Documents that helped Dogri

SP Sharma
Certain historically valuable documents unearthed by an officer and researcher, late Mr.BP Sharma, turned the tide in favour of the Dogri language being included in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution of India on January 7, 2004.
The documents submitted on behalf of Mr.Sharma, who was ailing at that time, to the high level standing committee of the Parliament that was constituted to examine claim of Dogri’s inclusion in the Eighth Schedule were sufficient to prove Dogri as an ancient language with its own script and grammar. These documents were beneficial for getting official status for the language as the modern time literature and other books were not considered sufficient for this purpose.
Dogri writers, thinkers and politicians also played their role in the Dogri becoming one of the 22 languages that are included in the Eighth Schedule.
After his retirement as director of AIR in 1966, Mr. Sharma held various positions in the J&K government including that of director of Information & PR and also director of Field Survey Organisation (FSO). But at the same time he took keen interest in regularly visiting the Archives, library and museaum where he spent ample time digging out documents that could prove Dogri being an ancient language with its own script and grammar.
He succeeded in finding various documents that were helpful when the question of including Dogri in the Eighth Schedule came. The standing committee reportedly remained unsatisfied with the modern literature that was initially produced for including the language in the Schedule and wanted that some old manuscripts or other documents should also be put up for examining the case of Dogri.
Several old documents possessed by Mr.Sharma, including one showing the Dogri alphabets and the other confirming that the modified Dogri script was introduced by Maharaja Ranbir Singh and in 1884 AD a printing press of Dogri literature existed in Jammu were produced to satisfy the high level committee in favour of the Dogri language.
Finally, the victory of Dogri came when through the 92nd Amendment of the Constitution in 2003 four languages, Dogri, Bodo, Santhali and Maithali were included in the Eighth Schedule thereby raising the number of languages in the Schedule to 22. The Eighth Schedule lists the languages the development of which is responsibility of the government.
The report of the standing committee was tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 5, 2003 and the Bill moved by Mr.LK Advani was debated on December 22 and passed the same day by recommending amending the Constitution. The Bill received assent from the then President APJ Abdul Kalam on January 7, 2004.
Parliamentarians including Mr.Dharam Chandra Prashant, Vaid Vishnu Dutt and Choudhary Talib Hussain were among those who raised their voice in favour of Dogri in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. During his 5 years term beginning in the Rajya Sabha in 1982, Prashant fought relentlessly for including Dogri in the Eighth Schedule. He also pleaded the case of Dogri before top parliamentarians, including Indira Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani.
In a paper published in 1989, Mr.Prashant pointed out that Mr.Sharma was the first Dogra scholar to challenge the statement of Dr.George A. Grierson regarding non-existence of any printed Dogri book though he made a casual reference to the book “Lilavati”. Grierson was a civil servant of British India who ordered the first linguistic survey in 1928, Mr. Sharma unearthed the “Lilavati” first published in 1873 AD and read a well-researched and informative paper on the 19th century Dogri publications printed during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh (1857-1885).
Prof.Frits Staal of the California University, Berekley, said “BP Sharma has shown that Grierson was wrong and that not less than 20 books were printed in Dogri type during the second half of the 19th century. All these books are very rare and of some the only known copy exiosts in the Ranbir Public Library of Jammu. These books show that during Maharaja Ranbir Singh’s Dogra renaissance the Dogri script was modified and improved.
Mr.Prashant also credited Mr.Sharma for identifying the first Dogri writer Jyotshi Visheshwar who authored the “Lilavati” in 1873 AD. The great Indian linguist Dr.Siddheshwar Verma appreciated Mr.Sharma for unearthing the “Lilavati” and bringing to limelight its author Jyotshi Vishveshwar.