It was summer of 2017, when a friend from Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, and Editor Sheeraza (Urdu), Dr. Salim Salik, called me and invited me to read a paper on a book titled Ludrae Maal, a book on Urdu translation of Kashmiri proverbs.
I conveyed my non-availability owing to some pending works. Dr. Sahib offered to change the date of the function, citing the reason that the Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Cultural Academy, Dr. Aziz Hajini wants me to review the book and has asked Dr. Salim to contact me, considering my interest in the field of translation. That led to my association with Dr. Hajini which grew and lasted till his death.
Dr. Hajini was a renowned poet, critic, translator and language activist. He was a prolific writer and has authored/ edited/ translated around two dozen books. Hajini received the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award for his book Aan-e-Khane in 2015 and Sahitya Akademi Translation Award for Za Gaz Zameen (Kashmiri translation of Abdul Samad’s Urdu novel Do Gaz Zameen) in 2013.
He served in different capacities in various institutions during his illustrious career that include the Directorate of School Education (Kashmir), Jammu and Kashmir State Board of School Education, State Institute of Education, University of Kashmir and Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages wherefrom he retired as its Secretary in 2019. He adored his mother tongue, Kashmiri, and worked as an activist with zeal and dedication for its growth and development. In this regard his contributions as the President of Adbi Markaz Kamraz, Kashmir’s largest and oldest literary organization working for the upliftment of Kashmiri, are immense and unparalleled. He was also serving as the Convener of the Kashmiri Advisory Board for Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi from 2018.
Being a member of the Kashmiri Advisory Board, I got an opportunity to work closely with Dr. Hajini during past couple of years. He possessed exemplary managerial and administrative skills; the organization of the innumerable programmes of the Akademi in a very smooth and successful manner in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir during the past three years is a clear proof in this regard. It is pertinent to mention that during the first two years of the current board (2018-2019), he was also serving as the Secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages. Despite a very hectic schedule at the Cultural Academy, Dr. Hajini made it a point that the activities and responsibilities of the Sahitya Akademi do not get hampered. He loved his mother tongue (Kashmiri) to the core and was always at pains to take care that Kashmiri does not lag behind other languages vis-à-vis the activities of Sahitya Akademi. During his convenership, more than twenty-five books and monographs were published by the Akademi in Kashmiri in the first two years of the incumbent Kashmiri Advisory Board. A good number of books and monographs were also translated into Kashmiri during this time. Besides publications and translations in Kashmiri, Dr. Hajni played a pivotal role in getting Kashmiri works translated into English through the Akademi so as to provide them a wider global audience. It was Dr. Hajini himself who raised the issue of translation of Kashmiri texts in the first meeting of the incumbent Kashmiri Advisory Board. Ten book/ monographs were selected for translation into English in the first phase. During this period a good number of programmes including seminars, symposia, workshops, Through My Window, Kavi Anuvadak, Katha Sandhi, Asmita, Nari Chetna, Gramloks, etc were also organized by the Kashmiri Advisory Board in the nook and corner of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr. Hajini was quite open to suggestions from the members when it came to the meetings and activities of the Board. Highlighting and grooming new talent and providing the requisite support to the budding and talented writers was a hallmark of Dr. Hajini’s personality. He groomed many young writers and provided them platform to showcase their talent.
Dr. Hajini was always alive to and gave due consideration to the speakers of Kashmiri living outside Kashmir valley like Kishtwar, Doda, Rajori, Jammu, Delhi. He was instrumental in organising very successful Kashmiri conferences in areas like Kishtwar and Rajouri under the banner of Adbi Markaz Kamraz. In case of Sahitya Akademi programmes also, Dr. Hajini always impressed upon the Kashmiri Advisory Board to give representation to various regions outside Kashmir valley where Kashmiri is spoken. As a result, many programmes were organised in places like Delhi, Jammu, Rajouri, Banihal, Doda, etc during the term of the incumbent board.
Dr. Hajini always utilised his association with various institutions for the development and promotion of Kashmiri language. He served with equal zeal and enthusiasm for the growth of the language notwithstanding the position he held in these institutions. It will be difficult to find his replacement as a committed soldier of Kashmiri language in near future and fill the void his death has created.
Prof. Aejaz Mohammed Sheikh, Department of Linguistics, University of Kashmir, Srinagar