Many of us are throwing the ball in the government’s court. It is a decision of the government, therefore its responsibility, they say. Okay, but let’s ask ourselves too. The language is ours. As a mother tongue, have we, the activists, done enough to make the neglected language rich and strong enough to take on the heavy task? maybe not. The official language must be a competent communication tool in courts, offices, public and private institutions. It can also be used for interstate communications. Its use must be universal, which means that its reading and writing must be universal. We can only start with the valley, but large areas outside the valley and many speakers outside also need to be taken. Everyone knows this, even though many of us are afraid to accept that we discourage our children from using their mother tongue even in their homes and schools. We prefer that they speak more Hindi or Urdu. English, of course, is their dream language. Do we sincerely want this situation to change and lead to further changes in our preferences? Throughout history, however, we have observed that the wise and cautious few not only encouraged and trained their wards to speak their native language at home, but also to be open to important languages, Urdu and Hindi in English. school. We understand that speakers must learn to read and write Kashmir. It is not impossible to do. Connoisseurs of Urdu and Hindi only need to learn a few diacritics in Nastaliq and Devnagri to activate these scripts for Kashmir. We know that no language comes naturally to a child from birth. You have to teach it and learn it. In the context of Kashmir, I think our intellectual class has now understood that after 1990 a good part of Kashmiris staying in Jammu and other cities in India and abroad are interested in their art, their music, their culture and their languages. From the English translations, we can only know the content. But if the original text is made accessible to the learner, the learning is complete and effective.
I realize that bracketing the Nagri script with Nastaliq for Kashmir may raise some skeptics’ eyebrows. But as indicated above, today is a historic moment. We need to be farsighted for the ultimate good of our mother tongue and our speakers here and abroad. The world is shrinking rapidly and we cannot pretend to ignore our cultural needs in this scenario. With the historic measures of the government, to put Kashmiri, Hindi and Urdu in the list of official languages of the pages of the UT, openness remains a beneficial alternative for us. However, before letting prejudices creep into our thinking and attitudes, let us examine the question of the alternative alongside and in addition to the existing situation in Kashmir. Let’s take a brief look at the history of the Kashmir scenario first and then see how a positive attitude has always benefited our land and our people.
Before addressing the matter in detail, a brief reference to the history of the various scripts used for Kashmir is needed. We know that for Kashmir, Sharada (or Sharda), the millennial indigenous script of Kashmir, continued to be used among the educated Hindu and Muslim population. Then Persio Arabic (Nastaliq) was accepted, followed by Roman with the advent of Dogra rule in Jammu and Kashmir in 1846. The Dogras sponsored Devnagri for Dogri in Jammu, while in Kashmir, l The script was traditionally preserved by the Pandits of Kashmir, although they were unmatched in the adoption of Nastaliq script and Persio Arabic. Roman was easier on the British, while Indian scholars and common people followed them. The use of Nagri was also inspired by the awareness of the Pan-Indian national language. Sir George Grierson, director of the Linguistic Survey of India, had published his 4-volume Kashmiri-Hindi-English dictionary in 1903 using Devnagri in addition to the novel for Kashmiri. Until 1947, even as Urdu in Nastaliq was popular among the majority of the population, Devnagri continued to take hold of the minority who were fully educated and able to preserve the historical and cultural ties of the state. Later, even as the popular governments of JK endorsed Nastaliq for Kashmir and Devnagri for Dogri, the demand from the educated minorities of Kashmir, both for Devnagri and Nastaliq as options for Kashmir, was still there.
It was when the presence of minorities in Kashmir became clearer in 1990, that demand to consider Nagri as well, increased among displaced Kashmiris spread across the country and abroad. It took the form of a kind of educational and cultural movement, under the banner of some private and public organizations in some state capitals. a committee of linguists, scriptologists, academics, C-DAC computer engineers and writers to examine the problem and assist the Deptt. by properly examining Devnagri. After due deliberation, the committee prepared software for Devnagri Kashmir and published some basic books in Nagri, viz. “Let Us Learn Kashmiri”, “Kaeshur Primer”, “Kaeshur Reader” in cooperation with a literary NGO Samprati, Jammu. The newly prepared software only has five diacritics for Kashmir, in addition to the already existing ones in Nagri, which are used in Hindi and other Indian languages. This made it quite easy for Kashmir learners to learn and use Nagri side by side with Nastaliq. A full-fledged Kashmir (Nagri) literary journal namely “Vaakh” has been published by All India Kashmiri Samaj, Delhi for 17 years, in addition to the sections on Kashmir which come out in Koshur Samachar (KSD Delhi) Vitasta (KOLKATA ), KB Times (Jammu), where the Kashmir sections are regular items. These Nagri Kashmir reviews publish all the writers, even more those of the Valley. Thus, Kashmiri literature from Kashmir and other parts of the country and the world is easily spread. According to a report presented at an All India Samprati seminar in 2012 in Jammu, dozens of displaced Kashmiri writers have published more than 200 books themselves over the past three decades, using either the Devnagri script alone or the nagri with Nastaliq. However, the GOI initiative was practically abandoned following the change of the central government. in 2004. No further steps to facilitate the script have been taken since, which has resulted in disappointment and discouragement for people in general and the Kashmiri diaspora in particular. The situation on this has been in limbo since then.
Reasons that justify the approval of Devnagri:
1) Devnagri’s popular demand for Kashmir has always been based on the premise that this script would only be approved as an additional alternative to the official Nastaliq script. Devnagri is NOT seeking to replace Nastaliq in any capacity. Nastaliq Kashmiri’s official status should NOT be disturbed in any governmental or non-governmental forum. Only the bracketing of Devnagri with Nastaliq was requested.
2) A maximum number (almost 100%) of displaced Kashmiris already know Devnagri. They have been reading, writing and publishing for centuries. A good number of educated Kashmiri in the valley read and write Hindi in Devnagri, due to the country’s widely inseminated national language in print and electronic media. The number of Hindi students in Kashmiri schools has steadily increased over the past five decades.
3) Authentic voices have been raised by linguists and academics to enable additional alternative writing for Kashmir. Nagri has certain characteristics which are perfectly and precisely suited to Kashmir. For example, linguistically, all cashmere vowels should be clearly written and displayed. This practice makes writing and reading easier and error-free. We know Nastaliq is different. There, not all vowel marks need to be written. They are simply taken as understood. Nagri is therefore expected to make things easier for learners. Some notable scholars have fought publicly for the adoption of Roman to help Kashmir reach everyone and just to overcome this disadvantage. But previous experiences with the novel created more problems, as the novel is inadequate even for English.
4) Most laptops and cellphones manufactured by Indian and foreign companies for Indian users are already equipped with Devnagri software. Many of them are also downloaded with Devnagri Kashmir keyboards. Nagri Kashmiri software, prepared by the Ministry of HRD in 2000 AD, as explained above, is already in use and integrated into it. Thus, if the UT government presents Devnagri as suggested, no implication of the allocation of huge funds for the new program will be there.
Who benefits from introducing Nagri to Kashmir as an additional alternate script? Of course, in addition to others, benefits will flow to thousands of young Kashmiris in the diaspora, who have been deprived of any creative contact with their mother tongue for the past three decades. Most of them, especially those born after 1985 or 1990, have lost touch with tradition and heritage, which make us full human beings. They will read the latest news from and about what constitutes contemporary Kashmiri literature. As they were tossed about in search of a livelihood, their contacts with language and literature were abandoned. Devnagri and Nastaliq Kashmiri would certainly help them get back on track.
The benefit will also be for writers, students and citizens of Kashmir. They will read and communicate with their compatriots in Jammu and other parts of the country as well. Learning Nagri is always beneficial for everyone in the country.
The nagri used for Kashmir will bring Kashmiri people, students, writers and scholars closer to their counterparts in Jammu, Delhi and many other parts of India, as well as other Indian languages and ethnic groups. First, it will make thousands of readers available to Kashmiri writers in Kashmir. Diaspora writers will also be able to keep abreast of the continent’s sensitivities. Interlanguage translations will get an unimaginable turnaround. The linguistic and emotional proximity between Kashmir and Indian languages that already use Devnagri only or as an option will follow. These languages are numerous. Below is a list of these languages. As we can see, they cover quite a large area of our vast country… .Dogri, Hindi, Rajasthani, Konkani, Marathi, Sindhi, Maithili, Nepalese and Santhali.