The National language of India, Hindi, has no takers in Kashmir.
After having almost empty class rooms for nearly two decades now, the Kashmir University, this year has opened its doors for the students across the country that too without any entrance examination. The proposal is with an added promise of best hostel accommodation and scholarships.
"The announcement has little impact on the response from students. Just 11 students have applied as against 60 available seats this year," said Zohra Afzal, Head of the Hindi department at Kashmir University.
This was not the state of the language in Kashmir. The language hit the bottom in schools and higher educational institutions after armed insurgency started in the state and Pandits, who were ardent Hindi lovers, fled Kashmir in early 1990's.
"Hindi was the language of Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits). Before militancy the department would be full of Pandit teachers and students. But then they left leaving behind the language with no one to take care," Zohra said.
"In the early and mid 1990's we used to have empty class rooms with just one or two Sikh students. No one from Muslim community would join the department. They thought it was the language of Hindus," she said.
Hindi is the optional subject in schools and colleges but the status of the language is no different there as well.
Director of school education, Shugufta Parvin, said that no government or private school in valley was having specialized teachers to teach Hindi. "Hindi is non existent in schools now," Parvin said. "It was taught by Pandits. They left the valley and we have no teachers to teach the language now," she said.
Parvin said that Urdu language is more famous among students. "Our official language is Urdu and students prefer to opt for Urdu than Hindi," she said.
But Zohra feels that there is a ray of hope for the language if central and state governments step in. "There is a good signal for the language keeping in view the fact that students are realizing that language has nothing to do with religion. From past three years who so ever is coming for admission, most are Muslims.There is this realisation that career wise the language has scope across the country," she said.
Zohra has decided to write to HRD ministry at the centre to provide some avenues for the students to attract them towards the language. "We want that central government should announce some rewards for those who would join the university to study Hindi. Besides the state government should also fill in the posts for teaching Hindi at school and college levels. When there is no one to teach at schools and colleges how can we expect students to opt for the language at university level ," she said.