Som Shah

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Cultural Identity of Kashmiri Pandits - Retrospect and Prospect

by Prof. Som Shah

Kashmiri Pandit Identity – a historical perspective

Within the Hindu fraternity, Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) occupy a distinct and unique position because of a tumultuous history and consequent evolution, including several aberrations and distortions. At one point of time Kashmir was a great seat of learning and Kashmiri Hindus produced intellectuals of all hues like philosophers, writers, poets, therapists and historians. It would be out of place to list the achievements and contributions that Kashmiri Brahmins made during some glorious periods of Hindu rule and even during some phases of Muslim rule. On the spiritual side it witnessed the onslaught of Buddhist wave together with rest of south and south-east Asia, and eventually countered it through philosophic movement of a distinct kind of Shaivism. However, all this was achieved through debates and discussions as has been the normal practice in all oriental religions.

There is a common mistaken notion that among Kashmiri Hindus there was no caste system and all Hindus are Brahmins. That may be the situation as of now but historically Kashmir shared with rest of India the same kind of caste system with its grotesque customs and practices. This was the reason that most of the non-Brahmins initially opted for Buddhism during its heyday and Kashmir at one point of time, before the start of Christian era, was an important centre of Buddhist society. However, as in rest of India, Brahmin revivalism brought an end to Buddhist sway over the populace in general.

Brahmins dominated the religious scenario including the ruling hierarchy in the valley for several centuries. While on the positive side they made considerable contribution to the intellectual, philosophical and spiritual aspects of the society, on the negative side they strictly enforced hereditary caste discrimination and a narrow-minded exclusivism. This was one of the main reasons that made it easy for Islam to enter the valley in the first instance and take over the administration and eventually to convert the populace to that faith. Added to that an aggressive proselytization by Muslim missionaries with strong support of ruling community and several periods of forced conversion, almost the entire lot of non-Brahmins embraced the Islamic faith. Even some of the Brahmins were also forcibly converted, after their temples were desecrated and mosques built in their place. However, such was the strong hold of the caste system that even after conversion the Muslims retained the caste distinctions almost up to the present day and usually intermarriages and social contacts across the caste lines were a taboo. Thus the so called “Khandani” upper caste converts from Brahmins (Kauls, Rainas Bhats, Choudhrys, Sheikhs) and Rajputs (Dars, Mirs, Rathers, Maliks, Loans) would look down upon lower castes like Vaishs (Wanis) and Shudras comprising a host of menial surnames.

What was left of Brahmins after these conversions and waves of migration outside the valley, constituted a hard core community of Pandits who managed to resist all the allurements, deprivation, pressures, intimidation, harassment and even death threats. Understandably they developed certain traits, both positive and negative, because of a persistent fear and threat to dignity, property, honour and life. It is these traits that have become a hallmark of their identity as distinct from that of Kashmiri Muslims. Probably the only similarity was a common language and idiom. Language is undoubtedly a strong binding force and constitutes the only factor that could be classed as the so called “Kashmiriat” that has been branded as a political slogan in recent years to be used and misused as the occasion demands.  But even in language, thanks to the imposition of an unnatural and inappropriate Nastaliq script, a schism has developed between the two communities. Other than the language, there is hardly anything common between the two communities, except for nostalgia of dependence on each other and to some extent tolerating each other. While personal equations and close man to man contacts have always been there, but none of them were on the basis of any cultural identity.    

Kashmiri Pandits had a relatively peaceful and secure time during the brief Sikh rule and about a century of Dogra rule. This period generated a sense of euphoria in them that made them complacent, though there were occasions when they should have been vary and watchful. Communal riots of 1931 that is nowadays projected as a freedom struggle should have been one such occasion. The complacency was gradually broken when successive governments after independence started the process of discrimination and the community was forced to seek avenues outside the state. The process of migration that started as a trickle gradually became rapid and culminated in a mass exodus as a result of planned intimidation at gun point.

Evolution of customs and rituals

A common belief among most KPs is that rituals and customs that were prevalent in the valley before mass exodus constitute the KP culture and need to be preserved in totality to sustain a cultural identity. This belief is primarily because of nostalgia following the trauma of displacement and an attempt to snatch at straws to replicate a situation as existed before the exodus. However, rituals and customs do not constitute cultural identity since they keep on changing and evolving from time to time. Culture is like a flowing river that receives input from different directions through various tributaries including dirty drains. As long as it keeps on flowing and receiving these inputs, it remains vibrant and fresh. When it becomes static, it stagnates into a marsh. Kashmiri Pandit culture has never stagnated in spite of various pressures, trials and tribulations. It has always adjusted and accommodated according to the circumstances and situations. That has been the secret of its survival.

Those who believe that rituals must be retained in their entirety in order to sustain cultural identity would do well to examine them in a historical perspective. There can be no better example than the rituals associated with one of the main festivals of KP identity, the Shivratri. These rituals and customs have undergone a total transformation during last few centuries. At one point of time the celebrations, puja and rituals for this festival extended for forty days commencing from Shiv Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Magh) to Phagum Ashtami (Tila Ashtami). In the course of time it got reduced to twenty days and eventually to a few days. During the Afghan rule, a stupid governor (there was a series of them) was told that Pandits invoked their secret powers through puja during Shivratri and fasting and refraining from non-vegetarian food. He ordered that they should be forced to gambol during this period and to partake of non-vegetarian meals. Accordingly the Pandits had to gambol with shells (hara), that was the prevalent currency, and this became a part of the ritual that continues up to the present day in the valley. The Muslims were asked to spy on their Pandit neighbours to ensure that they partook of non-vegetarian food on the day following Shivratri and they made a point to visit them and thus the name Salaam was given to that day. The name Shivratri itself continues to be called Herath (derived from Persian word Hairat, meaning surprise), following the infamous order of Jabbar Khan (Jabbar Jendha) to celebrate the festival in summer when a snow storm hit the valley. When Sikhs invaded the valley on the invitation of KPs and drove out the Afghans, the Pandits included Waghuru (Wahi Guru) puja one day prior to Shivratri as a mark of thanksgiving. Following Dogra rule they included Ram Gud as one of deities in the puja since Ram was the Kul Devta of Dogra rulers. The rituals associated with this festival have changed continuously depending on the exigencies of the situation and the political climate. But Shivratri constitutes a basic festival of our cultural identity. Most people may be aware that different families adopted varying riti (customs) for every festival meaning thereby that these riti hardly constitute a part of cultural identity.

The elderly generation who suffered the pangs of displacement is nostalgic about most of the rituals that were prevalent before the exodus. That accounts for their anxiety to hold on to them. The younger generation, especially those born just before or after exodus, have no such nostalgia and are generally confused about the fascination that the elders have for something that appears silly to them.  No doubt, as time passes, most of these redundant rituals will die their natural death, as has happened to several such customs in the past. If somebody wants to have a peep into what our customs were a few centuries ago, he would do well to observe them in Kashmiri Pandit families who migrated into various other parts of India centuries before and have retained many of those traditions as they existed at that point of time.

What constitutes Kashmiri Pandit cultural identity

If rituals are not essential features of cultural identity, then it is necessary to identify what constitutes a KP identity. For that it is important to understand what has sustained them through centuries of turmoil, torture, discrimination and intimidation. That alone should constitute the foundation of a true identity. Culture is a combination of several factors that have accumulated historically and become part of identity. It may not be possible to list all these here but the more essential features are briefly mentioned below:

Hindu Ethos: KPs have a distinct identity primarily because they are a repository of Hindu ethos. Hinduism is a philosophical doctrine and not a religion in the strict sense of that word. A religion is dogmatic and has well defined and enforceable dos and don’ts. Hinduism allows free scope for speculation and an open invitation to discover divinity in whichever manner a person chooses. In this regard it is closer to scientific ethos that allows an open mind to discover laws of nature. The two have also a symbiotic relationship. While one aims at the ultimate in the spiritual domain the focus of the other is the material plane. One sustains the other and that is the reason there is no contradiction and confrontation between science and religion in the Hindu context unlike religions of Middle Eastern origin. KPs have a remarkable capacity for rationalization of any situation and absorbing all contradictory opinions. This stems from their strong roots in Hindu ethos. That also dissuades them from becoming dogmatic or fundamentalist. They have resisted conversion primarily because they have an in born tendency to reject a dogmatic belief. Talking about the Hindu ethos Beatrice Lamb, the British author, has made the following telling comment:  “Indeed, one characteristic that all Hindus claim for Hinduism is an all-embracing tolerance, its ability to encompass every path, finding a niche for each in the vast scheme of things. From the point of view of certain minority religions, this is precisely the difficulty. Any religion that does not want to be encompassed, embraced and indeed absorbed and perhaps ultimately transformed by Hinduism finds Hindu tolerance somewhat too demanding since it is conditioned upon a basic acceptance of a Hindu view of life and Hinduism’s peculiar genius for absorption.”  While it may not be possible to agree with him in all details, but basically he has made the point that is characteristic of Hinduism in general and KPs in particular. 

Shiva-Shakti cult:  While Kashmir was the fountainhead of a distinct philosophy of Shaivism, it is also a fact that majority of KPs is unaware of its tenets and significance. However, it has given birth to a special brand of deity worship that is distinct from most Hindus. Shivratri or Watak Puja is distinct for KPs and is observed in a specific manner quite unlike other Shaivite Hindus. Its significance has various interpretations but they are primarily derived from special Shiva-Shakti cult that is peculiar to KPs.

Shakti worship has also generated identification of Ishat Devis (Kul Devis) whereby Goddess Durga has been personified in various forms, only partly corresponding to the Nav Durga concept. There are primarily three Ishat Devis namely the eighteen armed Sharika, personifying protection, the four armed Raghinia personifying bounties and eight armed Jwala depicting energy. All KPs have either one of them as their Kul Devi that determines their mode of worship and eating habits. The seats of the three are Chakreshwar (Hari Parbat), Tullamula (Kshir Bhawani) and Khrew (Jwaleshwari) respectively. Apart from these, there are a large number of other shrines spread over the length and breadth of the valley representing these Devis. These three seats have a special significance in the spiritual life of every Kashmiri Pandit. That is why immediately after exodus KPs replicated these seats in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere as they are the primary symbols of their cultural identity.

Language: Language is always a strong binding force for any community and constitutes an important element of cultural identity. Kashmiri language, though rich in idiom, has suffered a checkered history, mainly because of the political turmoil and suppression of the rulers. Primarily derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit and retaining its grammatical nuances, it is flooded with words derived from other sources, notably Persian. In this respect it has suffered the same fate as that of Saxon English following Norman invasion. While the verbs are mostly derived from Sanskrit, since the working class comprised local residents, most nouns and adjectives are derived from Persian that was the language of the rulers. However, there is one major difference between what happened to English language through Norman influence and Kashmiri language after Persian domination. Since the script of English and French was the same, the language got enriched with words of French derivation without altering the scriptural nuances. In case of Kashmiri its original script namely Sharda vanished since the rulers refrained from using it and the Persian (Nastaliq) script did not suit the large number of vowel sounds and even some consonants that are characteristic of Kashmiri. In the process Kashmiri language lost its script and remained only a spoken language. The Sharda script got relegated to writing of horoscopes and almanacs by practicing Brahmins (who were referred to as Bhashya Bhats meaning language knowing Pandits as against others who resorted to the study of Persian and were referred to as karkuns), in a traditional style not in Kashmiri but in classical Sanskrit.  Because of this Kashmiri language hardly acquired any written literature. Whatever literature in Kashmiri existed up to the beginning of twentieth century comprised no prose but only poetry carried through word of mouth. 

While Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits speak the same language, there is a difference in a large number of nouns and pronunciation of some alphabets of Sanskrit origin. Muslims use nouns of Persian origin while Pandits use those of Sanskrit origin. Words like ‘water’ would be aab for a Muslim and poni or woni (derived from Sanskrit warini) for a Pandit. Likewise ‘sun’ would be aftab and sirya and ‘dream’ would be khwab and swapun respectively. Many Sanskrit derived sounds cannot be properly pronounced by Muslims. The half sounds following a consonant that is common in Sanskrit constitute some of them.  For example the half ‘r’ sound as in bror (cat) or praran(waiting)would be pronounced as bior and  piaran respectively. Likewise there is a remarkable variation in the speech that can be easily detected.

The imposition of Nastaliq script after 1947 by the government alienated Pandits from Kashmiri language as a result of which they taught their children to speak in Hindi.  A large number of Pandit children had stopped considering Kashmiri language as their mother tongue long before the mass exodus. This process was accentuated by the increase of anti-national activity by some Muslim outfits in Kashmir and Pandits identified Kashmiri language with them and Hindi as a symbol of Indianness. Since medium of instruction was Hindi, Urdu or English, Kashmiri did not fit anywhere in the educational system. The imposition of Kashmiri as a compulsory language of study in Nastaliq script up to the 5th standard was a stillborn exercise and even Muslims did not take it seriously since they felt that it was of no value.

Poetry and Music:  Kashmiri poetry, as has been mentioned earlier, was carried through word of mouth up to the early part of twentieth century. The most popular among Muslims as well as Hindus were the wakhs of Lal Ded and Sahajanand alias Sheikh Nur-ud-Din. Both of them had a common idiom and message of universal brotherhood and spirituality constituting an amalgam of Shaivism and Sufism. While the former was known to be a Hindu, the latter was supposedly born of converted Muslim parents though he never practiced that religion and is being disowned by present day fundamentalist Muslims[1].  The wakhs constitute an important cultural heritage of Kashmiri Pandits, especially those of Lal Ded as they encompass the essence of Kashmir Shaivism in simple common man’s language.

Another aspect of poetry that constitutes the cultural identity of Kashmiri Pandits is the leela that is sung in a lilting tune or to the beats of a tumbaknari. A leela is always in praise of a deity depicting various attributes, or narrating events from Bhagwat and tales from Puranas.

Perhaps one distinct cultural symbol of KPs has been the wanwun that is collectively sung on the occasion of various festivals notably yageopavit and marriage. Most KPs are not aware that wanwun in its original form was derived from classical music using three swars only. Muslims converted wanwun into a folk song that they sing on festive occasions. Unfortunately the classical form of wanwun has been gradually dying down and even KPs have lately taken to the popular form sung by Muslims. The former has a socio-religious significance that cannot be ignored.        

Cuisine: One of the aspects of Kashmiri Pandit culture that has found a national acceptance and liking constitutes the special cuisine. The variety of dishes cooked using different spices and the techniques employed have become so popular that they constitute special menu of most five-star hotels of the country.  KP cuisine is totally different from that of Muslims. While the non-vegetarian dishes are limited to five or six only, there is a wide variety in vegetarian dishes. Of the former rogan josh and latter dum aloo (listed usually in hotel menus as aloo dum) are the most popular all over the country and abroad.

In the valley there was a tradition of drying vegetables during summer months and using the same during winter. This was primarily because no fresh vegetables were available in snow-clad winter. KPs, notably ladies, have developed a special taste for these dried vegetables, especially brinjals and gourds (lauki), cooked in a specific manner. Nowadays due to better means of communication fresh vegetables are available throughout winter months and Muslims in the valley (especially in the cities) have generally discontinued this practice of drying vegetables. What is however interesting is that the practice of drying continues for commercial reasons as there is a demand  for these dried products from KPs living outside the valley following exodus.

A discussion on cuisine would be incomplete without mention of an essential component of KP table, haak, which is like a tanpura in a musical concert. It has to be always there whether one cooks vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals. In recent years it has become very popular with non-Kashmiris as well, especially in Jammu.

Apparel: The KP dress and jewelry have suffered several historical vicissitudes as a result of which most of the erstwhile apparel has become redundant. While at one point of time turban tied in a particular fashion was the hallmark headgear of adult male Pandit and taranga of a female, both have all but vanished. They are only used on the occasion of marriage and that too in a highly modified form. The more common phiran as a kind of a gown has survived among men in some cases especially those who still live in the valley or Jammu, where it is cold in winter.  The female phiran was almost abandoned following the reform movement led by Kashyapa Bandhu in the thirties of the last century.

KP phiran is different from that of Muslims and it is believed that this differentiation was imposed during the rule of Zain-ul-abudin (Budshah). Though he was known to be a just ruler and he imposed this order in good faith, it reduced the Hindu population to a very small minority. The story goes that during the rule of his predecessor, the infamous Sikandar (Butshikan), there was a mass forcible conversion of Hindus. Many were murdered, and some migrated but those who stayed back had perforce to accept Islam and change their name. However, they were Hindus by heart and retained their Hindu practices and identity. Thus everybody had two names, the Muslim name to be used for public consumption and Hindu name at home. Since the dress was the same, it was not possible to know whether one was a Hindu or a Muslim and the name was the only identity. Budshah ordered that there would be no forcible conversions and in order to ensure that he insisted that they dress differently. As a result all those who were still Hindus at heart had perforce to adopt Muslim attire and in due course of time became Muslims.

One of the important elements of the attire of KP ladies that has not only survived but also become popular with non-Kashmiris is the golden jewelry called ath, dejihoru and ataharu. These are marital symbols comparable to mangal sutra worn by Hindu ladies elsewhere in the country. They are the essential elements of jewelry of a married lady.

 Socio-religious customs: There is a wide range of socio-religious customs and festivals that are observed by KPs in a variety of ways. It is not possible to list them but some of them have a religious connotation while there are several others that have a historical or environmental relationship. Traditional festivals like navreh, zang trai, pann and other similar festivals belong to the former category, while shishur, gaad bata, khetchi amawasya, nav sheen and the like belong to the latter category. Most of these festivals fall during winter months which may be due to climatic conditions in the valley. In addition there are traditional customs related to marriages, child-births, deaths and other social events. Many of them also have a religious rigmarole associated with them. Hardly anybody has an inkling of the purpose behind many of these customs and even the supposed religious linkage is dubious in most cases since there is no known source of the authority. Some of these customs were not observed much before the mass exodus as they had become redundant. After the exodus hardly anybody remembers them. But there are quite a few that were religiously observed and continue to be observed even after exodus.

 

Are KPs losing their identity?

After the mass exodus the one apprehension that is haunting the mind of every Kashmiri Pandit is about the danger of losing his cultural identity. Surprisingly this apprehension was not there when KPs were continuously being eased out from the mainstream in Kashmir for nearly half a century after 1947 and made almost insignificant and irrelevant. There was a continuous trickle of migration of younger generation for want of employment avenues and the population was already reducing at a rapid rate.  It is also a fact that KPs living in Kashmir during that period had almost accepted their second class citizen status as a fait accompli. In most of the families the children had stopped speaking in Kashmiri and they were afraid of donning a tilak on the forehead or displaying any overt cultural identity. The lollipop of Kashmiriat was projected before them to remind them that they were a part of a fraternity that was covertly Islamic. It would be necessary to analyze why they were not anxious about the loss of their cultural identity at that point of time.

Cultural identity is more a state of mind than any tangible reality. Every human being has an emotional need to identify himself first as an individual distinct from others and then as member of a community or religion or country. This stems from the animal instinct of living in a herd from which human beings evolved into a tribal culture. The social evolution is proceeding at a rapid rate towards globalization whereby the barriers of caste, creed, colour, race and geography are rapidly disintegrating. Cultural identities are likely to get eroded in all communities irrespective of geographical location or dislocation.  But that would be a futuristic scenario and some people who cannot reconcile with such a rapid change would even label it as an improbable philosophical doctrine. Until the day we head towards that status there is a strong instinctive need to have an identity, since it provides a sense of security. In spite of all threats to KP identity before exodus, they refused to acknowledge it since all symbols of cultural identity were in place. The only time when they became slightly apprehensive was in 1986 when several temples were desecrated. But after the trauma of dislocation they suddenly found that they had lost all the symbols of their identity, including their homes and hearths, and were practically like straws in a wind.

Cultural identity is sustained through symbolism with which people identify themselves. Since all these symbols were in the valley the KPs suffered traumatic crisis of confidence following exodus. Forced migration always generates a sense of rootless existence and consequently an alarming fear of losing identity and getting lost in the mayhem of an alien society. As a reaction KPs started building replicas of shrines at a frantic pace almost everywhere, where they moved in sizable numbers. Moreover, they started making noises as they had never done before through media. Such has been the cacophony of these press statements coming from various kinds of outfits and individuals that it gives an impression that the community is totally confused and divided. This is far from truth for at no point of time have the KPs been thinking differently, including when they left Kashmir en masse without any planning, though they would not admit it.

While exodus has caused immense physical, emotional, economic and psychic damage to KPs, there has been a silver lining. The fear of losing the identity has galvanized the society as never before. In fact at no point of time was the danger of losing identity more acute than when they were living in Kashmir between 1947 and 1989. They were practically being eased out without a whimper. They were losing their cultural symbols and identity was getting rapidly eroded. The younger generation was gradually migrating. Those who were left behind had lost confidence and were acquiring a psyche of servility. If the mass exodus had not taken place the cultural identity would have been lost within a few decades without anybody in the country or elsewhere becoming wiser about it.

The exodus has brought about two positive fall outs. While on the one hand it has triggered a renaissance in the community, on the other the country and the world at large has come to know about this highly cultured and sophisticated community and the injustice meted out to it. The renaissance has been in various forms and fields and has seeped down to the grassroots. Those Kashmiri Pandit boys and girls who lived in backwaters of far flung villages of the valley donned some of the premier educational institutes in the country and abroad. The number of books, magazines, journals and articles published in last twenty years by KPs is phenomenal. The linkage of Kashmiri Pandit groups and organizations spread throughout the world is such that each one knows exactly of what is happening and where. This is no doubt also a result of boom in communication network that has fortunately happened precisely at the same time and KPs have taken maximum benefit from it. Above all the renaissance has generated a serious introspection and brain-storming among KPs, a faculty that they had totally forgotten when they were in the valley.

There appears to be no danger about the loss of cultural identity of KPs following dislocation. Apprehension of the loss itself generates a consciousness of what we are likely to lose and we tend to protect it. With that consciousness almost half the battle is won. When we are confronted with an alien culture we feel insecure and generate a tendency to look deep into our roots. That is what happened to those who migrated to western countries and attempted to teach their children to stick to certain cultural symbols and practices including learning Kashmiri when back home in Kashmir our children had stopped all these practices and even speaking that language.

How can KPs sustain a cultural identity

While it would be a cynical attitude to presume that KPs are in danger of losing their cultural identity, there is at the same time no scope for complacency. The community needs to put their heads together to see what can be done to ensure that we uphold the positive and distinctive elements of our culture. It has also to be understood that some of the aspects of our traditions have become redundant either due to passage of time and changed circumstances or because of being away from the valley. There are also several negative elements of our culture that we have acquired through exigencies of history which need to be expunged.  While a lot needs to be done to protect and expand the scope of our cultural traditions, only some of the more urgent requirements are suggested below:

Building Institutions: KPs were very prompt in building shrines and ashrams of prominent saints of Kashmir immediately after exodus. As mentioned earlier, this was a reaction to the loss of symbols of cultural identity and was probably important at that point of time to generate confidence and sense of security. However, there has been a laxity in building institutions of learning and research in aspects of culture and civilization of the community. For example Kashmir Shaivism, that constitutes a flagship of Kashmiri Pandit culture, has been relegated to the oblivion of obscurantism. Following Swami Lakshman Joo and a few other scholars, there has been no institutional follow up. While many non-Kashmiri, including foreign scholars, have published treatises on this subject, there has been hardly any concerted contribution from scholars of Kashmir. When we talk of preserving our cultural heritage, anybody can ask a question what we mean by it. Is there an institution or authority that can answer this question? Is there an institution that can interpret our traditions in a historical perspective and give meaning to what our culture is all about? While there is a lot of breast beating about our youngsters not upholding the cultural traditions, do we have any reasoning to tell them why they should follow some practices dogmatically? Nostalgia alone cannot sustain traditions and culture. They need to be interpreted in the idiom of modern times. This can be done only by an institution of higher learning specialized in these areas. For years we have been dreaming about resurrecting Sharda University, but it continues to be a dream only.

Preserving Kashmiri language: Preserving Kashmiri language is probably the greatest challenge before the community because there are basic hurdles in it. A language is primarily a medium of communication. Any language that provides scope for communication with the widest coverage is bound to expand and proliferate and a language that has a limited convas is bound to languish. In this context it would be pertinent to remember the Indian experience. Following independence there was a concerted effort to promote Hindi as the national language. When it met with difficulties because of large number of regional languages that were not ready to accept Hindi, there was a view that unless English was replaced, Hindi could not become lingua franca. This view was expressed as the infamous remark of Ram Manohar Lohia, “Let Hindi go to hell, abolish English”, that raised a lot of furor. Naturally (and fortunately) the nation did not listen to him. At present it is only because of the knowledge of English that India has become a software and IT hub.

Kashmiri language is plodding with basic disabilities in the absence of well established script and lack of literature in prose. Editors of some community journals are doing a commendable job by publishing Kashmiri section in Devnagari script with some diacritical marks that is tending to become a suitable script for Kashmiri language. But that alone is not enough. There is need to use other methods to popularize the language. The written word is not as popular and powerful nowadays as the verbal communication and there is a need to make maximum use of IT to proliferate the language through circulation of CDs and opening websites bearing interesting material in Kashmiri. It is only possible to do so in an organized fashion and our numerous outfits would do well to pool their resources in this direction.

Conclusion

The apprehension about the loss of cultural identity may help us to be cautious and pool our resources to rejuvenate the community. However, there is very little likelihood of KPs losing their identity. It is a myth that dislocation causes loss of identity. Historical evidence goes to prove that all dislocated communities are more conscious of their identity than settled communities. The examples of Jews and Parsees, who retained their identities for centuries in exile, are there to indicate that it is not the geography but the cultural strength and determination of the community that sustains an identity. There is no reason to believe that KPs do not fall in that category. 

[1] His shrine was burnt down by fundamentalist Muslims from Pakistan during nineties of the last century.

Source: Vitasta

  

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