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A Welcome step

Finally there is some good news that sounds musical to the ears of Urdu-lovers. In a significant initiative towards promotion of J&K’s official language, the Government has constituted the first ever State Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (SCPUL). The body would be a parallel institution to replicate what an established organization J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages has been doing, since its inception in 1958. Urdu is the official language of the state. But like other state institution, Urdu too has been facing official neglect. Though Urdu is not mother tongue in Kashmir but its connection with Kashmir is no less than its mother tongue—Kashmiri. Different regions of Kashmir speak different languages like Kashmiri, Dogri, Ladkahi, shina, Balti, Gojri and Pahari, and these dialects are hardly spoken or understood outside their respective areas. However Urdu is spoken and understood in all the regions of the state and it is working a unifying force to make all the regions of the state look one. It is for the similar reason that Urdu has got officials status in the state. However, over the years, there had been attempts from certain sections—who are hell-bent on destroying the peculiarity of Kashmir—to target Urdu. It has gradually been driven out of the government offices. The non-Kashmiri babus and bureaucrats are directly responsible for eliminating Urdu from government offices. They treat it as national duty to alternate it with English. The different governments on different occasions, in this regard, not only complied obediently with these non-state babus but even facilitated them in their mission like willing collaborators. Initially, the destroyers of Kashmiri identity targeted the state constitution. They got it amended to their liking abolishing the nomenclatures of Prime Minister, Sadre-Riyasat, brought the state under the jurisdictions of Election Commission of India and Supreme Court, paved way for non-state subjects for the post governor and several other things that hit the very foundation of Kashmir’s special status. While all this was happening at political and government level, silent but well-designed campaign was launched at cultural level as well through official media. The syllabus at all levels in schools, colleges and university was changed to match with what was being done at political level. Since the eruption of militancy in late 80s, the onslaught against the idea of Kashmir has been more intense and direct. The conspiracy against Urdu has reasons galore. Revenue, Police (at Thana level only) and Food Supplies were the only departments were Urdu was being used as medium though at lower level only. Officially Urdu-knowing is compulsory for anyone seeking job in these departments. Two years back, government flouted all its norms and rules set for such recruitments when it recruited Naib tehsildars who did not know Urdu. Though, it (Urdu-knowing) was termed as mandatory in the advertisement made for these posts. Last year, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department (CAPD) turned away from Urdu to issue ration cards in English and Hindi. It was only after severe public criticism that the move got stalled. A general explanation given in this regard is “English is now commonly used language”. It little matters whether one knows English or not. The fundamental question is why deviation from set procedure? People in south India know English and Hindi more than people in Kashmir and other states. But they have officially banned Hindi languages in their regions. In Kashmir we see senior officers acting as collaborators. The minister’s assurance has given some hope that the state’s official language might get due attention of the government. Let us hope that the move is not a political gimmick but sincere desire to give Urdu its due. Last year, Legislative Council passed a resolution with support of all the members—cutting across party lines—to make Urdu compulsory in Jammu and Kashmir’s educational institutions. The resolution also said the posts of tehsildars should be filled up with Urdu-knowing persons. The legislators passed the resolution, with members stating that the official language of Jammu and Kashmir should be promoted and made compulsory. A reality check on the ground needs to be done as to what level the resolution has been implemented.