Dwindling Speakers of Kashmiri Language: Reasons and Repercussions

kashmiri alphabet

I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigrees of nations.

                                                                                                                     —.Samuel Johnson

Mother Tongue/Language is without any doubt the identity of any nation. It tells us where a particular person belongs to. It reflects the cultural ethos and social milieu of an individual. Every country holds its Mother Tongue dear, for it carries with it the overall identity of its speakers.

Every year International Mother Tongue/Language Day is celebrated on 21 February to promote its linguistic and cultural importance.  We do celebrate it with much fervour and enthusiasm but once the celebrations in the form of seminars etc. are over, we throw to winds everything about it and start talking in lingos that are alien and outlandish. Learning and speaking the languages of other nations is good but it should not be done at the cost of one’s own Mother Tongue. The Mother Tongue that mothers us in every respect.

English language being an International Language/Global Language has sounded a final death knell to many language of the world. People shun their own languages and do their utmost to learn English Language. People fail to understand that English like their own language is also a language and only a language and nothing more than that. When we stop speaking our Mother Tongue and adopt other language we are actually doffing our identity badge and donning an alien badge of identity that does not suit us well and makes us pantaloons of the first water.

When people fail to understand the importance of their own language, they avoid using it, and also refrain from teaching it to their posterity. This process is what the British linguist David Crystal calls “Language Death”. A language dies when its speakers stop speaking it, so says Crystal.

These days Kashmiri language also has a dwindling number of speakers.  The reason is that we don’t bother to teach it to our new generations. Modern parents with westernized education, globalized Ideology, impressing outlook and all that, consider it much beneath their social status to teach their children their Mother Tongue that is Kashmiri. They do not allow their kids to learn and speak Kashmiri. Because they consider it an inferior language lacking in richness of thought, influence and grace. They either teach them Urdu or English. But mostly English is prioritized over every other language. The irony of the fact is that well-educated Kashmiri parents instead of being the custodians of their language are proving dacoits of the same with colonized mentality.

Teaching one’s children English, Urdu etc. is good. The knowledge of other languages can widen their mental horizon and they will come to learn about the literature and culture of other nations as well. We have every right to make our children polyglots. But we should not shun our own Kashmir language at the same time. We should teach our kids our Kashmiri language and let them speak it at home etc. We have number of places where we can use English, flaunt it and rule the roost. We should keep it for official communication etc. But we should speak Kashmiri language in our local festivals, cultural events etc. in order to promote it and let it survive.

The other glaringly manifest reason for the dwindling speakers of Kashmiri language is that it is not taught as a subject/discipline at the elementary level in our schools with seriousness and intensity. Had it been taught with serious in schools like English, Urdu and Hindi, the taste and aptitude for it would have been enormous among children who are its ambassadors in the true sense of the term. But alas!

Another tangible reason for its dwindling speakers is that the literature written in Kashmiri language has a miniscule number of readers. This miniscule readership is only that of old people. The people who try to keep it alive. They do so because they know our Kashmiri language is our sole and solid identity. They know we are Kashmiri because of our Kashmiri language. Modernized guys and gals on the other hand assume airs when they speak the hotchpotch of English and Urdu and feel slighted to speak Kashmiri.

If we won’t try to save our Kashmiri language from extinction, its repercussions would be damning and damaging for us Kashmiri’s culturally. Forthcoming will be the day when we will be the victims of identity crisis. When will have a generation of people who would be speaking everything but Kashmiri and we will feel ourselves alien and displaced in our own Kashmir! With the death of our Kashmiri language would erode our cultural identity and the things associated with it. So let’s take pledge to save it from being in the list of extinct/ endangered languages!

Postscript: It is okay to be proud of your good English. But do not be proud of being poor at your Mother Tongue. Only the scum of the earth do that. Rao Saarloos

Bilal Ahmad Dar is a Research Scholar at the Department of English, AMU. He has qualified UGC-NET and JKSET for Assistant Professorship. He can be mailed at: [email protected]


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