Devnagri as alternative script

Dr R L Shant
For Kashmiri, Sharada (or Sharda), Kashmir’s a millennium old indigenous script, continued to be used among educated sections, even as the Persio Arabic (Nastaliq) came to be accepted along with Roman with the advent of Dogra rule in Jammu and Kashmir in 1846. The Dogras patronized Devanagari (or Devnagri) for Dogri in Jammu, while in Kashmir, the script was enthusiastically and voluntarily resorted to by scholars and common people, inspired by the pan Indian national liberation movement. Sir George Grierson, Director Linguistic Survey of India, published his 4-volune Kashmiri-Hindi-English Dictionery in 1903 using Devnagri for Kashmiri. Untill 1947, even as Urdu in Nastaliq was popular among the majority of people, Devnagri continued to hold grip on the minority which was fully educated and capable of preserving the state’s historical and cultural connections with the Union of India. Even as the popular J&K Government approved Nastaliq for Kashmiri and Devnagri for Dogri, the demand of the nationalist and educated minorities for Devnagri as an optional for Kashmiri never died down. “It was when minority presence in Kashmir was wiped out in 1990, that the demand spread on amongst the displaced Kashmiris spread all over the country and abroad. It took the shape of an educational and cultural movement of sorts post 1990, under the banner of VIKALP( Visthapit Kashmiri Lekhak Parivar). On wide ranging public requests, the HRD Ministry, GOI appointed a committee of linguists, criptologists, scholars, computer engineers from C-DAC and Kashmiri writers to examine the problem and assist the Deptt. in introducing Devnagri in a proper way . After due deliberations the committee prepared software for Devnagri Kashmiri and published a few basic books viz. “Let Us Learn Kashmiri”, “ Kaeshur Primer”, “Kaeshur Reader” etc. in cooperation with a literary NGO Samprati, Jammu. The newly prepared software has just five diacritical marks for Kashmiri, in addition to those already existing in the script which are used in Hindi and other Indian languages. They make it quite easy for learners of Kashmiri ,to learn and use it . “According to a report presented in an All India Samprati Seminar in 2012, in Jammu ,“dozens of displaced Kashmiri writers have published on their own, more than 150 books during the last three decades ,using the Devnagri script also along with the officially approved Nastaliq.
However, the GOI initiative was practically dropped following change in the central Govt. in 2004. No subsequent step for the propagation of the script was since taken resulting in discouragement for people in general and Kashmiri Diaspora in particular. The situation regarding this is in limbo since then.
“Reasons which justify approving Devnagri :
1) The popular demand for Devnagri for Kashmiri has all along been on the premise that this script would only be approved as an additional alternative to the official Nastaliq script. Devnagri is not sought to replace Nastaliq anywhere in any capacity. The official status of Nastaliq Kashmiri is not sought to be disturbed in any Government or non Government forum. Only bracketing Devnagri with Nastaliq is being demanded.
2) Maximum number (almost 100%) of displaced Kashmiris know Devnagri already. They have been reading and writing in it for centuries.
3) A good number of educated Kashmiris in the valley read and write Hindi in Devnagri, due to the vastly inseminated national language of the country in print and electronic media. The number of Hindi students in Kashmir schools has steadily been on the increase during the last five decades.
4) Authentic voices have been raised by linguists and scholars for allowing an alternative script for Kashmiri. It is a fact that Nastaliq is linguistically defective in that it doesn’t have provision for any new diacritical marks even for some Hindustani (Urdu) sounds, what to speak of many intricate Kashmiri ones. It is notable that marks for Kashmiri vowels need to be inserted or clearly written. They can not be left unwritten to be freely conjectured just as is practically done in Nastaliq Urdu where even existing marks are least used. Some notable scholars have been batting for Roman for its outreach but previous experiments with Roman did not pick up, again because of its being inadequate even for English.
5) Most laptops and mobile phones manufactured by Indian and foreign companies for Indian users are already loaded with Devnagri software. Many of them are uploaded with Devnagri Kashmiri key boards also. The Nagri Kashmiri software, prepared by Ministry of HRD in 2000 AD as explained above is already in use and is incorporated in them. So, if the GOI introduces Devnagri as requested, no implications of allotment of funds for the new scheme will be there”.
* The biggest advantage will accrue to thousands of young Kashmiris in Diaspora, who have been deprived of any creative contact with their mother tongue for the last three decades . Most of them, especially those who were born after 1985 or 1990 lost all that tradition and heritage give us to make us complete human beings and good citizens of this great democracy. By being tossed about in search of livelihood, their contacts were jettisoned. Devnagri Kashmiri would definitely help them to get back on the right course.
* Nagri used for Kashmiri will bring common Kashmiri people, students,writers and scholars nearer their counterparts in other Indian languages and ethnic groups. So it will help forge national and emotional integration amongst them. Inter language translations will get an unimaginable Philip and literatures will be benefitted.
* Natural linguistic and emotional nearness between those Indian languages which are already using Devnagri either solely or as an option will naturally follow. Such languages are as follows and they cover quite a sizable area of our vast country. .. Dogri, Hindi, Rajasthani, Konkani, Marathi, Sindhi, Maithili, Nepali and Santhali ”.
* Issuing a notification enunciating the resolve of the Govt. of UT of J&K, regarding the feasibility of introducing Devnagri script as an additional alternative to the official Nastaliq, the constitutional status of which shall not be disturbed . The GOI may be approached where necessary for concurrence. The script change has almost 80 % implications for the UT, but the GOI has to play a very important role in the process which may also involve central advice and action..
A central academy on the pattern of the Sindhi Academy and the National Council for the Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) may be requested to be established for introducing Devnagri in places deemed of educational and cultural importance in the center and the UT of J&K (and UT of Ladakh if agreed. Ladakh has not ever opposed nearer contacts with the Center) .
Following the UT and the central decisions, the Central Sahitya Akademi may frame and implement all its programs through its Kashmiri language Advisory Committee which will have a member specially to assist in the implementation. Establishing cells in UT J&K Academy of Art Culture and Languages at Srinagar and Jammu for advisable action in introducing the script in relevant areas of :- “a) Academy‘s publications of its own, b) Evaluation of manuscripts written or typed in Devnagri, c) Subsidies to writers submitting their manuscripts in this additional alternative script and d) Granting Annual awards to books published in Devnagri on the lines of what is done in the areas of Nastaliq, so that action is regularized justifiably.