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Kashmiri second fastest growing language in India; Urdu dwindling

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Srinagar, July 1: Over the years, alarm bells have been rung in the valley over the decline of Kashmiri, as the younger generation is less enthused by it. However, recently released data on mother tongues in the 2011 census presents a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered language. It shows Kashmiri is the second fastest growing language in the country.

This research is corroborated by valley based experts who believe the new generation is making “conscious efforts to learn the mother-tongue” as the realization of it being a “symbol of identity” has set in. This is set to counter the decline faced by the language over the years.

 

Linguistic experts, attribute the decline of their mother tongue-Kashmiri-over the years to deliberate policies followed through the centuries by foreign invaders to decimate the mother tongue in favor of other languages, such as Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu, and English. The lackadaisical approach by successive governments did not help either. However recent efforts by government including making language compulsory at school, and offering it at college level has led to a revival of sorts.

The data from the census bears this out. “Kashmiri (22.97%), Gujarat (20.4%), Manipuri (20.07%), and Bengali (16.63%) are the second, third and fourth fastest growing languages, respectively,” says the new census data.

Noted Kashmir poet and cultural activist, Zareef Ahmad Zareef said, “I believe the declining trend has been reversed by making language as a mandatory part in school and college curriculum. This is the first step where children are getting properly familiar with their mother tongue.”

He said, “Any community is identified by their language and this belief is slowly dawning upon our younger generation. Be it writings, poetry or music, youth is making conscious efforts to revive the native language through these mediums.”

The poet stressed that literature of Kashmiri language is older than some of the international languages, including English. “The quality of Kashmiri literature is rich taking into consideration the thousands of years of rich culture and history of the valley. Hence, collective efforts should be made to preserve the language.”

Zareef suggested, “Apart from including it in the academia, we as individuals should try to interact with our dear ones using our mother tongue. Socializing in person and trying to eat in family gatherings are the best opportunities to give the language a new lease of life.”

Salim Saliq, Editor Urdu at J & K Cultural Academy opines, “From a literary point of view, post-modern world has seen the revival of things that went unnoticed. Among them were the regional languages.”

He said, “The budding writers are now taking to Kashmiri. They are showing their interest in reading the Kashmiri literature in depth.”

Saliq believes, “Earlier speaking in Kashmiri was considered as something embarrassing but now the things are changing. The younger generation is coming forward to learn the language as they are realizing that it carries their identity, spirituality and value system.”

Dr. Aziz Hajni, Secretary, J&K Cultural Academy said, “The language shows a revival because we realized long back that including it in the academics is not the only way out. We actively involved civil society in our efforts to preserve the language. These included members from every walk of life.”

Hajni asserts, “When posterity will consider the language as a symbol of dignity and status, you will see the it flourish.”