Parliament Passes J&K Official Languages Bill

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Parliament building – PTI File Photo

New Delhi- Parliament on Wednesday passed a Bill for inclusion of Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi in the list of official languages in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, in addition to the existing Urdu and English.

The Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 was passed by Rajya Sabha through voice vote. Lok Sabha had cleared the legislation on Tuesday.

Replying to a debate on the Bill, Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said it was a long-standing demand of the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the language they speak should be included in the list of official languages.

The minister pointed out that around 74 per cent people in the Union Territory spoke Kashmiri and Dogri languages.

He said that according to 2011 census, only 0.16 per cent population in Jammu and Kashmir spoke Urdu, while 2.3 per cent spoke Hindi.

Reddy said the government would also take steps to encourage other local languages like Punjabi, Gurjari and Pahari in the region.

Participating in the debate on the Bill, Naresh Gujral (SAD) termed it “unfortunate” that Punjabi was not included in the Bill and urged the government to reconsider it.

The J&K Constitution included Punjabi and the first Chief Minister of J&K was a Punjabi, he said and added: “It hurts the feeling of those who are settled there. I would urge the government to reconsider because language is the basis of cultural heritage of the community.”

He said 13 lakh Punjabis live in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mir Mohammad Fayaz (PDP) demanded inclusion of Gurjari, Punjabi and Pahari in the Bill, saying that the motto of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas was lacking in the state.

“Include Punjabi, Gurjari and Pahari so that we win the trust of everyone in J&K,” he said.

Ramdas Athawale (RPI) expressed “support to Dogri and Kashmiri languages” and in his poetic style said that a day will come when PcK will come to India.

Mamata Mohanta (BJD) said the bill will facilitate integration of the UT into mainstream. Shamsher Singh Manhas (BJP) spoke in Dogri. Surendra Singh Nagar (BJP) supported the Bill.

Huge Anomaly Corrected: Jitendra Singh

Hailing the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill in Parliament, Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Wednesday said a huge anomaly stands corrected with official recognition being accorded to Kashmiri and Dogri.

He said it was a “gross injustice” to not have included these two languages, which are spoken by over 73 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir’s population, in its list of official languages.

The Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 was passed by Rajya Sabha through voice vote on Wednesday. Lok Sabha had cleared the legislation on Tuesday.

Briefing the media on the bill, Singh recalled that the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir notified Urdu and English as its official languages in 1957 even though they were spoken by less than one per cent of the total population.

With the new constitutional arrangement after August 5, 2019 and Jammu and Kashmir becoming a union territory on the midnight of October 31, 2019, there have been continuous endeavours to correct the anomalies of the past, the Minister of State for Personnel said.

The bill passed on Wednesday also sought to do the same, he added.

Singh said a huge anomaly stands corrected with official recognition being accorded to regional languages of Dogri and Kashmiri.

Kashmiri is the most widely spoken language in the union territory. It is spoken by 53.26 per cent of the population, while Dogri is spoken by 20.64 per cent. Together, these two languages are spoken by around 73.90 per cent of the population, he said.

“Therefore, it was a gross injustice not to have included these two languages as the official languages,” he said.

Singh lauded Union Home Minister Amit Shah for arriving at the decision to include these languages in the official list.

He said the home minister has also corrected another aberration by including Hindi in the list of Jammu and Kashmir’s official languages.

At the same time, the home minister was considerate enough not to disturb the earlier arrangement, which included Urdu and English. Thus, Jammu and Kashmir will now have five official languages, he added.

According to the 2011 Census, Singh said, the most commonly spoken languages in Jammu and Kashmir after Kashmiri and Dogri are Gojri, Pahadi and Punjabi.

Gojri and Pahadi are spoken by 9.32 per cent and 8.03 per cent of the population, respectively, he said.

“However, the new legislation does not, in any way, undermine the importance of these languages and the matter of the fact is that their status and official standing remains the same as it was before 5th August 2019,” he said.

Singh said the government is committed to the promotion, patronage and growth of all languages, including Punjabi, Gojri and Pahadi, which have a rich heritage and legacy.

“While their status will remain unaltered and same as it was before 5th August 2019, the government will make further endeavours to strengthen the mechanism for growth of these languages,” he said.

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