible in this connection. But what has been achieved is not sufficient for the purpose. Much more is required at leadership level and there is no alternative to achieving this if we desire to survive as a community with glorious heritage, rehabilitate our uprooted and devastated brethren, achieve a homeland for ourselves and preserve our cultural identity particularly the mother tongue globally. So, without elaborating any further our problems and seeking any solution to these, what I am highlighting herein is the need for an appropriate Apex Body. What is required is a strong organization, having a clear objective of safeguarding the interests of Kashmiri Pandits. Very sadly, the present objectives of AIKS do not at all reveal clearly a Kashmiri Pandit connection. These, therefore, require to be modified, redefined, freshly constituted and prioritized to meet our present requirements. The Apex Body has to be very strong and representative as far as possible, dedicatedly addressing to only few agenda, which are of critical importance to the community in totality. It may not neessarily attend to all the details itself; its frontal affiliated units have to be entrusted with and fully invovled to perform on the concerned agenda of our Apex Body at the frontal focal points, wherever these may be, but under the coordination of AIKS. In this context the AIKS will be the motivator and monitor to assess the progress made, mobilize the resources of ideas, global, financial and otherwise support, and keep all the units together for the few agenda which are essential and indispensable for the existence and identity of our community. It is equally important, as its function, to keep the intra and inter channels of information and communication alive amongst the community organizations scattered globally. It has to play the role of a Coordinator whose involvement will be seen as indispensable in all these respects. Its role has to be that of a director who may not be visible on the stage but whose determining performance and the quintessential overall impact will be felt throughout the play. This is not an easy task but this is what is expected of an Apex Body. And to deserve this privileged position it has to work out its own methodology, wherewithal and all that is required to bring about an appropriate impact. We all have to come together and brainstorm as to how we can achieve this objective. It is more a management subject of Organizational Leadership and once there is a strong organization with strong leadership one can hope all the problems will get systematically attended to, ironed out and therefore solved. We have very serious problems and issues before us and the first step to solving these is to rejuvenate and strengthen the Organization that is necessary for this. I repeat it has to be dedicated, well-structured, youthful, globally representing and coordinating, having Kashmiri Pandit as the soul object of all objectives. AIKS is constituted for this role very thoughtfully and, therefore, all Kashmiri Pandit organizations have to come together and make AIKS a dream come true; a functional, meaningful and well performing Apex Body of Kashmiri Pandit organizations. It is a great movement of the century but this has yet to take off. Our well being lies in creating conditions that will enable its thrust as the very productive Apex Body of Kashmiri Pandit organizations."

Conclusively, the views expressed in the above article highlight the role AIKS is expected to play as an Apex Body. Preservation of our mother tongue is a typical agenda waiting for such co-ordination. Citing an example, about two years back, Kashmir Sabha, Calcutta took an initiative for organizing a brain storm for stream-lining the Devnagri script for Kashmiri language. AIKS admired this initiative and at the same time requested for this being the agenda of the Apex Body. Accordingly, this was left agreeably and more appropriately, to our Apex Body to organize a result oriented action plan and follow up. It is very distressing to note that till now there has been no further feed back from our Apex Body who wished to have this as a central agenda. As per available information, till now no purposeful action has at all been taken by our Apex Body. However, the concerned experts, independent of AIKS, have worked hard on this agenda and commendably streamlined and simplified the Devnagri script for our mother tongue and also made it computer friendly for typing purposes. Though great, this is not all, so far as achieving the ultimate objective is concerned. A classical example of what is missing is that, in the meantime, Bombay Kashmiri Pandit Association on their own initiative and in the absence of any further communication, developed a Kashmiri Primer in Devnagri script, at a great cost of effort and expense, using the old and presently superseded recommendations. This is a great loss that could have easily been avoided with timely communication. Leaving aside what has happened, what is more important now is that our Apex Body co-ordinates the implementation of this streamlined script for use by all the journals of our community Associations, having Kashmiri sections and for uniform implementation by our writers, teachers and learners through its affiliated units. Duplication of efforts, requiring very costly resources, can be thus avoided if we have a meaningful Apex Body to co-ordinate centrally the action plans for global implementation. This will require organizing, through the experts, necessary instruction manuals, an updated Kashmiri Primer, simpler teaching aids etc for uniform application. A separate financial resource can be created for this purpose. Every thing is available but what is missing is a strong organization and leardership to utilize the available resources meaningfully. AIKS has to gain momentum and take off appropriately as a strong federal organization of Kashmiri Pandits to co-ordinate and provide requisite thrust to such urgent and identified issues as are required for the survival of our community and its cultural aspects. Preservation of our tongue is very important in this context.

[The author is the Editor in Chief of Vitasta, the official organ of Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata]

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