Urdu language lose 131-year-old status as J&K’s official language

Modi government nod to Bill to introduce Hindi, Kashmiri and Dogri as official languages

Wahid Bhat | Srinagar

Urdu language is set to lose its 131-year-old status as Jammu and Kashmir’s sole official language as Narendra Modi government approved a bill under which Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, will be the official languages in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

In 1889, Maharaja Pratap Singh, the third ruler of the Hindu Dogra dynasty, replaced Persian with Urdu as the official language of Jammu and Kashmir.

Announcing the decision at a news briefing, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 will be introduced in Parliament in the upcoming Monsoon Session.

The Bill received the Cabinet nod on Wednesday at a meeting presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We have decided to introduce the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020 in Parliament, under which five languages — Urdu, Hindi, Kashmiri, Dogri and English —will become official languages,” Union minister Prakash Javadekar said after a cabinet meeting in New Delhi.

Javadekar, briefing the media on the cabinet decisions, linked the change to the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status last year. “It is not only the fulfilment of a long-pending public demand from the region but is also in keeping with the spirit of equality, which was ushered in after August 5 last year,” he said.

The minister did not divulge further details saying the bill be debated in Parliament soon.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh said the government has accepted the long pending demand of the region for the inclusion of Dogri, Hindi and Kashmiri as officials languages in JK.

“It is not only a fulfilment of a long-pending public demand of the region but also in keeping with the spirit of equality which was ushered in after August 5 last year (when provisions of Article 370 were repealed),” he said.

He said the Cabinet approval to the bill will end the grievances of discrimination on the basis of language.

It was an anomaly that the three languages — Dogri, Hindi and Kashmiri — which are spoken by nearly 70 per cent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir were not approved for use in official business, he said.

“The Cabinet decision today will not only bring ease of governance, but also ease of citizen participation in governance in the newly created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” the Minister of State for Personnel said.

However senior National Conference leader and former minister Agha Rohullah said there was never a demand here for adding other languages.

“It’s a continuation of what has been happening here and is a cultural invasion of Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir, being a Muslim-majority state, is not an administrative issue for them. It has become a theatre for them to woo Hindutva voters and they want to demolish the cultural identity of Jammu and Kashmir,” Ruhullah said as per The Telegraph.

Meanwhile The All Party Sikh Co-ordination Committee (APSSC) strongly criticized the Center for removing Punjabi from the Jammu and Kashmir Official Language Bill, terming it an ‘anti-minority’ move. The response comes after the Union Cabinet approved the inclusion of English and Urdu as well as Dogri and Hindi in the official language of Jammu and Kashmir.

APPSCC President Jagmohan Singh Raina told Groundreport.in, “Separating Punjabi from Jammu and Kashmir Official Language Bill-2020 is an ‘anti-minority’ step.” Raina said that the Punjabi language was part of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir before the provisions of Article 370 were abolished. He said that Punjabi language was recognized and certified in the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.

‘The sentiments of the Sikh community have been pushed’

The Sikh leader said that the move has shocked the sentiments of the minorities, especially the Sikh community. He said that millions of people all over Jammu and Kashmir speak Punjabi language. Raina warned, “The government has taken an extreme step by separating Punjabi language which will create resentment among the minorities.”

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