Reports say the Narendra Modi-led Government of India will be seeking a cabinet green signal for a proposal recommending formation of a National Council for preservation and promotion of Kashmiri language and using Devanagiri and the near-extinct Sharada scripts. Until the proposal is concretised, one can speculate about the move only on the basis of the reigning political atmosphere. A permanent switch to Devanagiri script has been a demand of Kashmiri Pandits. Muslims want to stick to the official Nastaliq script. Thus, a communal faultline already existed along this seemingly linguistic issue. Any plan to supplant Nastaliq script with Devanagiri is, therefore, fraught with the potential of adding one more issue to an already burgeoning list of problems confronting Kashmir. The proposal is problematic even if it is only meant to give official sanction for Devanagiri as an alternate script, primarily to pander to the ethno-linguistic aspirations of Kashmiri Pandits. Pitching two scripts against each other will not help the development of a language in decline. It will only reinforce the existing divisions. If you are giving a sense of victory to one community, it will only come at the cost of the sense of defeat for another, although both have done nothing spectacular for the preservation and furtherance of the language.
The proposal is one more imposition from New Delhi because reactions to it show that the state government, majority community stakeholders, top Kashmiri language experts and literary institutions have not been consulted. The contempt inherent in the proposal is one more symptom of the aggressive communal nature of the politics practiced by BJP vis-à-vis Kashmir. It comes on the heels of a host of developments aimed at making demographic changes in practice while harping on the infallibility of the ‘special status’ of J&K in theory.
Although a fight over the script of Kashmiri language appears to be the proverbial fight between two bald men over a comb, Kashmiri Muslims cannot ignore its larger import, which in the current political context means that all they cherish will be assailed. It is, therefore, incumbent on the well-meaning intelligentsia to counter such moves. Although it seems futile to expect anything from a government which has not even been consulted, but it would be for its own good if its culture ministry clears the air and takes some steps to fend off this assault which, apparently aimed at the language, is part of the larger plan to usurp Kashmir.