The struggle of Gojri language and attempts to make it dependent || LIVE IMAGE

Gojri language is one which the state of Jammu and Kashmir has neglected since dawn of Naya Kashmir, because Gujjar and Bakerwals don't fit in the scheme of the ones at helm of affairs. Gojri language- a dialect of Rajasthani close to Marwari, is mother tongue of Gujjars in Indian sub continent up to Afghanistan though Diaspora is found across the world. It was spoken wherever Gujjars settled or stayed during migration.

Gojri has a deep and far wide dispersal. It has been ignored and not given its rightful place by respective governments without exception. Though classified as a living language, it is battling for survival.

A language never disappears abruptly unless catastrophic conditions emerges that may cause loss of its native speakers. Gujjar Bakerwal are living the same way as their ancestors have for centuries but their ancestral language is dying which they lived and breathed for centuries thus pushing towards a vanishing voice. Ms. Shadia from Pakistan expressed that only recently she found that my grandfather also spoke Gojjari and it is real shame to know this will be lost as time goes on.

Languages have their origin out of necessity to interact and communicate information or thought among the living beings both hominids as well as plant and animals. Only difference with latter is that they communicate with each other as biological inheritance while the former had evolved symbolic communication system starting  with vocal sounds, signs, gestures, body language, drum beating, musical and non musical instruments, mirror signals.

Language is an avenue to study history of the people, their ethnicity, race, culture, ecology insight, culinary and medicinal secrets, complex cultural history including mythological fears and aspirations etc.

Sharda, Sanskrit, Persian languages are few of them in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Gojri is mother tongue of the substantial segment of population on the both sides of LoC and its speakers can be found in numbers in the nook and corner of the state barring district Leh.

Other native languages spoken as mother tongue do have their own area of influence but very limited reach. Kashmiri for instance is spoken in the bowl of valley within and the areas outside the rim have their own non-Kashmiri mother tongues. This side it is Dogri, Punjabi, Mirpuri and between right side of river Chanab and Pir Panjal various mother tongues are mode of communication like Pogali, Hambal-Gooha, Siraji, Baderwahi, Saroodi, Bheelsavi, Padri and Kishtawari  etc. Gujjari and Potwari are the only two languages spoken on both side of Pir Panjal and LoC. Yet strangely enough, it took half of a century for this language of importance to find a berth in the 6th schedule of the J&K constitution in 1999. Gojri   should have been in the concurrent list after Kashmiri while framing the 6th schedule on merit. There were no reason to doubt its non inclusion because constitution was framed under guidance of those who were their brethrens.  Till the time this author in 1997 found in utter disbelief no mention of it in the 6th schedule. Haji Buland Khan vice chairman of Gujjar and Bakkerwal board was apprised, that when the language has not been recognized by the state how one can expect its inclusion be approved by the center as demanded by the Advisory Broad in its 20th meeting in Nov 1988. He did not believe it but records set the matter straight. Thereafter a resolution was approved in the 24th meeting of the Gujjar and Bakerwal board  in Sep 1997 to examine and recommend inclusion of Gojri  language in 6th and 8th schedule nothing as expected  fructified , again  the matter was raised  in  25th meeting on  11th of feb.1999,Talib Husain ex-cabinet minister informed that it was in 1981 on his initiative a bill was move which got lapsed because upper house could not  pass it. Why he remained silent spectator for another sixteen years and gave his part of story only when matter was raised. Tribal leaders owe a great deal of explanation to the community.

This was not a lapse, but part of scheme of things in their deliberate policy by the authorities to settle the score with all those who neither accepted nor tolerated dominance of Kashmiri leadership. Urdu is not spoken in the state but was included like Kashmiri, Dogri, Bodhi, Balti (shni) and Dardi in the 6th schedule. Bodhi, Balti and Dardi have limited numbers. Gojri has to go, many miles before it could find its ultimate destination in the 8th schedule of India constitution.

The journey even for 8th schedule was not uneventful and smooth, community was made every inch  to  strive hard to struggle, frustrating many times  and ultimately authorities were forced  to recognize their language. Mohamad Yusaf Taing,  as  Secretary, J&K  Academy of Arts and Culture in March 1988 rejected  the demand as he put it for obvious reasons  to introduce Devanagari script along with Nastaliq for Gojri literature published in its journal - Sheraaja to disseminate information  among the Gujjari brethren and others who are interested , in other parts of the country  and eager to have their knowledge updated  but could  not read Urdu. He, years later after retirement some time back agreed in Gujjar Goonj  program telecast from on a local TV channel that  this language  deserves to be included in 8th schedule on the merit of its rich literature and culture. When he could have helped, strange it seems, was engrossed to further the interest of Kashmiri language at the cost of other local languages. Naturally his heart took better of him over in the process. Gojri, Dogri, Mirpuri, Soodhni Baderwahi, Kishtawari, Saraji Pogali, Khas, Shnis Bamba, Turki, Pashto and many other languages have been ignored and utterly neglected at the alter of Kashmiri language. They favored amalgamation of Kashmiris, Gujjars and other identities to one Muslim identity as Dr Javed Rahi, a gujjar scholar has summed up this attitude on the part of the authorities terming this as most unfortunate and uncooperative, pushing many languages spoken in the state towards brink of extinction. Language does not abruptly disappear. It is a slow process dies in degrees under harsh unsympathetic political climate where it is not allowed to grow, thrive and flourish. Declining its introduction in schools and corrupting it by superimposing dominant language; sniffing its normal propagation and enrichment slowly but steadily erodes the pronunciation, vocabulary and the grammar.

Legacy of blatant injustice with the languages other than Kashmiri continues as the mind set has not changed even an iota. Amendment was made in 2008 to the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (Act XIV of 1956) for the purpose of making Kashmiri and Dogri, spoken as mother tongues by more than 77% of the people of Jammu and Kashmir State, as official languages of the State, in addition to Urdu.

Gojri has been referred as regional language along with Balti (Pali), Dardi, Ladakhi, Pahari, and Punjabi. Reality is that both Kashmiri as well as Dogri are regional languages, the former confined to plains of Kashmir and the latter spoken in Kathua, Jammu, Udhampur and part of Rajouri  along with Punjabi.

The role of J&K Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages was most sordid.  In 1988, advisory board approved opening of sub-offices in the state to further the interest of Gojri and to start with it was decided during current year two sub offices shall be made functional at Rajouri and Doda. However, it is yet to materialized.

No proper projection is accorded to its overall preservation and development of its rich culture. It should not be allowed to behave as second fiddle to other culture for which full-fledged and independent efforts are needed. Gojri language, with it interwoven art, culture and identity is pushed towards vanishing stage, calls for immediate corrective measures to contain the decline and revitalize it. The policy at present to favour particular set of languages at the expense of others needs to be dispensed with to protect and promote ethnic, minority and local languages.

Education system has to be reoriented to introduce it in schools, its grammar, its lexicon, its oral tradition (stories, songs), folk dances lore, musical instruments and traditional attire. Annual intensive drive needed to popularize the language in right perceptive by holding melas, quiz programmers about languages and culture. The role of AIR and that of DD has to be fair and intensive.

 By- Bushan Parimoo
(The author is a Jammu based environmentalist, free lance writer of Art, Language and Heritage and a regular contributor to this Website .)
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