New Language Bill Sparks Mixed Reactions in J&K

Inclusion of Kashmiri, Dogri, and Hindi in the list of official languages of Jammu and Kashmir, in addition to the existing Urdu and English, has generated assorted arguments in the erstwhile state.

INTRODUCTION of Kashmiri, Dogri, and Hindi as official languages of Jammu and Kashmir has strong political connotations, said Mir Tariq Rasool, former Secretary J&K Adbe Markaz Kamraz (AMK) and Patron Kashmir Literary and philosophical foundation.

According to him, the new language bill has disseminated respect to the sense of identity among Hindi/Dogri-speaking people, but for Kashmiri-speaking people “it is nothing but a political trick”, as the government, he said, is trying to introduce Devanagari script for Kashmiri language instead of Nastaliq (a style of Islamic calligraphy).

“The second aspect of the bill is a linguistic divide of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding, “a huge chunk of Gujjar and Pahari speaking people who are fighting for the official position of their languages have been left out again.”

Notably, on September 23, the J&K Official Language Bill, 2020 was passed by both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. According to Minister of State G Kishan Reddy, the inclusion of Kashmiri, Dogri, and Hindi as official languages has been a long-standing demand of the people in J&K. He also mentioned that the government would also encourage other local languages like Punjabi, Gojari and Pahari in the region.

Around 74 percent of people in J&K speak Kashmiri and Dogri languages, he said. The minister also mentioned “the findings of the Census 2011” which, according to him, stated that “only 0.16 percent population in J&K spoke Urdu while 2.3 percent spoke Hindi”.

However, the decision was criticized by Member Parliament from Anantnag, Hasnain Masoodi.

The retired justice argued that the Bill is against the constitutional propriety because the law is a consequence of the J&K State Reorganization Bill which is under the judicial scrutiny of the Supreme Court of India.

“The constitutional propriety demands that the J&K Official Languages Bill be taken back as a mark of respect for the country’s judiciary and principles of parliamentary democracy,” he said, according to National Conference (NC) spokesperson.

“By bringing such a law the Centre is anticipating the decisions of the Supreme Court. Ideally, the legislature is supposed to respect the judiciary, which unfortunately is not being done here.”

Meanwhile, in the valley, the new bill continues to generate the heated debate.

“The bill is nothing but a political tool to drag people of Kashmir in more chaos and confusion linguistically,” Mir Tariq Rasool continued.

“What can one expect from a parliamentarian cabinet where a decision-making body favours slogan of one language, one nation, and one culture,” he added.

He argued that the bill is meant to create more trouble within the nation which “is surviving chronic cultural-cum-linguistic ailments for decades”.

‘A Silent Attack’

Since 1889, Urdu was deemed with official language status, said Zakir Malik, author of ‘The Wail of the Woods’. Since then, he said, the records have been scribed in Urdu, in each department.

“The inclusion of Hindi is a silent attack on Kashmir, as it is a step towards legalizing a lesser important language, thereby legalizing the contested rule in Kashmir,” he said.

Guftar Ahmed, a political activist from Jammu, said that by adding all these languages the government is trying to erase Urdu from the history of J&K.

Urdu ko dafan karne ke liye sab kia ja raha hain (Everything is being done to bury Urdu),” he said.

‘A Step to Create Friction’

Rao Farman Ali, author of ‘Resistance History of Kashmir’, told Kashmir Observer that the move by the Centre would act as a divisive step in the region.

In the future, it might create friction than unification in J&K, he added.

“Urdu was a link language between all ethnic groups of Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir,” he said. “In the process of finding the link language, people would shift towards English and it would be a new type of anguish towards New Delhi.”

‘A move towards transparency’

But while a majority of people criticized the Bill, many hailed the inclusion of the three local languages.

Komal Gupta, a Jammu-based writer, argued that the step would lead to an adequate representation of local languages.

“Use of the regional languages in official work will lead to better transparency and accessibility for common masses,” she said.

However, she emphasized that in today’s time, official languages for any state or UT of India should be the language globally spoken and accepted.

“If Kashmiri, Dogri, and Hindi are kept as the official language, the youth may end up struggling to present themselves at the global level,” added Gupta.

‘A long Overdue’

J&K always had a rich cultural heritage, said Namrata Sharma, provincial president J&K Apni Party Women Wing, Jammu region.

“Its beauty is reflected in our values and practices, and a major part of it is of great linguistic heritage,” she said.

The inclusion of Dogri, Kashmiri, and Hindi is a welcome step and one which had been long due, added Sharma. She believed that this step will certainly bring ease in governance and more efficiency in the administration.

Twitteratis also reacted to the move. Many of them demanded the inclusion of other languages like Gojri, Pahari, and Punjabi in the official language list.

Some even termed the Bill as a “political tool to further widen the gap”.

Many people said that the inclusion of the languages is a “historic moment” for J&K.


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