Koshur: The language forgotten

When people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language, it is if they have key to their prison.

When people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language, it is if they have key to their prison.

Kashmir is witnessing its toughest times and if optimism may have it, let it transform and morph the dark night into a brighter day. Ever since the Mughal invasion of Kashmir, the violent upheavals and unrest have been their part. Most of the Kashmiri’s date back the theft of their sovereignty to the 1586 Mughal invasion. The identity no doubt is facing an existential threat. Language plays an important role in preserving culture and it is this language that carries strands of one’s etiquette and history. However, the Koshur or the Kashmiri language has never felt the patronage of being the official language of Kashmir, given the recent developments in the political nature of Kashmir and talk of making Hindi official language of a place whose majority don’t speak in it, it has brought us back to one important question; Why are we not speaking in our mother tongue? Whether that be Koshur or any other native language?

Many of the schools are promoting Urdu/Hindi with Koshur as an auxiliary language. The language that forms one of the basic components of our history has been widely forgotten and downplayed. There is little or no effort to revive the literature and the majority of the population can’t even write it. The blame has to be shared by our society that has outsourced a foreign language on us that incorporates a sense of elitism among its speakers as compared to the Koshur speaking population. The younger generation, despite not knowing how to write it, is discouraged or looked down upon by certain disillusioned people for speaking their mother tongue in public places. The same way English colonists established English as a language of the educated and native language that of a ‘savage’.

If one was to travel back to 1800 or 1900s or just fifty years back, not many of the Kashmiri’s would know how to converse in Urdu/Hindi. The language they picked up watching Hindi movies and Hindi speaking armed personals. Koshur – only Dardic language that has a literature and distinct from the Hindustani languages – is losing its grip and speakers. The blame of which falls upon all of us. Though there have been various attempts by young singers and rappers to revive the language, there is a lot of work that needs to be done and the responsibility is on us.

Parents can start teaching their kids their own language first and then move on to other languages. It will create a generation that is well aware of their history. Individuals should converse in Koshur apart from encouraging young kids to use the language. A nation that doesn’t respect its roots will always end up with cringe-worthy results. When your identity faces a threat, its preservation becomes your moral obligation. And teach them other languages of Kashmir first instead of learning Urdu/Hindi, there is a wide variety of Kashmiri languages like Shina, Pashto, and Highlands, that is part of Kashmir as much as Koshur language is. Languages like Farsi, that have always been part of the Socio-politico-religious environment of Kashmir are also an important part of our culture given the close affinity we share with Central Asian culture like Persian and Uzbekistan.

But, first and foremost, one must understand themselves and especially at a time when their whole existence is under threat. As long as our language is alive, it as if Kashmir is alive and if it dies, so fades away our existence.

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