A Language Murdered

Apathy to mother-tongue is a sad story

EHTOS

AMIR RASHID

Kashmir’s literary achievements over the past many centuries have been remarkable. Two of its cardinal components have been: the distinct culture of the valley and its language, which is so similar yet so different from its sister languages in the rest of the subcontinent. The Kashmiri language has been medium of extraordinary literary creativity displayed the writers, poets and scholars of the valley. Today it is dying a painful death with our ears falling deaf to its cries. Is our language dying a natural death or are we murdering it deliberately?
Cut to the not so distant past, ‘ Koshur’ (as the language is called by natives) and its dialects were spoken across both sides of the valley, the one under India and the one under Pakistan. Thanks to the government’s determination, of not including it in any academic curriculum, our unfortunate mother tongue has just been reduced to an instrument of street arguments. Most of the families have now given into the so called linguistic colonialism and teach their children to speak in Hindi, Urdu and English. Today, not many youngsters in the valley are as fluent in Kashmiri as they are in other languages like Urdu and English. What is more alarming is the fact that people who can read and write in the language have become rarest of the rare. At the academic level, students are encouraged to attain fluency over Urdu and mastery in English. The importance of mother tongue in not overlooked but blatantly ignored. Even to spread their message among the masses, the leaders hardly use Kashmiri as an instrument. They rather resort to either Urdu or English.
Kashmir gave to history one of the finest examples of cultural pluralism with Pandits and Muslims living in perfect harmony. The two communities though followed different faiths, yet they spoke a common language, with pride and esteem. Unfortunately the language continues to lose its speakers by the day and is threatening to be a thing of the past in the very homes of Kashmir. The twin reasons for orphaning the once rich and flourishing language have been the lack of state patronage towards it and the loss of self esteem among its speakers, who find pride in copying the alien languages and using them as a medium of communication. Two Kashmiri’s when outside the valley hardly use their own language even in their ordinary conversations. This reflects the amount of pride we attach to our mother tongue. Even the Kashmiri Pandits, most of who live outside the valley seldom speak in Kashmiri in their homes. Their newer generation has even lost touch with the language, making its sustenance not difficult but impossible.
Any language whose speakers are not conscious of its importance begins to lose its identity. Kashmiri too is fading away rapidly from our hearts and minds because of the same reason. As the,’ Hin-glish’, syndrome is taking over, we are not able to recognise the mordacious threat it could pose to the very identity of ours. Language is the mirror of any civilisation and this has been true from Harappa to Chinese, from the Greeks to the Persians. And if the mirror is lost, the day is not far when we could lose our identity also. Yet as we continue loose our most treasured possession as a nation, we are either ignorant of the fact or deliberately ignore it. In both cases it is suicidal.
For many centuries the writers and poets of Kashmir used this language as an instrument to disseminate their message among the messages. From the true founders of its literature i.e. Shitikanth, Lal Ded and Nund Rishi to the later one who contributed prolifically like Habba Khatoon , Mirza Kak and many more. Each of them added something or the other in the making this language the wonder it today is. Currently people like Rehman Rahi are striving hard to preserve the richness of the language and keep it alive.
The linguistic content is something which makes Kashmiri a unique language. It is not only a mixture of Sanskrit and the Indo Aryan languages but also has sizable influence from Arabic, Persian and Urdu. It is hence bound to be rich in all linguistic contents like phonology, grammar and discourse. By not teaching this language to our youth we are depriving them of the intellectual growth, which may shape their personality in a more prolific manner. Out of the most than 1500 languages spoken in India, only 22 find place in the 8th schedule of the constitution. Our mother tongue is one of them. It is high time that we recognise its value and embrace it to avoid our destruction as a civilisation.
There is a compelling need of introspection among us before it gets too late. The first thing that needs to be honestly acknowledged is that the damage has been done. There is no point living in denial when reality stares at the face. We have put ourselves in an identity crisis and we only have ourselves to blame for it. Now, things need to be put back to order. Our language doesn’t belong to a single social institution. To expect only the government to set the things right would be utter ignorance. All social players need to play their part be it the government, eminent scholars, universities and colleges of the state and in general everybody who considers himself as a part of the civil society. The government’s step to introduce Kashmiri language in the school academics is the welcome step. Ideally it should have been done much earlier but better late than never. Now the programmes need to be vigorously monitored and teachers need to play their part. The local media also has a part to play and so do the folk artists whose contribution in preserving our culture has been indispensable. Only if we channelize our energies in the right direction, we may be able to restore the pristine glory of our language that it deserves. 

(Feedback at aamirapj@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Wed, 19 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 19 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 20 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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