Kashmiri: An Endangered Language

Kashmir Magazine

Huzair Syed

“Language is the roadmap of a culture. It delineates the origins and trajectory of its people.” Language, functioning not merely as a means of communication but as a representational system, facilitates the expression of ideas both internally and externally.
Addressing the underappreciated Kashmiri language, also known as “koshur,” an Indic language (Dardic) spoken by Indo-Aryan people, we will delve into its foundational aspects and scrutinize the disregard it currently faces.
Kashmiri traces its roots back to the 14th century with the poet Lalleshvari or Lal-ded, renowned for composing mystical verses. Spoken by approximately 7 million people, predominantly in Jammu and Kashmir and certain regions of Pakistan, it attained official language status in Jammu and Kashmir following a parliamentary bill in 2020.
The Kashmiri language utilizes three orthographical systems: the Perso-Arabic script, the Devanagari script, and the Sharada script, with occasional informal use of the Roman script, particularly in online contexts.
Shifting our focus to the neglect of the Kashmiri language, a conspicuous lack of emphasis is observed in educational institutions, spanning schools and colleges, as well as within familial settings. The act of conversing in one’s mother tongue has regrettably evolved into a societal taboo, particularly amongst teenagers and young adults, marking a genuine setback for the nation.
Presently, there is a notable prioritization of Western languages and cultures over the culturally rich Kashmiri heritage within our educational system. Strikingly absent from the political party manifestos in the state, the language faces a disconcerting oversight.
Until a recent legislative change, Kashmiri, spoken by an estimated 8 million people, was not incorporated into the school curriculum, resulting in a scenario where a significant portion of the population can speak but not read or write in it. Urdu continues to serve as a class marker, predominantly used by the upper and middle classes for communication.
Encountering a Kashmiri novel or literary work in bookshops and libraries is as rare as sighting a comet.
Now, a pivotal question arises: “What pragmatic measures should be taken to resuscitate and propagate our mother tongue?”
In the words of Syed Huzair, “It’s acceptable to take pride in your proficiency in English. However, one should not pride oneself on a deficiency in their mother tongue. Such behaviour is only exhibited by the least admirable individuals.