Battling for survival

Survey depicts Kashmiris are gradually losing their mother tongue

KASHMIRI LANGUAGE

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Mother tongue is considered to be the essence and identity of a nation and its citizens. Irrespective of different places of their birth, religion and cultural moorings, children learn their mother tongue from mother’s womb. However, due to various factors, Kashmiri language is dying a slow death.
Despite many challenges, Kashmiris till recent past maintained strong ties with their rich culture and particularly with their language. However, due to infiltration of western culture, coupled with neglect of successive regimes, Kashmiri language is battling for survival.
Kashmiri language is one of the 22 scheduled languages of the country and is a part of the 6th Schedule in the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. After years of dilly-dallying, the Government in 2009 deemed Kashmiri to be a compulsory subject from Class III to VIII in all educational institutions and maintained that it shall carry a weightage equal to that of other academic subjects for purposes of continuous assessment. However, in the absence of serious efforts by the Government and stakeholders, Kashmiri language continues to witness a downfall.
Concerned over threat to their mother tongue, a group of Kashmiris mostly comprising of lawyers and doctors conducted a survey ‘Koshur’ in various schools of Kashmir to assess awareness of students about Kashmir language.
“Our study was aimed to identify emerging threats to Kashmiri language and the results revealed sorry state of affairs,” says Advocate Mubeen Wani, one of the surveyors. Mubeen says the idea to conduct the study was floated after Dr Ejaz Raboodi Gosani, one of his Kashmiri friends based in United States, visited Kashmir earlier this year.
“Despite living in US, I ensured that my children speak in Kashmiri. But after visiting Kashmir I was shocked to learn that Kashmiris prefer to speak other languages than their mother tongue,” says Dr Gosani.  “Language is the root of culture and our language is on its deathbed.”
“We decided to assess the awareness of Kashmir language among students who are our future citizens,” he says. The duo was joined by like-minded people, including Advocate Mir Mubashir, Shekh Sameer, a contractor, and Parvez Jamal, a social activist.
“I was brought up outside Jammu and Kashmir and I regret why I didn’t learn Kashmiri being a Kashmiri as it is my identity,” says Jamal. Despite odds, they managed to conduct the survey in various schools of Kashmir and the results were “disappointing”.
The survey reveals for 63 percent of elite school children Urdu remains the language of communication.  “57.6 percent of elite school children in Kashmir hinge on Urdu while communicating in their everyday life, followed by 24.6 percent who still fall back on their local Kashmiri language,” the study states. “Mere 17.5 percent school children do use Kashmiri all the day, followed by13.5 percent of our respondents, who maintained that they do speak Kashmiri very little,” the study further reveals.
“The analysis of data show that merely 17 percent of elite school children in Kashmir possess very good ability of understanding and speaking in their mother tongue, however, they can’t read or write in the same language. Only13 percent of elite school children in Kashmir could read or write in their mother tongue, however, that is on very low level (below moderate),” Mubeen quotes from the survey. “It is the nuclear family where children have been found to have more proficiency in English (67.4 percent) and Urdu (50.9 percent).”
The survey states that majority (46.1 percent) of respondents who were having very good proficiency in English belonged to parents with post-graduate degrees, followed by 26.9 percent of students whose parents have doctorate degrees. It states around 36.7 percent of school children, who were very proficient in Urdu, were again belonging to parents who are post-graduates having done professional courses, followed by 22.7 percent whose parents have doctorate degrees.
“Only18.1 percent of school children in our study belonging to parents of higher educational category (i.e. post-graduation in professional courses and doctorate), were proficient in Kashmiri. A larger majority (30.7 percent) of school children who were very proficient in Kashmiri belonged to parents who are landlords, followed by 23 percent whose parents included contractors. Whereas 15.3 percent of school children in the study capable of speaking very good Kashmiri were belonging to business class parents,” says Mubeen.
He says analysis of data explicitly shows that as many as 32 percent of elite school children in Kashmir speak in English or Urdu because they are scolded by their parents to do so.  “Nearly 17 percent do speak in languages other than Kashmiri, because teachers insult them if they hinge on their mother tongue while in class rooms. Some 23 percent of students of elite schools said that they do speak in English or Urdu because their friends do,” Mubeen says. “Nearly about 12.6 percent have a desire to always speak in English, while 7.6 percent of school children in Kashmir do respectively consider speaking English and Urdu as modern and necessary for good prospects.”
A larger section of 40.3 percent respondents said that screening in elite schools is wholly and solely carried out in English and Urdu languages. “30.6 percent school children in our study said that possibilities of getting admission in elite schools depends on ones capability and skills in English and Urdu, and 16 percent said that Kashmiri has no scope in the admission processes of elite schools in Kashmir,” he said.
Sixteen percent of respondents unequivocally said that responding in Kashmiri language during an interview means to cut a sorry figure. Analysis of data shows that majority (55 percent) of elite school children in Kashmir communicate in Urdu whether inside or outside of their school premises and 23 percent do speak or interact in English in the same context.
It is just 21 percent who prefer and hinge on their mother tongue Kashmiri while interacting inside or outside their schools. As many as 61.9 percent of elite school children in the study viewed Urdu as their most comfortable language for communication (verbal only), whereas just 6.2 percent of them estimated English as their most comfortable language for interaction. Some 31.8 percent held that Kashmiri is most comfortable language in verbal communication.
Nearly 55 percent of elite school children in Kashmir according to the study do communicate with their father in Urdu.  Regarding watching television, 64.3 percent said that they always watch Urdu plays, 68.3 percent always watch Urdu news, while 90 percent always watch Urdu feature films.
“Just 12.6 percent elite school children in Kashmir watch Kashmiri plays and 8 percent watch news in Kashmiri,” the study states. “In terms of listening to radio, majority go with Urdu as 66 percent said that they always listen and prefer Urdu songs. In the sphere of reading, majority (45 percent) always read English news papers, followed by 38.2 percent who always read English magazines,” the study adds.
Mubeen says there is need to launch a comprehensive campaign to revive Kashmiri language. “At our individual level we are making efforts to protect the mother tongue and won’t desist from taking legal recourse if need arises,” he says, adding that it is high time that Government should take cue from other states and ensure that Kashmiri is taught seriously at school level. “Parents should also encourage their children to speak in Kashmiri,” Mubeen says.
“Agar Ne Kashir Zaban Bachavau, Saan Naev Pui Aini Aise Jahnam,” Mubeen summed up in typical Kashmiri. (If we don’t take measures to preserve our mother tongue, the day is not far when our mother tongue will become history and our future generations will curse us.)

Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 25 Apr 2013 00:00:00 IST




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Battling for survival

Survey depicts Kashmiris are gradually losing their mother tongue

KASHMIRI LANGUAGE

ARIF SHAFI WANI

Mother tongue is considered to be the essence and identity of a nation and its citizens. Irrespective of different places of their birth, religion and cultural moorings, children learn their mother tongue More



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