Members of the Kashmiri Language Union Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday held a protest demonstration in Srinagar to demand Kashmiri subject be made compulsory in secondary level in government and private schools of Jammu and Kashmir. This, according to them, would become a source of employment for the hundreds of Kashmiri language degree holders who are in search of jobs and livelihood. But is an issue of even greater concern. Job opportunity is secondary thing. The first and foremost is that the identity of a people is at risk. The Kashmiri, as language, is at the verge of extinction. It is being thrown out of our homes and institutions like the most unwanted things. This is, genuinely, a matter of greater concern as the very identity of the people of Kashmir is under serious threat. Mother tongue is a fundamental tag that ties people into a particular identity. More than geographical identities, it is the idiom you inherit that makes you a people. Humans tend to dream in their mother tongue and it is the language you speak that shapes up your perceptions. But it is to note with great concern that we are fast losing this peculiar identity.
The Kashmiri language, which binds us into a distinctive character, is dying a leisurely death. The official apathy apart, the people who get identified by this language are no less responsible for its gradual fall. There is hardly any household, more particularly at middle class and upper class levels, where this language is spoken. People take pride in making their children speak other languages than mother tongue. This is true about those too who swear by this language day in and day out. Its natural corollary is that our new generation has distanced from their mother tongue. A feeling of guilt and a complex of inferiority is overtaking them when they talk in their mother tongue. It should not be viewed as exaggeration that many a Bihari labourers speak Kashmiri language better than the progenies of some middle and upper class Kashmiri families. The official apathy has only but added to the demise of Kashmiri language. The entire government machinery is busy with fulfilling political agenda. They measures things, howsoever non-political these may be, only through the thermometer of politics. The southern states of India could have been a great example for the government to follow in promoting Kashmiri language. Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have accorded top priorities to their respective languages and the governments there in place have done everything to promote and preserve their languages. Not many years ago, Tamil Nadu government imposed ban on telecast of Hindi news from national network of Doordarshan. In the prime time news, the Tamil Nadu Kendra of Doordarshan, instead, telecast local news in local language. The same is true about Kerala and Andhra as well. These states kept their languages alive through the medium of films, dramas and other prorgrammes telecast from Doordarshan. It would not be going overboard to say that Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar is the primary institution of destroying Kashmiri language. The time slot allotted to Kashmiri language in DDK programmes could not be more than three hours in 24-hour transmission.
The role of civil society and NGOs has been even worse. Dozens of language promotion groups surfaced in mid-90s all across Kashmir, pleading and campaigning for promotion of Kashmiri language. Most of these groups had been formed with limited political agenda. They vanished from the scene soon after completing what they had been formed for. The politics over Kashmiri language is still on. Some groups based in Delhi are trying hard to get the present script of Kashmiri language, which resembles to Urdu and Persian, changed into Devnagri (Hindi). Some time back they submitted a memorandum to the ministry of Human Development Resources (HRD) to change the script. If this happens, it would be the last nail in the coffin of this language. Against this backdrop, the latest demand for introducing Kashmiri language in secondary schools is quite genuine and the government should not ignore the demand for petty political reasons.