Nearly 35% People Speak Kashmiri In Erstwhile J&K: Study

29 June 2014
Rising Kashmir
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: Kashmiri language has the largest number of active speakers in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed on August 14, 1947, a study conducted by Muzaffarabad based scholar Mohsin Shakil has revealed. The study, first of its kind on the subject, reveals that Kashmiri is spoken by nearly 35 percent people followed by Pahari-Pothwari with 24 percent and Dogri with 18 percent speakers. The survey suggests that there is a decline in the number of active speakers of regional languages, possibly due to the influence of English and other languages in the region. Dr Shakil is a faculty member at AJK Medical College but has keen interest in languages and literature. He conducted the study based on evaluation of relevant data, literature and informed inputs of the scholars. According to the study, people of the erstwhile state of Jammu Kashmir relate to many indigenous languages by virtue of their multiethnic society. 'No subject specific data is available to indicate the number of active speakers and pattern of language distribution as Census conducted by authorities were not Jammu Kashmir oriented. This made it difficult to evaluate changes in the number of active speakers of different languages in different areas over a period and to develop strategies for protection and preservation of these languages where situation demands,' it observes. The study of languages is aimed at estimation of speakers of the indigenous languages at district level in Jammu and Kashmir after the changes in language demography in the region after 1947. Besides reviewing the literature and data, the author has also taken valuable inputs from scholars who have worked on the languages. The significant aspect of the study is that it has been done at district level and the number of speakers has been estimated at the lowest level. The survey breaks up the families of languages into four. While Kashmiri with 34.64 percent speakers falls in Dard family, same is the case with Shina at 4 percent. Pahari and Dogri are from Western Pahari family of languages with 23.99 and 17.99 percent speakers respectively. Gujari (Gojari) has been put in Rajasthani family with 10.41 percent speakers across the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In West Tibetan family the Balti language has 1.87 percent and Ladakhi has 1.56 percent speakers. Burushaski has one percent speakers while as 4 percent have been put in 'Other' category. The languages which fall in 'Other' category are: Pugoli, Baderwahi, Wakhi, Khowar, Kohistani, Kundalshahi, Pashto and Punjabi. Besides Kashmiri, Pahari and Gojari languages are the main ones spoken in Kashmir valley. Around 30 to 35 percent population in Kupwara and Baramulla speak Pahari and 20 to 25 percent speak the same language in Anantnag. Likewise 15 percent population in Kupwara district speaks Gojari and 7.50 percent speaks this language in Anantnag. Majority of people in Kashmir, however, speak Kashmiri with Srinagar and Shopian topping the list at 96 percent. In Jammu region, Dogri is spoken by majority in six districts of Jammu, Udhampur, Kathua, Ramban, Samba and Reasi. Gojari has 40 percent speakers in Rajouri, 35 percent in Poonch and 20 percent in Reasi district. Pahari has 50 percent speakers in Poonch and 40 percent in Rajouri. Kashmiri is spoken by 45 percent people in Kishtwar district, 40 percent in Doda, 20 percent in Reasi, 10 percent in Rajouri and 5 percent in Poonch. Pahari and Gojari are the main languages spoken in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Around 35 percent population speak Gojari in Muzaffarabad and Hattian districts and 30 percent in Haveli district in PaK while as 50 percent population in these districts speak Pahari which is again spoken by 63 percent people in Neelum district which has 20 percent active Kashmiri speakers. In Poonch and Sudhunti district, 94 percent speak Pahari language that has been categorized as Punchi in the survey. In Bagh 95 percent and in Haveli 65 percent speak Pahari that has been shown as Dhundhi Khairali and Chibali respectively in the survey. Muzaffarabad and Hattian districts have 15 percent Kashmiri speaking population while as number of them in Haveli and Bagh is just 5 and 2 percent respectively. In seven districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, the main languages spoken are Shina, Balti, Burushaski and Khower. Shina is spoken by majority of people from 71 to 98 percent in three districts of Gilgit, Diamer and Astore. Balti has hold of 85 to 99 percent in Skardu and Ganche. Ghizer also has Shina speaking majority and Burushaski is spoken by majority of Nagar district with more than 50 percent population speaking this language in Ghizer and Hunza districts. The survey mentions that around 100000 people speak Poguli language in Doda and Kishtwar areas while 300000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mainly Pandits, increased the number of Kashmiri speaking population of Jammu. Similarly, 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the adjoining areas of PaK are settled in Jammu and speak Pahari (Mirpuri). Another 100,000, Punjabi-speaking community migrated to Jammu in 1947 from adjacent areas of Pakistan. Both groups are bilingual and speak Dogri. Speaking to Rising Kashmir, Dr Shakil said it should be seen as a preliminary survey and that lot more needs to be done in this regard. 'It's a preliminary study and produced by non-sponsored cross LoC scholarly collaboration and further research is required in the shape of Jammu and Kashmir oriented Census. Till then it is the authentic language demography of Jammu and Kashmir,' he added. Dr Shakil said all the regional languages are endangered. 'One of such languages 'Kundal-Shahi' spoken by a small community in Neelum valley is at the brink of extinction,' he said. 'Some of the causes include changing attitude of speakers due educational and business needs and lack of patronization by governments.' He said the status of regional languages has cultural and political implications. Kashmiri is spoken in all parts of Jammu and Kashmir across the divide, a clear proof of its pan-regional character. He said there is a decline in number of people speaking Kashmiri due to migrations. To safeguard the regional languages, Dr Shakil believes: 'There is a need for positive and responsible attitude towards the mother tongue, commercial applications of language, literary and scholarly work and last but not the least responsibility of parents to teach the mother language to their children.' 'Children learn mother languages at home. They can learn Urdu Hindi and English at school but the teaching of regional languages has not been made part of curriculum.'