Pahari, a socio-linguistic group living at the foot hills of Peer Panjaal Mountainous range of J&K state recite a story of rich cultural and traditional history of hills. People with traditional attires, language, food, music, folksongs scattered throughout the state viz. Poonch, Rajouri, Muzaffarabad, Karna, Uri, Baramulla, Budhal etc comprises one-third of state linguistic group. Pahari tribesman adorned with long white shirt, salwar, Saafa (turban) or Kulla (Afghani Topi) with embroidered shoes playing musical instruments like Algoza, banjili & jori are still found preserving their oldage-culture. Jhumka, Kangan, Hasieri, Laung, Challa and Tazakistani Cap add grandeur to natural beauty of pahari women, who possess a brave and resilient heart full of compassion, love and scarifies. Glorious history of pahari rulers and then ruled by Dogras and Khalsa Darbar narrates several transverse epochs of their socio-economic and political existence.
Pahari, the dominant language in the region is spoken without religious bar and has an historical importance. But this language which survived without script is at verge of extinction. Paharis have had a rich literature, but regrettably, it is fading away with the decline in the inclination of the people towards the language. People still write, but what use it is of, if it has no readers around. It’s a painful truth that Pahari literature is disappearing as other literature is filling the vacuum. A writer has no worth without the readers who not only admire him but becomes a source of encouragement and inspiration.
Literature is an important method to preserve the socio-culture history of any civilization. Undoubtedly, it’s one of the reasons that Pahari diction, dialect and vocabulary is finding no place in our spoken language, the only heritage we are left with. It’s not only literature which is vanishing but culture and tradition is also eroding from the lives of the people. The Paharis have succumb to the socio-cultural imperialism which has a visible impact on the life of the people.
The economic life of the people has not improved significantly as compared to their counterparts. Manual causal labour jobs and cultivation are the major sources of income for Pahari people. People living along the line of control are the major sufferer of the conflict. Partition left great impact on Pahari people as majority of the families’ segregated which narrate the stories of their perennial pains. The wounds, left on the heart and mind of the people on both sides of the LoC have not diminished completely nevertheless authorities have opened a Poonch-Rawalakote Road.
Preservation of culture and traditions, a fiery query is still in quest of an appropriate answer. Although government has taken certain initiatives in this direction yet the people themselves have to realize the importance of the culture and traditions. Cuisine, attires and other traditions & customs which reflect the richness of the Pahari cultures, is not finding any place in our function and celebrations.
Lack of proper leadership is a major factor which has dragged the community to an era where the upcoming generation will curse their ancestors. It has become difficult for us to differentiate among the Paharis and other communities. The leader is not one who leads the people, rather who inspires his followers. Without quoting anything adverse for any community, it’s the prime responsibility of the leaders to encourage the people to bring back the traditions and cultures into the society. Merely, updating the social media, Selfie-styled leadership and forming Pahari forums wouldn’t work a bit, yes, not a bit.
Shouting loudly in the favour of the Pahari people, would definitely, generate a vote bank but nothing would come out substantially. Newspapers are flooded with reports for the demand of the Pahari status and struggle is consistently continued for decades together but simultaneously people are moving away from their heritage which is a matter of great cognizance and it needs to be addressed instantaneously. People have to stand and make an effort to preserve old-age cultural heritages. A timely compilation of Pahari Dictionary may play a pivotal role in carrying forward the language to the upcoming generation which has been drifting away from it. An endeavor to establish a Museum to conserve and preserve the artifacts of cultural, artistic and historical importance is a pressing demand of the time. To encourage the young Pahari writers and safeguard the existing Pahari literature, a Library may prove to be a milestone. Launching a Journal in Pahari language, is an idea in strengthening the bond with the culture.
A collective collaboration, the indomitable efforts and uncontaminated intentions may translate the dreams into reality which shall add a golden era in the history of Paharis.
(The author is Chairman Awake India® and RTI Activist.)