Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kashmiri Language - I

Iqbal examines the basic questions pertaining to his mother tongue

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numismatics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. He is employed by the Jammu and Kashmir State Government. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Is Kashmiri a Written Language?

It is a language, which need not be taught in schools and colleges to its own people, feel many experts. They say that they (people) have learned it from the lap of their mothers. Therefore, the question of its vanishing or dying does not arise at all. If we talk of its literature like poetry, drama and music, truly it has mostly been cultivated by those who had not learned it in schools and madrassas.

In fact for centuries Kashmir poetry and prose was unwritten. It was all oral. The musicians used to sing poems, which was just an oral tradition.

The tradition still continues in Sufi Mafils where Sufi musicians are seen singing the works of the Sufi and folk poets. Scholars further say that No doubt it is now available in written form, yet this language cannot be categorized under written languages, as it has no original script of its own, like other written languages. Many of our readers will not see eye with me on this account because they have been treating it as a written language consisting of rich literary treasures. While none can deny the fact of it being rich in terms of literature, but this also the fact as view several experts that it is mostly not a written language? Though a person can write any dialect that too in any script, it does not necessarily qualify to be the written feature of that language. A written language has a prescribed script of its own, serving that language since its origin. One may agree it or not but it is a true fact that Kashmiri had no original script in which it could have been written, claim several experts. That is why many scholars through ages have been advocating various scripts for this language. If on one hand few people try to write it in Roman script , on the other some write it in Dev Nagri script.

Most of the scholars have set its writing tradition in Persian script. But the fact remains that it has no any original script of its own, other wise their would have been no debate on its scrip as well. On the other hand, all this makes no difference to its speakers or to the people who have been cultivating it through their songs and theaters many institutions have been promoting this dialect on their own. The local Sufi schools and band theaters are institutions, which since long have enriched this language by its speaking aspect and oral songs. The local institutions before eighties did take care of this language not by introducing it as a subject in their schools but by encouraging children to sing its lyric in morning prayers and at other cultural events.

The educationists of that time had a good sense of promoting the local languages. They knew that the local language could serve as the best medium of instruction in schools and colleges. That is why they had made it the main medium of instruction, which helped the students to understand other subjects easily. These days when our schools are English medium ones, how can one teach students Kashmeri in the external medium.

The contemporary intellectuals and language policy makes look more concerned about their own professions and want to sell the language for their own interests. No doubt there are a few people who can be benefited if the language is introduced in schools but to say that by this act the language will be preserved is wrong. A language can not be preserved by introducing it in schools as a subject. It can be promoted only if its spoken feature is encouraged. This can be done by introducing it as a medium of instruction, not only in schools but in other institutions as well.

If mere teaching or writing can save the Kashmeri language then plenty of literature published and unpublished is already available and dozens of new publications are added to it annually. Perhaps there is no lack of Kashmeri written literature, thousands of books are available in this dialect which have occupied the shelves of Academy and public libraries

How many people read the written Kashmiri literature and get benefited? Perhaps no one, except a few poets and kashmeri writers. The people who claim as its patrons should stress on authorities to introduce it as medium of instruction in schools rather than a subject. if this is done a spoken Kashmiri tradition can be promoted which would definitely help the language to flourish . A Kashmiri environment can also be created in our homes and institutions by reviving and promoting, Kashmeri communication and music.

Kashmiri prayers if re-introduced at morning assemblies in schools would help to a large extent to promote the dialect. It is generally believed that introducing the language as a subject will not serve my purpose. The introduction of Kashmiri as a medium of instruction in schools, besides promotion of cultural activities shall be an effective instrument to entertain the tiny tots and would in turn make them aware of their mother tongue.

Apart from the state government the society can not shy away from its responsibility. It should discourage and discontinue the practice of creating a non-Kashmiri environment, which is in vogue across the Kashmir.

The usage of Urdu and English language in daily discourse has become the order of the day. This phenomenon is not only found in middle class families but this tradition has made its roots strong also in those families who claim their selves as its well wishers and in their terminology advocate the promotion and preservation of this language. Perhaps none of us is serious about protecting and preserving Kashmiri as a language. The debate too is more political than serious effort to promote the language.

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