Are there 26 lakh Hindi speakers and only 20,000 Urdu speakers in J&K?

By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal. Dated: 10/17/2020 9:26:13 AM

Data being quoted by govt selectively and with a twist

JAMMU, Oct 16: Three weeks ago as the J&K Official Languages Bill was passed and five languages became the law, union minister of State for Home Affairs, G.K. Reddy quoted statistics to justify the addition of three more languages to Jammu and Kashmir’s existing system of two official languages – Urdu and English.
The minister quoted the 2011 Census to substantiate the claim that number of Urdu speakers in Jammu and Kashmir was a little above 19,000 which is 0.16 per cent of the population. “The number of official language speakers was small while close to 74 per cent population spoke in Kashmiri or Dogri. While 53.26 per cent speak Kashmiri, Dogri is spoken by 20.64 per cent people. As per the Census, 2.30 per cent of the population speaks Hindi,” he said. Reddy has now maintained that there are approximately 26 lakh Hindi speakers in J&K in an article in Kashmir Times.
This data is indeed derived from Census Of India 2011, Paper 1 Of 2018, Language, India, States And Union Territories (Table C-16); (Page 23-30); (Link: where it is tabulated under the title “Distribution of the 22 scheduled languages-India/states/union territories – 2011”.
According to this distribution, in Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiri language is spoken by 66,80,837, Dogri by 25,96,767, Hindi by 26,12,631 and Urdu by only 19,956. Punjabi language surpasses Urdu with 2,19,193 persons. This accounts for 1,21,29,384 persons out of a total population of 1,21,99,484. The other listed scheduled languages spoken in J&K include Assamese (8340), Bengali (15243), Bodo (508), Gujarati(19261), Kannada (6953), Konkani (79), Maithli (897), Malayalam (11248), Manipuri (2370), Marathi (23006), Nepali (22138), Odia (9553), Sanskrit (30) , Santali (225), Sindhi (19), Tamil (14728) and Telegu (13970).
So, is the government right in its claim that Urdu has little to no relevance in the region and that Hindi and the two local languages – Kashmiri and Dogri - are far more prevalent. Fleshing out some important details in the census, missed by the government, is in order here.
The spoken language referred to in the census is the mother tongue and not the working use of the language, though sources close to the union minister of state for home affairs maintained that Reddy’s statistics “had nothing to do with mother tongue” and the data referred simply to “distribution of scheduled languages”. The tabular data quoted mentions the total number of Kashmiri speakers in India at “67,97,587” and Dogri speakers at “25,96,767”. This statistic matches another table titled “languages specified in the eighth schedule (scheduled languages)” under the section “Statement-1 abstract of speakers' strength of languages and mother tongues – 2011,” in the opening part of the report at Page 6. The table shows the grouping of Language & mother tongues and specifically mentions “Number of persons who returned the language (and the mother tongues grouped under each) as their mother tongue”. The data being used as a pretext thus refers to mother tongue.
Official languages are usually selected on the basis of their ability to connect to a larger number of people which is why English and Urdu remained the two official languages of Jammu and Kashmir. The government, while narrowing down its choice, has not taken into account the working knowledge of the different languages, primarily Urdu which figures prominently in the census report, under the section ‘C-17 population by bilingualism and trilingualism’ as the first and second subsidiary language and was not the ethnic language of the diverse communities residing in the region.
According to this data, among the 25,13,712 ethnic Dogri speaking population, 15,72,292 people returned their first subsidiary language as Hindi, 22,825 as Punjabi, 19,704 as Urdu and 4,90,741 as English. For the Dogri speakers who returned the first subsidiary language as Punjabi (16,024), second subsidiary language for 7,249 of them was Hindi, English (748) and Urdu (101). 66,514 returned the first subsidiary language as Urdu and the second subsidiary language was mostly English (18,298) and Hindi (6,319). For 70,926 ethnicDogras, the first subsidiary language is English and second subsidiary language divided mostly between Hindi (53,002) and Urdu (3383).
Similarly, among the 66,80,837 Kashmiri speaking population, 10,425 returned their first subsidiary language as Dogri and second subsidiary language is divided mostly between Hindi (1125) and Urdu (3320). 1,44,187 returned Hindi as first subsidiary language; Urdu (25,657) and English (43,216) as second subsidiary languages. 24,58,346 people returned first subsidiary language as Urdu and; 6,46,492 as English and 37,362 as Hindi.
The data reveals a higher usage of Urdu as a language of communication, other than the mother tongue, far above Hindi and English. The official claim of ‘20,000’ Urdu speakers is a twist of argument picked up selectively from one chart pertaining to mother tongue (scheduled languages).
So, how do we get the figure of 26 lakh (approximately) Hindi speakers?
If the total number of ethnic Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi and Urdu speakers, along with over 2 lakh Punjabi speakers and other non-local languagesaccount for almost the entire population of Jammu and Kashmir, where do the Gojri and Pahari language speakers (with a combined population of over 21 lakh) figure?
The five-language formula that has been welcomed by some has generated enough anxieties among Punjabi, Gujjars and Pahari communities who feel that they have been left out, even as the J&K Official Languages Act makes a specific mention of these languages and states that the government would be committed to the promotion of these languages.
Neither Gojri, nor Pahari are included in the eighth schedule of the Indian constitution. They were, however, recognized under the sixth schedule of the J&K constitution which has been struck off after the dilution of the region’s special status on August 5, 2019.
Gojri and Pahari, apart from Bhaderwahi, Gaddi and Padri, are listed among the 50 Indian languages that have been grouped with Hindi (Page 6 of the Census report). According to more data in the Census report, under the tabulation ‘C-16 population by mother tongue’, there are 98,196 Bhaderwahis, 24,161 Gaddis, 11,35,196Gojris, 17,265 Padris and 9,77,860 Pahari speakers. Hindi is the ethnic language of only 3,04,195 people in the ‘Hindi’ family group.
In the 2011 census data for bilingual and trilingual populations of Jammu and Kashmir, the Hindi group (which comprises mainly of the Gojri, Pahari, Bhaderwahi, Gaddi and Padri linguistic identities) reveals a higher percentage of people using Urdu as a means of communication. 6,97,002 ‘Hindi speakers’ use Urdu as the first subsidiary language, 91,887 use Dogri, 1,00,693 use Kashmiri and 1,42,104 use English. Urdu also figures more prominently than other languages in the column for second subsidiary languages.
Gojri and Pahari activists see the attempt to club several unscheduled languages as a part of Hindi family as “language chauvinism”. It is another way of erasing a widely spoken language, some experts opine. They add that the imposition of Hindi was first used to dilute the significance of languages that have for long been awaiting due recognition under the Eighth Schedule. The new language law is likely to impose Hindi over Urdu.
“The clubbing of Gojri and Pahari as part of Hindi family was done in 2001 census as well,” says Gojri writer and Secretary Tribal Foundation, JavedRahi. He adds, “However, at that time we felt that Gojri was protected under the sixth schedule of the J&K constitution. So, not much noise was made but we had consistently been campaigning for inclusion of Gojri in the Eighth Schedule list of Indian Constitution,” he says.
Neither the Gojri speaking or Pahari speaking population see a link between Hindi and the two local languages whose origins predate Hindi.
Gojri language activists who have been clamouring for recognition to the language claim that is one of the oldest and the third largest languages in India. According to one analysis, Gojri language is the first language of 20 million people in South Asia and nearly eight million people in India, majority of them in Jammu and Kashmir. According to Gujjar Gazette, “Gojri is one of the ancient languages of India. In well documented pieces of works the historians have traced the origin and practice of Gojri language since BC era. There are several mentions of this language in ancient Religious Books written in and around 1st century B.C.”
Noted saint and scholar, Amir Khusroo formally made mention Gojri language in the list of Eighteen Indian Languages of his time. Researchers and historians are of considered opinion that Gojri language is the mother of Rajasthani, Gujarati, Urdu and Haryanvi Languages.
Pahari is an ambiguous term that has been used for a variety of languages, dialects and language groups, most of which are found in the lower Himalayas. However, most commonly, it refers to three different dialects. Apart from Western Pahari in prevalence in Himachal Pradesh and South-eastern parts of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Northern Indo-Aryan languages of Nepal, Uttrakhand and Himachal, it also refers to Pahari-Pothwari, spoken predominantly in Rajouri-Poonch and across the Line of Control in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The latter dialect is the most relevant in the case of Jammu and Kashmir.
Zaffar Iqbal Manhas, Urdu and Pahari writer and an activist, maintains that Pahari got local recognition through inclusion in J&K constitution’s sixth schedule and the struggles of the Pahari language activists since the late 70s. “But there were always attempts to stall its recognition at the national level,” he added.Even within Jammu and Kashmir, misconceptions continue that Pahari is part of the Gojri language and culture, he laments.
He sees a sinister plot in the clubbing of Pahari language, along with many other languages, in the Hindi family in the Census data. “This is not just language chauvinism, this is language fascism,” he says, adding that it is an “obvious attempt to dilute the identity of the people who speak the languages that have been assimilated into Hindi. It is also an attempt to wrongly project Hindi as a mother language even though Hindi is a far newer language.”
The attempts of ‘Hindi-isation” - to dilute other languages, particularly Urdu, and impose Hindi, - he says, predate the rise of the Hindu right wing to power in the country. “Look at Bollywood films in which much of the script and songs are in Urdu, but these are certified as Hindi. Even the various government and semi-autonomous institutions for long have played a role to gradually, and in a sustained manner, try to infuse Hindi words into Urdu scripts. I started noticing this in the 90s while working for Doordarshan and also objected to such attempts.”
Manhas says that Pahari activists have been resisting the attempts to deny their language an existence by clubbing it in the Hindi group. “After 2001 census, we made several representations to the central government about this but there was no response. Pahari Forum Chairman, Nazir Masoodi, actively campaigned against the bid to dilute Pahari by denying its existence in the Census,” he recalls.
With respect to the five-language official formula, he says that the earlier system was far more suitable. The decision to change it is less pragmatic and more political, he opines, and in line with the policy of imposing Hindi on languages. He avers, “Also, some of the widely spoken languages in the region like Gojri and Pahari are being neglected,” and poses the question, “If they think five official languages is a workable thing, why not seven?”



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