Expressing deep concern over the loss of official status of Punjabi language in Jammu and Kashmir, the Global Sikh Council and Punjabi Cultural Council have asked the Government of India to immediately amend the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state official language bill-2020 so as to make Punjabi the official language along with other languages of the union territory thereby honoring the boundless sentiments of the Punjabis and promotion of Punjabi language across the region.
In a joint statement issued today, Global Sikh Council (GSC) President Lady Singh Dr. Kanwaljit Kaur and Punjabi Cultural Council (PCC) Chairman Harjeet Singh Grewal said the Khalsa rule lasted for 50 years in the J&K region under the able leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Millions of Punjabis had made invaluable contributions to the prosperity, progress and protection of the region from foreign invaders.
As a result, the Punjabi language was accorded due status in the border state but the present dispensing has done a great injustice to all the Punjabis by excluding the Punjabi while amending the state language bill. However, the inclusion of the Dogri dialect, a sub-dialect of Punjabi language, was a gross injustice to the historic language, a grave violation and crushing the linguistic rights of minorities, they lamented.
In a strong plea to elected representatives, the GSC and the PCC have also appealed to all the Punjabi MPs to rise above the party lines and protect the mother tongue by resisting this anti-Punjabi language bill of the Union Government during the ensuing monsoon session of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Strongly condemning the central government’s stepmother attitude towards Indian minorities, leaders of both the Councils said the BJP government has committed this second betrayal of the native Punjabis of this reason, especially to the Sikhs as no Sikh had been appointed as chairperson or member of the J&K minorities commission constituted after the abrogation of Article 370. However, the Sikhs have always been included as chairperson or member of this commission in the state and this was the first time when the BJP led NDA government has discriminated against the Sikhs.
They emphasized that the Punjabis had made invaluable contributions to the state as well as the country in the fields of defense, police, administration, industry, agriculture, and education. Therefore, the BJP should abandon its discriminatory policies towards Sikhs being a minority and work for the protection of their rights in the country in the light of Article 29 of the Constitution so that the feelings of resentment and alienation does not come across in the Sikhs. The GSC and PCC have also demanded from the Centre that the Punjabi language should be implemented as a second language in the Punjabi speaking regions of various states being an invaluable history and having boundless literature.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president said the Punjabi language has profound religious, cultural and emotional implications for the Sikh community.
Badal, in the letter, sought to draw the attention of the Lt Governor to ‘reports of the discriminatory exclusion of the Punjabi language as one of the official languages of Jammu and Kashmir’.
‘Punjabi is not only the mother tongue of a very significant part of the people of J-K but it was also a recognized language duly certified in the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir,’ Badal wrote.
He cautioned that decisions such as these provide dangerous propaganda ammunition to those who are always looking for such opportunities to disturb the peace and communal harmony in the country, especially in the sensitive border states of Punjab and J-K.
Badal said the SAD has always been at the forefront in the fight for justice for the mother tongue of Punjabis and it ‘would not hesitate to do so in future also’.
Punjab Cabinet Minister Charanjit Singh Channi flayed the Centre over the exclusion of Punjabi language from the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, terming it as an attack on the federal structure of the country. Channi, while dubbing the decision ‘anti-minority’, said the BJP-led Union government and the Shiromani Akali Dal, which is part of it, are “equally responsible” for this move against the regional languages.
In a statement, Channi said Punjabi was a part and parcel of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir before the abrogation of its special status.
The minister said Punjabi was popular among a large population of Jammu and Kashmir and the move has hurt sentiments of lakhs of Punjabi-speaking people there. By excluding the Punjabi language, the Government of India has taken an extreme step which has caused resentment among minorities not only in Jammu and Kashmir but amongst all Punjabi-speaking population of the country, said the minister.
It is another attack on the federal structure of the country, he said.
The minister said even countries like Canada and the UK have given due recognition to the Punjabi language at the international level but in its own country, the BJP-led government has done this “shameful act”.
Channi said the Union government has to face consequences of the “dictatorial” steps against the minorities. He appealed to the Centre to review this “discriminatory move” and demanded that an amendment should be made in the bill to include Punjabi.
Supreme Sikh Organisation (SSO) chairperson S Gurmeet Singh said, “Punjabi belongs to all and not only to Sikhs. We want all the native languages to grow in the Union Territory as people speaking in Gojri, Pahari, and Punjabi comprise one-third of its population,” he said, adding the Sikh community stands for Punjabi and the spirit of inclusiveness.
Gojri and Pahari speaking people have also expressed their resentment over the exclusion of their languages.