Kashmiri Language: We’re The Culprits & We’re The Victims

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If languages could speak, I am sure we would hear the dreadful screeches of ‘Kaeshur’, our mother tongue everyday and every second. And, why wouldn’t we? Like us Kashmiris dying every day, our mother tongue is slowly dying a cultural death. And sadly this time over we can’t shoot this responsibility over the shoulders of any politician or some dirty political game. We are the murderers of our language. We are the culprits and we are the victims.

Last winter, I had a chance to spend some time with a Kashmiri Pandit family in Delhi during my internship period there. Everywhere inside and outside their mansion, I could see the colours of my home-land. We were distinct and yet so alike. We formed a bond instantly because we communicated in language that was so close to our hearts. Everywhere inside their bungalow I saw little pieces of my Kashmir that they had carried, from that little ‘baithak’ besides ‘monj-e-haakh’  ‘from their waer’. My heart told me that I was with my people. The joy was unmatchable, but what made me equally sad was the experience that I went through when I interned in a Delhi court for a month. So, I got a month to spend in the capital city of India and with a family which was trying hard to retain links to its roots.

However after my return, back home nothing and nobody seemed to symbolise Kashmiri culture. From the absolute transmogrification of our cultural dresses to our language everything seemed dead. I felt alienated; nobody talked to anybody in their own mother-tongue.

The shame in talking in our mother-tongue, the false pride of parents in not teaching their kids their own language and the exile of our language from Kashmir schools, all is a sad reality. Little do our parents understand that they are depriving their children of intellectual growth.   The adaption of western culture seems important for acceptance in our social-circles, hence the speaking of languages likes Hindi, Urdu and of course the cultural language of West i.e, English is jabbing the roots of our origin. The loss of self-esteem, lack of state-patronage, the shame in being true to our roots, the quest of following the West blindly has pushed us to the cusp of identity-crises.  We are losing our speakers day-by-day.

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The fact that Kashmiri is the only Dardic language with a literature, that it is older than Urdu, that  it is a symbol of cultural pluralism, that it gave this land the literary geniuses like Sheikh-ul Alam, Lal Ded, Habba Khatoon, Shirikanth, Mirza Kak, that it is one of the Kohinoor in the cap of Kashmiris, that is making us different. That it represents us, that  out of the 1000s of languages spoken all over the country the one of the eight schedule languages, should make us love our language more, because this is what we gave to the world and not what we followed blindly.

When will we realise that if we don’t embrace what is distinct to us and to our culture will soon have an extinct civilisation. Because kill the language and kill the civilisation.  Mother-tongue is a fundamental tag that ties the people into a particular identity. Speaking in English language won’t make me an ‘angrez’ but speaking in Kashmiri will make me a true ‘kaeshur’. It is no hidden fact that people tend to perceive and dream in their mother-tongue. By snatching the language we subjugate our children intellectually. Kashmiri has been reduced to a petty language for street-fights and the fancy ‘gujjar-kashur’ slang our children speak in schools to give an impression of not being taught Kashmiri at their homes. A feeling of guilt and a complex of inferiority is overtaking them. It is sad that the workers from outside are more fluent at our native-language than the progenies of ‘moaj-kasher’. It is a moment of deep shame and sadness that should over-take us when we measure the depths of scars we have left on the flowery, rosy and ‘melodious-to-ears’ language of our State.

It is paradoxical that the native inhabitants dwelling in the State take the most shame in speaking what is inherently theirs, while many Kashmiris among the diaspora and many Kashmiri Pandits are the ones who feel the asphyxiation of the strangle that we have caused to language. How long will we look up for the excuses and shoulders to shoulder this responsibility? We have to be the saving grace, the potion to cure the scars of this ‘distinctly-ours’ language. It is one of the pivotal pillars of Kashmiriyat. The time is  not far when our next generations will have to excavate one more ‘GUFKRAL’ to discover what was theirs and what defined them, if we don’t take urgent steps to protect this language. As has been rightly said, “Language comes first. It’s not that language grows out of consciousness, if you haven’t got language, you are dead.”

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