Jammu, Sep 1:

Despite being inducted in the 8th schedule of the Constitution in 2003, a result that bore fruit following intense lobbying by the advocates of the language, Dogri continues to remain the obligatory step-sister to English, Hindi and Kashmiri in Jammu and Kashmir.

An Indo-Aryan language, spoken by over four million people in parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, northern Punjab and also in neighboring Pakistan, Dogri, unlike Kashmiri continues to struggle for its due place in the state.

Are there no takers of the language or is the dialect a victim of sluggish Jammu vibe?

Surprising is the fact that where Kashmiri enjoys its very own Doordarshan Koshur channel, available on cable and satellite television throughout India, Dogri programmes are confined to Radio Kashmir (a division of All India Radio), and Doordarshan broadcasts within Jammu and Kashmir. Cultural suffocation is the foremost glaring indication about the worrisome state of this language that was once a popular dialect of northern India.

Many renowned artists across the state blame the Duggar community for the language’s slow ‘death’. They rue that Dogri despite its rich heritage, has no takers within the community.

Padma Shri recipient Balwant Thakur, who is responsible for bringing Dogri theatre to international platform, feels that aggressive promotion of Dogri by the youth and amongst the youth, through the medium of art and culture can infuse life into this otherwise dying dialect.

“Public interest and promotion of the language is what we require at this age. We need to involve the youth via the medium of art and culture to infuse new life into the language.”

Lamenting that successive governments have discouraged the promotional initiatives pertaining to the local language, Thakur said: “There is no encouragement, no state support for the people engaged in the promotion and preservation of the local language and culture. If you take the example of Maharashtra, all government owned auditoriums are provided free of charge if you mount a Marathi play. Additionally, handsome financial support is also provided for promoting the language through theatre. But in J&K, political hierarchy has still to formulate a policy for such activities and develop a concrete vision for it.”

President of state theatre group Natrang that is credited for hosting legendry plays like Bawa Jitto, Mahabhoj, Ghumayee etc., Thakur is of the opinion that for any language to flourish, it’s important that people value their culture and take ownership of it.

A sentiment that was recently voiced by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufit while giving away awards for literature in local language. She had said: “I feel no qualms in saying that the biggest enemies of the local languages (in the state) are the people of Jammu and Kashmir themselves. In most of the families today, parents prefer to teach their children to speak in Hindi, Urdu and English instead of their mother tongue including Kashmiri, Dogri and Bodhi. This trend has to be reversed, sooner the better.”

While there could be enough political will to ensure revival of the local language, and subsequent efforts made by Dogri Sanstha, Jammu to promote Dogri artists and its literature, many opine that lack of funds is a major deal breaker when it comes to promoting the language at the ground level.

President Dogri Sanstha, Chhatrapal revealed that the organisation is in dire need for funds to nurture aspiring artists.

“Young talent needs to be nurtured and given a platform to showcase their virtuosity. However, there is none available in Jammu. Although we try and promote them with limited resources available at our disposal, but more hands need to join and make our endeavor successful.

Efforts within the state will continue to remain a struggle unless the Central Government refuses to recognise the adversity of the problem.

It was recently reported that Dogri, despite being incorporated in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, did not find mention on currency notes and Indian Postal Orders. All the 22 scheduled languages apart from Hindi and English have been granted this privilege, except for Dogri.

In February 2016, the Jammu Kashmir High Court asked both the Central government and the Reserve Bank of India to consider incorporation of Dogri language on the langue panel of currency notes and Indian postal orders, if possible.

Padma Shri recipient and first modern woman poet of the Dogri language Padma Sachdev did not mince words about the deteriorating condition of the language and said that its revival is only possible if we encourage it within our households.

“We need to proud of our heritage, our language. Promotion of Dogri in any form can only happen if parents encourage children to speak the local language, instead of asking them to converse in English. No language is bad, but one should not suffer as the consequence of the other,” she added.

Sachdev said that no amount of promotion will help Dogri, if the locals do not take pride in adopting it, making it an integral part of their existence. “Embrace your roots, your culture and it will become you,” said Sachdev.