Hoping to succeed where the erstwhile UPA government failed, the BJP-led Union government has proposed the formation of a national council to prevent the Kashmiri language and its original script – Sharada – from becoming extinct.
The UPA had refrained from taking such a step for fear of causing a disturbance in Jammu and Kashmir. The proposal to use Devanagari and Sharada as the script for Kashmiri has evoked protests from various sections of the Muslim-majority state.
The human resource development ministry is expected to seek cabinet approval for the constitution of the autonomous body under Union minister Smriti Irani. Sources told HT that the proposed council will focus on promoting Kashmiri literature – currently written in the Devanagari and Perso-Arabic scripts – and attempt to revive their forerunner, Sharada.
Some religious bodies outside Jammu and Kashmir have been trying to collect and preserve manuscripts in the near-extinct Sharada.
Apart from researching the evolution of Kashmiri, the proposed council will also facilitate translation of its literary works into various Indian and international languages. “Kashmiri is a neglected language, and its use is declining even in Kashmir. Over the years, no attempt has been made to preserve the language or its literature,” said Shashi Shekhar Toshkhani, a scholar who has done extensive research on the Kashmiri language, literature and culture.
Toshkhani said opposition to the use of Devanagari as an additional script for the language has contributed to its disuse over the years. “There has been a concerted effort to block the use of Devanagari even though the Perso-Arabic script does not do justice to the language,” he added.
Sushil Pandit, an activist of Kashmiri origin, said: “Though Kashmiri was among the 14 languages included in the eighth schedule of the constitution, it is not the official language of the state.”
While the Union government awaits the cabinet nod for setting up the proposed council, it hopes that the move will not cause another furore in the state – which is run by a coalition government of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Mehbooba Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party.