Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India


Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

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March-April 2004 issue

Kashmir's Students of the Vinod Sur Shringar Music Academy performing at the Annual Cultural Nite at Rang Sharda, Bandra

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri


.... Dr. K.N. Pandita
Script for Kashmiri Language - 2

Click: Part 1

In mid-19th century, a movement surfaced in Turkey demanding the shifting of Turkish in Arabic script to Turkish in Roman script. The debate raged fiercely for many decades and finally in the beginning of the 20th century Kemal Ata Turk, the great Turkish reformer, forced the change from Arabic to Roman script. But he did not do it blindly and without expert and specialized advice. The experts in the branch of phonetics from different parts of Europe were invited to evolve a Roman script for the written and spoken Turkish. It has to be remembered that like Kashmiri, the Turkish too has many broken or half-pronounced vowel sounds making things slightly complicated. Nevertheless, a scientific script was evolved at the end of the day, which is in use for last one century in that country. I would not like to go on an excursion here to discuss the benefits of the new Roman script for the Turkish language. I will confine myself to only one point. Today one of the strongest arguments advanced by Turkey for inclusion in the European Union is that she has the Roman script for Turkish language. Taking the cue from Kemal Ata Turk, his later contemporary, Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran, also fantasized such a change for Persian written in Arabic script. I will not embark on the political debate that engulfed the proposal, but I will say that Reza Shah was not too lucky to have an easy go with the fanatical jingoists including the mullahs of his times to affect a change in the script. Had destiny spared him time and opportunity, he would have certainly carried forward the matter. Therefore Iran unlike Turkey remains condemned to the Arabic script and certainly much distanced from developed Europe in comparison to the Turks. I will also refer to the example of the Central Asian republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. When these republics were conferred upon definite territorial jurisdictions between 1920 and 1932, in accordance with the pronouncements of Lenin as enunciated broadly in his famous ‘Message to the Muslims of the East’, some of them had neither a script nor a language of their own. For example in the case of Kyrgyzstan, people spoke the dialect of the ethnic group to which they belonged and there were several of them within that territory. After all Central Asia is a conglomerate of tribes and nomadic groups. Kazakhstan had no script. Turkmenistan was still the worst. One of the memorable acts of Stalin was to provide all assistance to the republics to develop respective languages and a scientific script drawn from Cyrillic but adapted to local conditions. It means that the existing Cyrillic script in which Russian is written was adopted, obviously for the important agenda of cohesion in the newly raised socialist empire. It was adopted for all the five Central Asian and two Trans-Caspian states. As a result, within 20 years of adoption of Soviet Union’s new educational policy not only were the languages and scientific scripts evolved for all the 5+2 Central Asian States and illiteracy banished by 1940 but also each Republic had an Academy of Science and several universities in which education up to the highest standard was imparted in their respective language. Keeping this in mind, had there been the will and honest intentions on the part of the J&K State governments, they would have developed a script for Kashmiri, which might have been enjoying internationally recognized status today. But this was not to happen. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that if we are to develop a script for Kashmkiri, it has to be the Roman script modified and adapted in a manner that it is nearest to honestly representing all vowel and consonant sounds in spoken Kashmiri including half vowels, broken vowels sounds etc. by initiating a set of scientifically correct diacritical marks. This has to be taken up on a war scheme. I would also refer to the immensely valuable work of Stein in translating with exhaustive land most instructive annotations the Rajatarangini of Kalhana. The script experts should try to understand the methodology and the diacritical marks used by him evenly to write sentences or words of Kashmiri dialect wherever he needed to do so. This could become the model for inventing a complete and scientific set of Roman script for Kashmiri. There are several undisputed benefits if the project succeeds. In the first place we will be able to protect and preserve for the posterity our cultural, liturgical and historical fund that is under constant threat of extinction. Secondly we will be able to give new direction and dimension to our literature, both prose and poetry. I am sure within a short span of time, say a decade or two, we will have piled up enormous quantum of literary output through the efforts of our prolific writers and thinkers. Each Pandit family in exile will be able to author its story and history as part of our great saga. For doing so we need not run from institution to institution to provide us financial support or recognize our contribution. We will contribute voluntarily and very richly to the great Indian civilizational fund. This is not to be evaluated in terms of one or two or three decades but in terms of centuries and the millennium. The third benefit, and in my eyes, the most important benefit will be that we as an historical, indigenous and ethnic community tracing our descent from the original Aryan stock, will rise in the estimation of entire world especially the western world where researches in languages and dialects have brought to light great wealth of cultural land civilizational peculiarities. We shall trace the historical journey of our community across the Pamir and Badakhshan mountains to the cis-Oxus region and thus come into focus of orientalists and indologists world over. 
I may assure our community members, particularly those who are dabbling with the issue of formulating and standardizing the script, that Kashmir Pandits will occupy the pride of place in the annals of ancient societies of world that command respect and admiration. Our rich heritage in the shape of most valuable manuscripts has been preserved till date in the archives, libraries and museums of western countries, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Austria, Sweden and the rest. This rich fund will come to limelight, and the greatest beneficiaries will be our future generations. Finally, one more point needs to be stated. While we engage ourselves with the task of evolving a new scientifically sound and practically viable Roam oriented script for Kashmiri language, we should not look towards the valley. We should overcome the senseless doubts and misgivings about the correctness of the pronunciation of words we use in our language. We are the authority. Kashmiri language has flown from our bones and blood. We are its indigenous repository and the way we use the words, the way we pronounce them, the way we explain their meaning is the most authentic source. We ask for no certificate from any body and we accept no certification from any body. 

[Note from the Editor: Dr. Pandita, was subsequently informed that a Standardised Devanagari-Kashmiri script was already in place, developed by the Northern Regional Languages Centre, Patiala. This script is being used in the Milchar. An Indo-Roman script for the Kashmiri language has also been evolved by the Lalla Ded Educational and Welfare Trust under its prestigious Project Zaan. Dr. Pandita's further response is given in his letter published in the 'Letters' columns.]




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