The state must declare Pahari as one of the official languages of J&K
The word Pahari is derived from the word pahar, which means mountain. Inhabitants of mountains and hilly areas, Pajharis speak a distinct language called Pahari and have their own social identity. Pahari-speaking people constitute an estimated population of more than 10 Lakh and mostly reside in Kupwara, Baramulla, Bandipora, and some parts of Anantnag, Pulwama districts in Kashmir, besides living in Rajouri and Poonch districts in Jammu division. The Pahari language is one of the most popular languages spoken in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in Himachal Pradesh.
It would not be wrong to say that Pahari people have always been victims of injustice and discrimination. One particular instance is when the state government in 1989 recommended to the center to grant ST status to Pahari, Gujjar, Bakerwals and some other communities in Ladakh. All were granted ST status except Paharis. Again in 2007, when J&K Legislative Assembly, J&K High court, and a three-member panel of interlocutors (Dilip Padgonkar and his team) on Kashmir recommended special status (ST) for Pahari-speaking people, this recommendation was ignored. There are several such instances of injustice to this poverty-ridden population and their demands remain unattended to even now.
The Pahari community is economically, socially and educationally one of the most backward in J&K. This is due to several reasons, like topographical disadvantages, lack of infrastructure facilities and other basic amenities of life. The community has been ignored by all governments. The recent move of the Union cabinet to not include Pahari as one of the official language of J&K is highly regrettable and does not advance the interests of the Pahari community. Rather, it depicts that the Pahari community is not even considered part of the region. To ensure justice and equality to them, the centre should declare Pahari language as one of the official languages of J&K.
Just a few student hostels are not enough to uplift this marginalised community that faces extreme poverty, backwardness and remoteness. They require real empowerment.