ATTEMPTS ON TO THRUST DEVNAGRI
NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar, Oct 31: It is a war over Kashmir language script, on for six decades. Since 1948 the unnecessary controversy has been allowed to raise its head about script of Kashmiri despite 99 per cent scholars saying there is no problem in Persio-Arabic script of the language but there is need of standardization of the script. Kashmiri, written in Perso-Arabic script, has remained a spoken language up to the present times, though some manuscripts were written in the past in the Sharada script, now not in use.
Kashmiri is written almost entirely in the Persio-Arabic script. But some Kashmiri Pandit (Kashmir Hindus) scholars are attempting to promote a script based upon Devnagri script. Devnagri is the main script used to write Hindi, Marathi and Nepali. Since the start of 19th century, it has been the most commonly used script for Sanskrit and Pali.
In 1951, the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, constituted a committee to settle the issue. The committee approved Nask or Quranic script for Kashmiri. But after Abdullah’s arrest in 1953, it was shelved.
His successors Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad and GM Sadiq also constituted committees. The committees had agreement over the Persio-Arabic script. But disagreement is over the standardisation and use of diacritical marks of Kashmiri. Still, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, ironically, didn’t issue any notification approving the script for Kashmiri.
The script war has now again come to fore as the Law Ministry of the Government of India has sought translation of the Constitution of India in Kashmiri, but in Devnagri script.
The issue dates back to 1960s. In 1967-68 the Law ministry had reportedly moved a proposal for the translation of Constitution of India in Kashmiri. But the ministry failed to get a person well versed both in the language and the law. In 1973 the then secretary in the ministry of Law, Government of India, P. Shastri showed interest to have translation of the Constitution in Kashmiri. He approached GN Gowhar who was then working as Munsif. Gowhar however refused.
The lack of full-fledged translation division in Kashmir compounded the problem. Sheikh Abdullah in August 1975 had convened a meeting to establish translation division in Kashmir. The meeting decided to have translation division in Srinagar in accordance with the Official Languages Act passed by the Parliament of India. But the decision was never implemented.
Some years back the Law ministry picked GN Gowhar, now retired Sessions Judge, to translate the Constitution. The ministry over-ruled its own rules and chose him also to vet his own translated work which otherwise is prohibited.
On February 5, 2007, Gowhar submitted the translated work to the ministry. Since then the Ministry is sitting over the work and not publishing it. The secretary in the ministry had objected to the script and was demanding translation in the Devnagri.
The issue now has become political with the state Congress chief and the Union Minister for Water Resources, Prof Saifudin Soz, conveying to the ministry of Law that the Jammu and Kashmiri Academy has approved only Persian script and “it alone is in vogue.” “Therefore, it is imperative that the Kashmiri translation of Constitution of India must be produced in Persian script alone,” Saifudin Soz has told the ministry in a communiqué.
It seems Soz’s intervention has mellowed down the ministry. “The present Law secretary is seeking only notification issued by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir approving the script,” said GN Gowhar. But, he added, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has not issued any such SRO.
But the issue has larger dimensions, beyond the translation of the Constitution. Noted litterateur of Kashmir Muhammad Yousuf Taing describes the demand for Devnagri script as part of the culture aggression on Kashmir. The Persio-Arabic script, Taing says, has been brought here by Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamdani (RA) and no Kashmiri would imagine giving up the script ‘that is part of our cultural-religious identity.’ Any demand, he says, to abandon the script would be viewed as an attack on our culture. “Ismat Chogtai had advocated Devnagri for Urdu and she was opposed by none other than Sadri Jaffri,” Taing said.
He said Persian script for Kashmiri is simplistic, very good and scientific and any attempt to fiddle with it is playing with fire. He says in past several moves were made to abandon Kashmiri for Devnagri and if any such move is allowed to succeed it would have devastating effects.