JUSTIFICATION FOR DEMANDING DEVNAGRI AS ADDITIONAL/CO- SCRIPT FOR KASHMIRI LANGUAGE: AIKS STAND
Centre for Kashmiri Language, Literature and Culture (CKLLC), an entity of All India Kashmiri Samaj, recently held a webinar on building a consensus on the necessity of having Devnagri as a co-script for Kashmiri language. This paper intends to put across to the community the reasons for justifying such a demand.
Kashmiri was traditionally written in Sharda script, and this included many of our manuscripts, especially religious texts, which too were written in the same script. Later, after Persian replaced Sanskrit as the court language of rulers in Kashmir, its use diminished and was limited to writing of horoscopes and books of knowledge. However, during British rule, besides Sharda, Kashmiri was also written in Devnagri and Roman. The latter was specifically used by European scholars and researchers like Sir George Grierson, etc. After the accession of Jammu and Kashmir with India in 1947, Persio-Arabic i.e. Nastaliq script, was approved as official script for writing Kashmiri. Urdu, which was introduced by Dogra rulers as official language of the State during their rule, continued to be used in same capacity by the then State Govt. led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Consequently, most of the Kashmiri literature is now available in this script. However, Devnagri and Roman scripts continued to be used by some sections of society for literary purposes.
After the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir in 1990, they had to re-settle in various parts of the country and across the world. Their forced displacement from Kashmir, among other adverse effects, threatened the very preservation of their mother tongue itself. Since Urdu did not form part of the curriculum anywhere outside Kashmir, pursuing and preserving their mother tongue through Nastaliq script became impossible. It was then that the demand for usage of Devnagri as script for Kashmiri gained momentum amongst the displaced Kashmiris and took the shape of an educational and cultural movement whose need was voiced at various fora.
Subsequently, on wide-ranging public requests, the then HRD Ministry (MHRD), Govt. of India (GOI), appointed a ‘Committee of Experts’ to examine the problem and assist the Ministry in introducing Devnagri in a structured way. The ‘Expert Committee’ under the chairmanship of Sh. M.K. Kaw, IAS, the then Secretary, Education, and convenorship of Dr. Roop Krishen Bhat, a Linguist and the then Principal of Northern Regional language Centre, Patiala, a Regional Centre of Central Institute of Indian languages (CIIL), Mysore, Ministry of HRD,GOI, comprised of Prof. Omkar Koul the then Director CIIL, Prof Hari Krishen Koul, Prof R.L. Shant,
Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani, Prof. Chaman Lal Sapru, Sh S.N. Bhat Haleem and Dr. Raj Nath Bhat, all eminent scholars of Kashmiri. After many workshops and brainstorming sessions, it was decided that Devnagri should be adopted as an additional script for Kashmiri language to enable the children of the displaced Kashmiris to pursue, learn and preserve their mother tongue. The committee also worked for standardization of the Devnagri script, got a suitable software prepared through experts like Sh. Sandeep Bhat and Sh. M.K. Raina and got various textbooks and other material published through CIIL, MHRD.
The Committee also recommended that GOI should be approached to approve the use of Devnagri as additional script for Kashmiri, besides Nastaliq, and be covered by all Govt. schemes/ incentives, like awards of Books, subsidies, grants, etc., on the pattern of Sindhi language, through various schemes of the Govt. of India and the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir, including Sahitya Academy and the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, J&K.
However, after the change of the Central Govt., following general elections of 2004, the GOI initiative was practically dropped. No subsequent steps for the recognition of the script were taken thereafter, resulting in the discouragement for people in general, and Kashmiri diaspora in particular. After that, the matter was pursued at various levels with the Government, but till date no decision has been taken.
- The popular demand for Devnagri for Kashmiri has all along been on the premise that this script would only be approved as an additional script to the official Nastaliq script and not as a replacement of Nastaliq anywhere or in any capacity. The official status of Nastaliq Kashmiri is not sought to be disturbed in any Government or non-Government fora. Only bracketing Devnagri as a co-script with Nastaliq is being demanded.
- Being the most scientific script i.e., we-write-the-way-we-speak, it is pertinent to mention that maximum number of displaced Kashmiris already know Devnagri. There are only six diacritical marks to be learnt to convert Nagri Hindi into Nagri Kashmiri, which is learnt only in few hours of time. There is plenty of teaching/learning material available in this script.
- The Ministry of Information and Technology has got a software prepared in standardized Devnagri Kashmiri as referred to above through experts of the language, and it is widely in use through computers, lap-tops and mobile phones.
- A vast amount of literature of Kashmiri has been published in Devnagri script, including the Kashmiri literary magazine VAAKH published regularly for the last fifteen years by All India Kashmiri Samaj from Delhi, besides including dedicated Kashmiri sections in Devnagri Kashmiri in all leading journals of the community, like Koshur Samachar, Vitasta, Kheer Bhavani Times, According to a survey report, dozens of displaced Kashmiri writers have published more than 150 titles of books during the last three decades in the Devnagri script on their own, besides the officially approved Nastaliq.
- The biggest advantage will accrue to thousands of young among the Kashmiri Pandit diaspora, who have been deprived of any creative contact with their mother tongue for the last three decades. Most of them, especially those who were born after 1990, lost all that tradition and heritage, so essential to develop their identity and personality to become good citizens of this great democracy.
- Nagri used for Kashmiri will bring common Kashmiri people, students, writers, and scholars closer to their counterparts in other Indian languages and ethnic groups. This will go a long way in forging national and emotional integration amongst them.
- Now, after scrapping of article 370 and acceptance of Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi and English as official languages, besides Urdu, for JK UT, it is the right time for acceptance of Devnagri as an additional script of Kashmiri language besides,Nastaliq.
(Dr. Roop Krishen Bhat)
Chairman CKLLC (AIKS)
Author, Linguist, Translator and Media Freelancer
Convener Expert committee for Devnagri Kashmiri
Editor VAAKH, chairman: CKLLC-AIKS, Managing Trustee: Kashmir Cultural Trust
Former Professor and Director MHRD, Govt. of India