Alienating minorities one step at a time: Exclusion of Punjabi language a big setback for its speakers in JK.

Narendra Modi led government has made tall claims in its second term and much to the satisfaction of its electorate has made sure that it crosses off every promise appearing in the manifesto. Kashmir has been an important part of the manifesto and all eyes were on article 370.

There is no denying that India is in a historical loop of making blunders that it has done earlier. From the wave of communalism, the absolute majority to get any bill passed and crush dissent, it is not new. The political experts weigh in that this period is exactly the mirror image of Indira Gandhi’s era.

Perks of Absolute Majority and constitutionality of Language Bill.

Jammu and Kashmir’s official languages were Urdu and English. The languages were chosen to avoid any complexities of conflict among different ethnicities & groups speaking other languages. Kashmir region with majority population of Kashmiri speakers has largely been satisfied with the twin language non communal formula. However it is worth mentioning that jammu region always had its complaints on the issue. This is largely due to the heavy population of non Urdu speakers. Even though it was every party’s agenda to play small politics with emotions of Janmuites but it never made any inroads into Gupkar.

One of the major promises and even part of BJP campaign has always been that Jammu region has been treated impartially in terms of finances, development, jobs or budget allocation for important projects. BJP no doubt was successful in convincing people about this truth but has fallen flat in doing anything about it post abrogation of article. As a matter of fact if the local parties of Jammu are to be believed, they feel cheated. The inclusion of Dogri was a small token in the process of appeasement of Jammu for taking a moral high ground of ‘We care for Jammu’.

Inclusion of Hindi raises questions.

An important part of Kashmir is its unique identity & culture. This has majorly been a reason for New Delhi to lock its horns with Kashmiris time and again. If Kashmiris are to be believed and rightly so, Sheikh Abdullah was very very right in saying that Kashmiris culture does not match with that of Pakistan or India. But india being secular nation is more close to the secular culture of kahsmir. With gradual shift in times and vilification of past, Kashmiris themselves have come to stage where they don’t want to be identified as secular anymore. Sheikh Abdullah and Unionists talking about secularism are slandered everyday, whereas a society based on Islam is glorified subtly or strongly. This rung bells in New Delhi and it proceeded with its project of ‘One India’ which includes ‘Hindi Imposition’ by hook or crook. The project is largely a failure down south but the cracks in Kashmiri society let this seep in. Hindi language technically has no or scanty number of speakers in Jammu and Kashmir both. The outsiders are the only ones who speak Hindi.

Exclusion of Punjabi an unfortunate and sad step.

Punjabi is the language spoken by people in both the provinces. In Kashmir it is largely spoken by Sikhs and few Muslim groups, whereas in Jammu region it is spoken by Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims alike.

The punjabi language issue is a complex one at heart but exclusion is still not justified. It is argued that Kashmiri Sikhs speak Pahari whereas Sikhs of Jammu speak Dogri, hence punjabi language demand is not legitimate. This basis however is wrong and is put forward by people who have no knowledge of anything beyond their neighbourhood. In kashmir Sikhs speak punjabi and Pahari with some kashmiri in Tral and south kashmir regions. However every Sikh born in kashmir is fluent in Writing and Reading Punjabi language because it is the language of our scripture. It is the language under with Gurdwara documentation operates via Gurdwara act which is a govt passed act. Punjabi language has been part of schools and colleges for a very long time. In fact the 2001 reform lays impetus on punjabi language in Kashmir. Needless to say Punjabi was an important language during the Sikh and Dogra rule of Kashmir. How is it that we can get done with Punjabi then?

Kashmiri Sikhs led by Jagmohan Singh Raina have always pleaded for Pahari category to all the regimes. Governor Murmu was very close to recognising Sikhs as a Pahari speaking group which would have provided help to so many kashmiri Sikhs with Pahari speaking category Certificates. But instead governor administration decided to act intelligently and based the criteria of Certificates to be annual income and geography. Fair enough. This freed Kashmiri Sikhs from their demand to be recognised as Pahari language speaking group.

Before the bills were passed, many peaceful protests took place mainly in Jammu region and delegation of Sikhs met advisor to governor as well. Sikhs were convinced that their message would be sent to Home minister for reconsiderations. However the bills were passed immediately after agriculture reform bills with absolute majority backstabbing Sikhs again.

Constitutionality of the language bill

The language bill is just another attempt to polarise Jammu and Kashmir. After the bill many other language speakers like Pahari and Gojri speakers protested for their languages to be recognised as official ones as well. The bill opened a Pandora box of problems that did not exist at all. While we are happy that Kashmiri and Dogri find their due place but the bill has ignited the debate if it is constitutional to pass the language bill without consultation with state assembly (that doesn’t exist). Why was government in a hurry to pass the bill before elections? Why wasn’t any select committee sent to kashmir and jammu to talk to people or their leaders? It is worth mentioning here that the bill will definitely be a heated topic once elections are conducted and assembly restored in their state.

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