Hindi along with Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri and English, has been made official language of Jammu and Kashmir. A bill is recently passed in the parliament of India to add Dogri and Hindi in list of already existing (Urdu and English) official languages of Jammu and Kashmir. People of Jammu and Kashmir feel alienated and express their distress, as their right to have a voice for making their ‘own’ decisions, has been snatched away from them. It is parliament of India deciding their fate, turning a deaf ear to what people of Jammu and Kashmir want.

Language is a fundamental component of identity. Language translates your brain, and gives your voice, a meaning. There are many examples in the world history, when threat to native language eventually led to rebellion movements against the authorities. The first rupture in Pakistan’s cohesion was made because of language, as policy makers at that time did not understand the importance of it. Eventually, Pakistan suffered dismemberment. The language movement that started in 1952 eventually led to the creation of Bangladesh with Bengali as official language.

In India also, language agitations related to language have been witnessed. ‘Bengali Pokkho’ movement of West Bengal is launched against BJPS’s unsolicited support of Hindi and manifestation of Hindu religious festivals in predominantly Muslim areas. In 1965 when process to replace English with Hindi as an official language was initiated, ‘anti Hindi’ movement gained momentum in Madras, leading to protests across the state. Then, later, Lal Bahadur Shastri assured that English will be used as an official language.

Disregarding all lessons of the past, Modi’s government has made Hindi an official language of Jammu and Kashmir. Urdu had been a dominated language in Jammu and Kashmir. By introducing Hindi as official language, it is clearly intended to minimize the importance of Urdu.

There has not been any demand from the region for making Hindi an official language of Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, it is an attempt to ‘impose’ Hindi language on the locals. In Jammu and Kashmir state’s constitution, Urdu was an official language along with English. There has never been any agitation in Jammu and Kashmir on including ‘Hindi’ as an official language. Language was not a problem in the state. Even then, Hindi has been included as an official language.

Gojri and Pahadi languages are more popular in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, but these languages are ignored in the law. Sikh community also protested on exclusion of Punjabi from the bill. Inclusion of Hindi as an official language is another step taken by the Modi government to influence and eventually change, the identity of Kashmiri people.

Urdu provided a link to Kashmiris with their Muslim heritage. Now by imposing Hindi as an official language, that link has been weakened. As Kashmir has lost its special status, therefore more people from north of India, Hindi mainland, will come to Jammu and Kashmir. Resultantly, the local officials will have to learn Hindi to communicate with the officials coming from India, in the newly created union territory.

Adding insult to injury, another law of domicile has been introduced in Jammu and Kashmir. According to this domicile law, anyone from across the country would be eligible to apply for local job in Jammu and Kashmir. “The new rule only reserves non-gazetted class four jobs for Jammu & Kashmir natives. It also lists certain conditions one should fulfil to qualify as a domicile applicant — applicants should have resided in J&K for 15 years, or studied in the state for seven years and appeared in either the Class 10 or the Class 12 examination there.”

This rule will certainly change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir. It’s another blow to the preservation of Kashmiri identity. It also violates the very existence of Jammu and Kashmir as a state. After all these actions of Modi’s government those Kashmiri leaders who were once in favour of Indian state are also feeling alienated and showing their disarray for India’s coercive actions.

Recently, in an interview, Farooq Abdullah, former minister of state of Jammu and Kashmir said, “Today Kashm­iris do not feel Indian and do not want to be Indian … They are slaves … They would rather have the Chinese rule them.” This is a clear display of not only resentment but anger for the Indian state.

When world is moving towards direct democracy, through which a fair referendum can decide the fate of a state (for instance, the case of Scotland), India is coercively moving towards majoritarianism. The rights and privileges of majority is protected by India. Under the leadership of Narendra Modi. India is quite swiftly shedding the skin of ‘democracy’.

It is purely becoming a state formed in the name of religion. Two nation theory that separated India and Pakistan is being endorsed by the actions taken by the government of Narendra Modi. The state of India is expeditiously trying to change the identity of Kashmiris. They wish to ‘hinduise’ the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

After the abrogation of article 35 A, the domicile law and then the inclusion of Hindi in official languages are the steps of ‘hinduisation’ process. The state of Jammu and Kashmir is the only state to have five official languages. It means that the Indian government wishes to transform the state of Jammu and Kashmir into a mix society.

It is history of South Asia, that threat to identity is never tolerated by the populace. Up till now, India’s democratic traditions were instrumental in saving the ‘unity’ of a highly heterogeneous society of India. With this fierce transition of India from a democratic state to a majoritarian state, various fault lines have been created in the country.

Maryam Mastoor is a Research Analyst, Institute of Regional Studies, Islamabad


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