PRESERVING KASHMIRI MOTHER TONGUE
*Dr. B. K. Moza, Kolkata
Kashmiri language is, reportedly, an ancient language having its roots in Indo-Aryan origin and Vedic/prevedic times. In the Vitasta Annual, “Mother Tongue of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile – Origin, Advances, Threats and Thrusts “Vol. xxxiv, 2000-2001, the relevant details of its background and development have been elaborated. It is pertinent, keeping present concerns in view, to highlight that this language is threatened to decay and die, particularly in Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora, as their mother tongue. The reasons being that the health of a language and its longevity depend upon the number of people that use it as a mother tongue in a particular segment of population. Kashmiri Pandits, after their exodus from their homeland, have lost the natural habitat and got scattered to near and far off places where they exist in infinitesimally small numbers. This language, having apparently no functional relevance, except a great emotional attachment, is in a melting pot, suffering serious attrition in its users due to the acquisition by more relevant and environment friendly languages. This is reasonable as a means to survival as individuals but unfortunate for the community since it amounts to their loosing the mother tongue which is the primary tenet of their cultural identity. Kashmiri Pandits have reasons to be proud of their cultural heritage of which Kashmiri mother tongue and the literature thereof are the building blocks of this mighty heritage structure.
The purpose of this presentation is to draw the attention of our community members to this sad reality so that necessary measures are taken to preserve this identity of Kashmiri Pandits. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from their hearths and homes has caused immeasurable sufferings to this community in many respects. The only silver lining is that this upheaval has given rise to a spirit of resilience and challenge in coming out of the after-effects of sudden displacement and dislocation, which includes preserving our cultural identity and Kashmiri roots. As such every where, in our Diaspora, we have our community organizations, Kashmir Bhawans and Kashmiri temples in some locations, community journals and a vibrant upsurge to preserve our heritage and tradition. Most of these units are affiliated to the federal organization, All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS). There is a ray of hope for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their Homeland, at sometime, in future. But, this is subject to many pertinent imponderables. Under prevailing circumstances one can visualize that the present Diaspora centers will continue and the community will remain in scattered condition as did happen during the earlier many exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir. The future will reveal whether the remaining Kashmiri Pandit populace in homeland will be able to preserve its identity as did the proverbial eleven families that were historically left out in the homeland in earlier exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits from that habitat. The reports are that in that homeland also the general mass has preference for not speaking in their mother tongue and the children over there, whether Hindus or Muslims, are therefore getting less and lesser practice to speak in their mother tongue. So, the urge and effort regarding preserving cultural identity, in the Diaspora, will continue along with that required for gaining political and economic space.
Though Kashmiri language is in use for millennia, historically it has never been the medium of educational curricula, official administration and or commerce and trade in its own habitat, Kashmir. Originally it was written in Sharda script, traced back to the Brahmi(3rd century B.C.) but subsequently has suffered the agony of being written in many scripts. There are indicators, providing evidence, of its written records in seventh /eighth centuries B.C. when Kashmiri Shaivism was at its zenith and Kashmiri language was referred to as “ Sarva Gochar Bhasha” as the spoken language of masses. Sanskrit was the official language and resource for literary excellence then. The earliest existing record of its use in literature is that of 13th century “Mahanay Prakash” by Shitikanth, which is a Vaakh compilation in Kashmiri that was perfected by the great saint Lallishori, some decades later. During the Muslim rule Kashmiri was written in Persio-Arabic script, known as Nastalik, and simultaneously the Devnagri script also received popularity amongst the Hindu populace of Kashmir. The English developed the Roman script for Kashmiri which has also been in vogue as its fourth script. One of the pioneering linguists of our country and community, Prof. B. B. Kachroo, has set up, an internationally renowned school for Kashmiri language and its research, in Illinois University in USA, some decades back where Roman script for Kashmiri is being used for learning Kashmiri.
Devnagri script, used in Sanskrit language, is considered more appropriate linguistically and phonetically though till recent times it also suffered in respect of not reproducing some of the peculiar vowel sounds, used in this language additionally.
After exodus, the emotional attachment for Kashmir did bring about a significant awakening about the loss we had suffered as a consequence; the cultural one being very prominent. As a result, during these two decades of exile, a great deal of literature has been brought out about our history, heritage, literature, language and other aspects of our lives, then in Kashmir and now beyond its frontiers, in exile. An urge for preserving our mother tongue has been lurking in the minds, generally of all but especially of those who have had the fortune of living in Kashmir prior to the exoduses that took place after the partition of our Indian subcontinent. Since Hindi, using Devnagri script is the national language of the country, Devnagri script received, naturally, significant attention for developing as the script of choice for our mother tongue. There were some inadequacies in writing Kashmiri in Devnagri script and therefore there was no uniformity in writing in this script. Most of the authors, writing in this script, used to provide their keys for their expressions and therefore in the same script there were many variants. VIKALP, an organization of Kashmiri littérateurs in Jammu provided a format in 1995 for developing a uniform script for our mother tongue. Still, there were some handicaps in expressing all the verb sounds used in this language. Kashmir Sabha, Kolkata volunteered, in the year 2000, to hold a dedicated brain storm, at its Kashmir Bhawan, of Kashmiri linguists and scholars using Devnagri as the medium of their contributions for suggesting ways and means of developing a more practical script and for its uniform application. At the request of the then President of AIKS, Padam Shri J. N. Kaul, this responsibility was left to AIKS to handle this very important agenda centrally at Delhi. However, a Committee of our linguists and Kashmiri littérateurs, under the convenorship of Prof. Roop Krishen Bhat succeeded in developing a streamlined, standardized, phonetically appropriate and further acceptable script for this language in the year 2000. This Committee also got a Devnagri computerized font specially developed for this streamlined script for which the services of Mr. Sandeep Bhat of Pune, stand as a milestone for utilizing computer technology for this purpose. This gave birth to “Arnimal ” font and software for writing in Kashmiri language. Around the same time, Mr. M. K. Raina of the Lal-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, an associate of Kashmiri Pandits Association, Mumbai, utilised Akruti font of Devnagri with modifications for some of the vowels, using diacritical marks as developed in Arnimal font. This provided more flexibility and advantage of standardization in bringing out publications in this streamlined script. Initially there was some resistance but by now all our major community journals are using this streamlined font for bringing out Kashmiri sections in streamlined Devnagri script uniformly. Kashmir Sabha, Calcutta played a meaningful role in bringing about uniformity in application of streamlined Devnagri script for Kashmiri and organized Kashmiri classes at Kashmir Bhawan in the year 2000, which continued for many years to follow. Prof Roop Krishen Bhat organized a two weeks Kashmiri teaching program at Kashmir Bhawan, Kolkata under UGC scheme for popularizing Kashmiri mother tongue where many concerned linguists and scholars of Kashmiri language as Prof. Raj Nath Bhat, Dr. Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani and Prof Som Nath Raina contributed as the faculty along with Prof. Bhat. Similar efforts were made at other centers also and the contributions of linguists and scholars, as Prof. O. N. Koul, Prof. R.L.Shant, Mr. S. N.Haleem, Prof O. N. Raina, Prof. Hari Krishen Kaul, Prof C. L. Sapru, Pt. A. N. Kaul Sahib, Dr. Amar Malmohi and Shri R. L. Jowhar and many others, were sought for the success of this standarised script. Prof. Roop Krishen Bhat developed a Kashmiri Primer and a Kashmiri Reader, under the aegis of Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore and Sampriti, Jammu, for promoting Kashmiri language using Devnagri, streamlined, standardized and computer friendly script for this purpose. Around same time, Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust, Mumbai, also brought out a “ Basic Reader for Kashmiri Language” authored by Mr. M. K. Raina and Ms. Neelam Trakru. Since bringing about application of this streamlined Devnagri script uniformly required a total community effort, the author of this article approached AIKS, to uphold popularization of Devnagri script for preservation of Kashmiri mother tongue as one of its MINIMUM COMMON AGENDA. As a result further efforts were made in getting this script used by all the community journals, the latest being that of Koshur Samachar. Delhi. A representation was also made by AIKS to the Govt. of India for getting Devnagri script recognised for Kashmiri as its additional script, the Persio-Arabic having been already recognized. With the change of Government in 2004 this representation received a set back and the proposal did not receive acceptance then.
Last year, in 2007, the author of this article again approached AIKS for mobilizing the efforts for popularizing Kashmiri as the mother tongue of Kashmiris in Diaspora. As a corollary, it was also felt necessary to review and evaluate the progress in uniform application of streamlined, standardized and computer friendly script, for bringing out Kashmiri publications and related literature in this language so as to bring about further necessary improvements after its introduction for last seven years. A seven point program was formulated and arising out of this effort the following results have emerged:
In conclusion, there is a significant effort being made to uphold our Kashmiri identity, socially and politically. It is necessary that along with these, special efforts are made to bring about awareness amongst our younger generation and their parents towards preserving the Kashmiri mother tongue. Sometime back there was a genuine difficulty of not having a standardized script for our mother tongue but now this difficulty is over come by having the Akruti Kashmiri Arnimal Devnagri script developed, which enables diverse applications with remarkable ease... Guidelines are also now provided for settings for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Power Point, Office 2000/XP/2003, Adobe Page Maker, Corel Draw and Lotus SmartSuite – Word pro etc. This development opens a new field of further developments in our mother tongue. One can communicate through Email, sending Kashmiri contents, as attachments. To me personally this development has facilitated significantly writing in Kashmiri language with phonetic accuracy and ease, using the Akruti English phonetic keyboard. I appeal to all concerned linguists and scholars to provide their experiences of using this streamlined and phonetic font for popularizing our mother tongue in case they have not made use of this development up till now. It is also the duty of our all Kashmiri Pandit organizations throughout our wide spread Diaspora to popularize this software and script, by procuring the CDs from AIKS, to enable preserving our mother tongue amongst our younger generations. Kashmiri camp in USA at Connecticut and that in California, this year, are the appropriate platforms from where this message can be reached to our youngsters over there. This appeal is to all to help in the preservation of our cultural identity for which there is greater responsibility resting on seasoned members of our community who have lived in Kashmir and enjoyed the beauty of our mother tongue in all respects. Kashmiri music, lyrics, leelas, gazals and lullabys are becoming, naturally, popular even with our younger generations. This music and the spirit thereof will be still more remarkable in pulling the strings of heart, if one as well as understands the language it reveals.
So, the appeal is to all those organizations and individuals who spend, admiringly, time and money in organizing such functions and musical rendezvous to as well as devote a part of this resource in enabling perpetuation of the language this music represents. An appeal is being made to our concerned scholars and IT specialists to promote popularization of the theme of our mother tongue that is the objective of this article so that there is over all awareness about the need and required wherewithal that is available for preserving our mother tongue. All Kashmiri journals are requested to highlight this point of view in their respective Editorials and President’s pages. Articles from different authorities of this subject may be published simultaneously, in our various community journals, brought out, at different locations, with respective readership, so that the message receives wide-spread and repeated exposure and enables desired awakening and awareness throughout the Diaspora. The ultimate aim is to popularize the preservation of our mother tongue and for this initially measures require to be taken in those centers where there is comparatively larger density of Kashmiri Pandit populace to be followed by emphasis at all centers of our Diaspora. An appeal is made to all to contribute their might, in one or the other respect, for enabling preservation of our mother tongue and thereby, its escape from decay and death which is, otherwise, inevitable under its present day melting pot conditions.
*Dr. B. K. Moza, presently a pharmaceutical adviser, has had a distinguished career in research, technology and management of Pharma Industry. He had early education in Srinagar Kashmir.Despite having topped the list of meritorious candidates in his determining Intermediate in science (Medical) degree, he was denied the State controlled nomination for MBBS studies in 1950 because of discrimination as a Kashmiri Pandit.. This caused his internal displacement and he had to look for a career in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Graduating from Panjab University, he was selected for post-graduate scholarship at Bengal Immunity Research Centre, Kolkata, only one of its kind in those days in India (1954).He specialised in the chemistry of Natural Products and got his post graduate degrees. He, further obtained his doctrate degree from Academy of Natural Products, Prague. Had collaborative studies with Research Centres in America and Japan which he continued after returning back to Calcutta (1964). Had a distinguished research career of more than two decades resulting in the isolation of more than a dozen of new molecules and their structural ellucidation and around fifty publications. After two decades of fundamental research, he joined Industry, Tata-Fison / Rallis India, where he had another two decade’s career of technology related and management responsibilities.He has been the Convener of Scientific Services of Indian Pharmaceutical Congress for a decade in its fomative stages. He has been associated with most of the Universities providing Pharmaceutical education in India. He has received the Acharya P. C. Ray Award and gold medal (1984) for his contributions to Pharmaceutical profession. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Chemists, India and a Fellow of Indian Pfarmaceutical Society. Has been on the Editorial Board of Indian Pharmaceutical journals.
He is a founder member of Kashmir Sabha , Calcutta, founded in 1955 and has been associated with its official organ the Vitasta. Besides being the editor of this monthly publication for decades he has brought out a large number of its reaearch based, thematic Annual Numbers on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandit history, literature, culture and heritage.. He has been associated with Kashmir Bhawan, Kolkata and Kashmir Bhawan movement for preserving Kashmiri Pandit Identity. Kashmir Bhawan and researches on Kasmiri heritage have been his passion. He has also contributed to the concept of AIKS as the Apex Coordinator of Kashmiri Pandit organizations, right from its inception in 1981. Though displaced from Kashmir at the age of seventeen, he has love for his mother tongue; writing Kashmiri poems has been his another passion..
He is happily settled in Kolkata with his wife Uma and son, Vidya Ratan married to Pratbha and grand sons Kashyap and Kalhan, the former recently married to Anamika. His daughter, Kalpana married to Dr. Akhilesh Fotedar, is settled in New York, along with grand daughters Archana and Arti. He has travelled a lot within India and globally in Europe, Japan and America.
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