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VITASTA ANNUAL NUMBER: Volume XXXIV (2000-2001)

Preface

It is a great pleasure to present the 34th Annual Number of Vitasta, the official organ of Kashmir Sabha, Calcutta. Our Sabha was founded, forty-five years back, in 1956 and within an year's time it started bringing out its monthly News Letter. In the year 1960, the Annual Number of this monthly publication was introduced which was christened as the Vitasta in 1961. There have been hiccups, at times, in the publication of this monthly and its Annual Numbers. But, by and large, it has been gaining strength over the years. I have had the privilege of being associated with this publication from its inception. Almost for the quarter century that has passed by I have been nursing this publication with different editorial responsibilities. It has been more than any thing, a fascinating involvement as that of caring a baby. I am thankful to Kashmir Sabha, Calcutta for having provided me with this opportunity to grow in years along with this publication, emotionally and otherwise. With the shades of advancing age that are now getting cast with me, I have my apprehensions as to how many more such Annual Numbers I will be able to accomplish. However, I am very optimistic that having developed, over the years, a band of younger dedicated stalwarts, the Vitasta will ever flow, assuming bigger challenges of perception, quality and usefulness.

For quite some time, the Vitasta has been bringing out Annual Numbers with a theme. The purpose has been to highlight on a particular topic that has been of great interest to our community in Diaspora, at that time. All along efforts have been made to procure the relevant articles from competent authorities or search these in the relevant authentic reference compendia to enable, as far as possible, a complete information on the subject related to the theme. This approach at bringing about awareness and awakening on a burning issue, confronting our community, has been provided with built in tenets of transparency, as far as possible, and multiple available view pointing, so that the community members arrive at the correct conclusions themselves. As a result, many of the themes have become, so called, catchy household slogans to stimulate thought processes and actions, in quarters equally involved with our community welfare. Till 1990, our community was considerably dispersed but had a resourceful base and firm roots of antiquity in our homeland, Kashmir. But presently, as an unfortunate aftermath of the 1990 exodus, our community has been rendered uprooted, disoriented and subjected to unfortunate exile. Some of the thematic Numbers, brought out in this period have made their modest impacts; the views and reviews received have valued these as "Collecror's Items" and attributed to these as role models of creative thought processes for preserving our Kashmiri Pandit identity. Cultural identity, however, remains incomplete if the younger, so called melting pot generations, of our Diaspora cannot preserve their mother tongue, being in an infinitesimal minority. The compelling forces of Diaspora are so distressing that even with efforts to safeguard, one may not be sure of the ravages. It requires a strong conviction and a total effort at developing a scientific mantra at this stage, if the community is sincere in preserving our mother tongue under the Diaspora conditions. With this in view the present Number of the Vitasta is brought out with a comprehensive theme : 'Mother Tongue Of Kashmiri Pandits In Exile Origin, Advances, Threats And Thrusts.'

So far as Kashmiri language is concerned, one can say with reason and logic that it will not only continue to exist but also thrive in its natural habitat, Kashmir. It is included in the Eighth Schedule of our Constitution and is once again being taught in the schools; the University over there has a separate department dedicated to Kashmiri language. Apparently it is a temporary phase, if presently this language is not receiving the emphasis and growth it achieved, immediately after partition of our country when Kashmiri patriotism became a guiding force. Cultural front movement became a perceptible phenomenon; Radio Kashmir and subsequently Door-Darshan took a leading role in popularizing Kashmiri language and in providing adequate ingredients of nourishment for its development and growth as a literary language. So did Academy of Arts and Literature provide the desired thrust to producing Kashmiri literature. This language has remained the affectionate mother tongue of Kashmiris for more than a millennium though it has never been the language for administration or medium of instruction nor a source of monetary prospects. There are reports that terrorism from across the borders is also causing aggression on Kashmiri mother tongue or that people over there are getting, for this reason, more fascinated towards languages other than Kashmiri. It has been a Kashmiri way of life historically, to know many languages but that did not deter them from nursing very fondly Kashmiri as the mother tongue. Though I have no authentic findings to substantiate this information, there is reportedly, an effort at Talibanising Kashmiri mother tongue and freedom of women over there. If this is so, then undoubtedly it will be here in the sacred land of Lal Ded that Taliban aggression and movement will find its terminal burial, on these accounts. With all present apprehensions, Kashmiri language will undoubtedly continue to thrive in Kashmir, of course, with more Perso-Arabic influence and in this script.

The concern and real anxiety is about the Kashmiri Pandits, the aborigines of Kashmir, who have presently lost their homeland and are in exile, scattered throughout India and also abroad. They have lost their homeland and therefore the natural habitat and roots for preserving their cultural identity, tradition and heritage. They are scattered every where as insignificant minority and there is reason for apprehending that this community as a melting pot generation may get absorbed in the local conditions so far as the culture, particularly the mother tongue, is concerned. Many experts predict, therefore, decay and death of this mother tongue and other aspects of Kashmiri Pandit culture in Diaspora conditions. Time alone will provide the verdict on these futuristic assumptions. At this stage one would not like to have any arguments. It suffices to say that whatever their apprehensions, these are with good intentions and are a timely warning that unless urgent measures are taken at this stage, the Kashmiri Pandit mother tongue will become extinct. Preservation of a mother tongue is more akin to a biological phenomenon and therefore requires such an approach in understanding this process. History says that even when Kashmiri Pandits were reduced to only eleven families in Kashmir, they preserved their identity even under very adverse circumstances. Though opinion may differ, the Kashmiri Pandits who left Kashmir centuries back and got absolutely cut off from Kashmir and had no convenient and practical option available to them except to adopt the local language as their mother tongue, they still made all efforts to preserve their Kashmiri Pandit identity. They excelled in a different language but in their personal life they remained proud of their Kashmiri Pandit heritage and this identity. Their circumstances of adopting a language they found productive for earning their bread and butter, require to be understood in depth. The same also happened even in Kashmir. There, Kashmiri Pandits had the environment to preserve their mother tongue conveniently but they excelled in languages that offered them bread and butter. Yes, it was remarkable of them that even under very harsh conditions they retained their cultural identity based on Vedic roots. This is also what Kashmiri Pandits did, in various aspects, after their earlier Diaspora to outside Kashmir. This observation is further reflected in the behavioral pattern, towards identity preservation, of those Kashmiri Pandit families who settled say in U.S.A. decades back as compared to those who settled there recently after 1990 exodus. Both have the same background, both have inherent urge to preserve their identity, language and excellence and both have come out of Kashmir only during last fifty years. The recent Diaspora has taken upon them as a challenge to preserve their K. P. identity as far as possible; in some centres as at Boston they have even initiated holding Kashmiri language classes for their children. But the earlier ones were few in numbers and scattered and were, therefore, more constrained; the latter are more in numbers, settled in locations with larger number of K.P. families and are trying to preserve their cultural ties and traditions as much as possible. Perhaps this is true of other communities also and therefore it requires a broader consideration based, amongst others, more on biologic assumptions. The contents of a melting pot will get diffused easily as amorphous identities if admixed in a significantly larger extraneous volume. They thus lack focussed direction. But the same melting pot contents can have a distinct crystalline shape if seeded, during congealing, with a seed of particular identity crystal. In this case there is a specific direction. The grave threat to our cultural identity as Kashmiri Pandits, as generally assumed, requires to be safeguarded by making special efforts to seed our melting pot generation with crystals of our particular identity to bring about their retaining similar crystalline shape and structure.

With this in view, this Annual Number of the Vitasta is brought out on a theme which focuses on the Kashmiri Pandit identity, so far as its most important aspect, the mother tongue preservation, under prevailing compulsions of exile and consequent Diaspora, are concerned. The whole subject of our mother tongue has been discussed, in this publication, under four Sections, as follows :

  • The Origin
  • Developments and Advances
  • Emerging Threats and
  • Emergent Thrusts
Most of the articles have discussed the whole theme in two or more contexts and not on only one particular aspect. As such their classification amongst the above four sections has been rather empirical, based on the major emphasis and accent a particular article has evinced, so far as the above aspects of this theme are considered.

A language cannot be thrust on melting pot generations as a mother tongue. It has to be got evolved with great care, caution and confidence. As is well known as a biological theory, the fittest only survives. This, therefore, requires that an awareness and awakening is brought about our mother tongue, particularly about its fitness, by highlighting its historical origin and the roots it has in the Vedic Sanskrit language and the connection it has evolved with its rich literature from that era onwards. This is equally necessary, in this connection, to be acquainted with the developments and advances our mother tongue has made from ancient, medireview and modern times. Understanding requires to be solicited for the hardships and handicaps our mother tongue has faced due to our own historical vagaries, compulsions and negligence. Affectionate concern requires to be aroused naturally, as against ignoring it, as that for a mother, crestfallen and destitute as a result of misfortunes and harsh times, now looking for natural care and succour. Further, arousing pertinent feelings about the threat, that the mother may be lost for ever if ignored and not appropriately taken care of now, become meaningful, in this context, as an acceptable forewarning. Once this nutrient of remarkable background, pride in heritage, feeling of belonging and measured care and caution is seeded in our younger generations, we can expect to provide acceptable thrust to this otherwise difficult proposition of preserving our mother tongue. Our mother tongue will survive if there are its adequate users. And for that an adequate effort has to be made as detailed herein. This publication has, reasonably, succeeded in highlighting the comprehensive information on the objectives which have also emerged as the areas of thrust for preserving our mother tongue as follows:

1. Kashmiri is, indisputably, an Indo-Aryan language having its roots in Vedic Sanskrit.

All dis-information and doubts regarding this require to be set at rest and correct information projected throughout our Diaspora communities, particularly the younger generation and children, about the origin of our language and its growth over the centuries of its existence.

 2. Though this language can be written in Sharda, Dev Nagri, Perso-Arabic and Roman scripts, Devnagri is under present conditions the most rational script for its propagation amonst the Diaspora within the country. For Overseas' Diaspora the international Roman script is the second best choice. Since a consensus has been achieved about the standardized and computer friendly Dev Nagri script, it is bounden duty of those who write in this language, to adopt this streamlined script uniformly. It is equally essential that all the community Journals having Kashmiri sections, follow only the streamlined Dev Nagri script uniformly with immediate effect. Dev Nagri script should also be got recognized as the official script for Kashmiri language under the provisions of our Constitution.

 3. All organized efforts should be made to have teaching of Kashmiri language with Devnagri script, as a subject, in some selected schools in Udhampur, Jammu and Delhi where there is a considerable concentration of our internally displaced Kashmiri Pandits. All possible efforts require to be made to encourage talking to our children in Kashmiri language at home. Kashmir Bhavans and our other community centres require to become the nuclii for such organized initiative; and develop provisions for holding classes in Kashmiri language. We have to create Centres of our Kashmiri Culture at various appropriate locations. Though dependent on many other factors, all efforts should be made objectively to settle down preferably in those locations, where there are larger numbers of our Biradari members.

 4. An up to date and streamlined Primer in Dev Nagri requires to be developed for Kashmiri language providing more emphasis on day to day conversations required in Diaspora conditions. Cassettes, videos and CDs on Kashmiri conversations to be popularized amongst our children. Thought out, well-designed and multicoloured comic books, interesting folk tales and folk lores, Panchatantras etc., to be brought out in Kashmiri with Dev Nagri script for our children as their pass-time reading material. Teaching material and teaching aids require specifically to be got developed at Institutes for Linguistics, appropriate for Diaspora Kashmiri Pandit communities. Internet initiatives to be further popularized. It is necessary to encourage our Kashmiri writers and experts to produce creative writings and literature in Kashmiri in Dev Nagri script. Organized efforts to be made to translate literature from other languages into Kashmiri as long term projects. Excellence has to be built in, as appropriate for the changing times.

 5. Our central federating organization, AIKS, is to be rejuvenated and strengthened as an Apex Body to take up "Preservation of Kashmiri mother tongue" as a global agenda and organize Governmental and otherwise help for this purpose. A separate fund is to be created globally for financing an initiative, as detailed in this publication for preserving our mother tongue. No individual or a single Sabha/Samiti is competent to take such projects. It has to be the involvement of all the community organizations spread over globally. A strong federating Apex Body is necessary to co-ordinate such a project though execution may be the responsibility of a specialist group. For this coordination, there is only one organization, AIKS, which needs to be revitalized and rejuvenated with requisite wherewithal to play this vital role. We have to make sincere efforts to create Institutions out of our Kashmir Bhavans, Samitis and Sabhas as also of the individuals who have made great contributions in this connection. All misconceived ideas of "Peristroika" and "Glossnost" have to be recognized as misleading experimental failures and therefore discarded.

I am happy there has been a great response in respect of receiving thoughtful and thought- provoking articles, which have enabled to bring out this publication up to the laid objectives. Even at this late stage we have been receiving articles, which, very regretfully we have not been able to include in this publication. We have tried to accommodate all the viewpoints, received on time for printing schedules, and regret that some of the very thought provoking articles received very late, have remained to be brought out in our future Vitasta Numbers. Indebtedness is being expressed to authors whose contributions have made this publication objective oriented. Acknowledgements are made of the help received from the authorities of National Library and that of Asiatic Society, Calcutta, for use of their library for collecting the reference material and for their courtesy, enabling reproducing some articles in our this publication of no commercial interest. Our Kashmir Bhawan Library has been of great use in this connection. Sincere gratitude is extended to Shri Arjan Dev Majboor for his valuable and sincere help received during the preparatory stages of this publication besides his contribution as an author. Words will fail to express my indebtedness to Prof. Braj Behari Kachru for his expert contribution and encouragement and to Prof. Chaman Kashkari, for indescribable inspiration received, from USA during the preparation of this publication. Last but not the least I express my indebtedness to Kashmir Sabha, Calcutta for providing encouragement and financial wherewithal to bring out this publication, to valued sources who booked their advertisements and to my colleagues for their dedication and valuable help. Acknowledgements are made to Dr. (Mrs.) Phool Kumari Roy and Mrs. Pratibha Moza for their timely assistance in Dev Nagri section. I also express my indebtedness to Mr. A. S. Sengupta of Jyoti Printer, for his help in bringing out this publication. Whilst soliciting indulgence for any omission or commission, opportunity is being taken for extending best wishes to the cause of preserving our Kashmiri mother tongue.

18th April, 2001
Dr. B. K. Moza
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Views expressed by authors in Vitasta Annual Number are not necessarily of Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata.

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