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Kashmiri Sikhs fear exclusion from 4% reservation for Pahari Speaking People

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Last week, the Jammu & Kashmir government came up with 4% reservation for Pahari Speaking People in direct recruitment and admissions in professional colleges while notifying amendments in Jammu and Kashmir Recruitment Rules 2005. However, insufficient clarification about the parameters to be used for identifying the Pahari Speaking People (PSP) has left the Kashmiri Sikh in an extreme confusion and they are feeling a fear of exclusion from PSP category despite being natives of Kashmir.   

“Pahari Speaking People (PSP) means the persons belonging to Pahari Community, clan or tribe having distinct cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity to be identified in such manner as may be prescribed and by such Authority as may be appointed by the Government in this behalf,” reads an addition of a new clause xi (a) in Rule 2 of Jammu and Kashmir Recruitment Rules 2005.

It is learnt that the authority to allot PSP category certificates has been given to Tehsildars but the parameters to be used for issuing these certificates has not come to fore yet.

Seeking clarification from the government, Kashmir resident Kulbir Badal has questioned “whether Sikhs who speak Pahari and Pahari is their mother tongue, but use Gurmukhi as script for writing Pahari are entitled to get the reservation?”

Citing a circular issued by the ‘State Advisory Board for the Development of Pahari Speaking People in Jammu and Kashmir’ in 2010, Kulbir Singh said the Sikhs residing in Kashmir as well as in the twin districts of Rajouri and Poonch were recognized as Pahari Speaking People in 2010. 

Sukhbir Singh Khalsa, a renowned Kashmiri Sikh teacher cum social worker, said the new notification is unclear as a part of it says people who have a different ethnicity, or belong to a tribe, etc. are entitled to get this benefit, but in another section it is written that who speak Pahari will get the reservation, so government needs to clear it first who are entitled to get it. “I have written a letter to Principal Secretary, Social Welfare (J&K) to make it clear whether Sikhs are part of it or not,” he added.

“Sikhs of Jammu and Kashmir are part and parcel of Pahari community. Pahari is their mother tongue and they use Gurmukhi script to write it. As per linguistic, Pahari is not an independent language, instead it is a sub-dialect of Punjabi and that’s why Sikhs register Punjabi as their mother tongue in the census. Pahari in itself is not a language, but a sub-dialect of Punjabi like Majhi, Malwai etc. So, there is no question why Sikhs used to say Punjabi as their mother tongue as they have firm belief that Pahari is a sub-dialect of Punjabi,” said Sukhbir Singh Khalsa.

“The Pahari language is spoken by Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians living in UT of J&K. So, we urge the LG Grish Chandra Murmu to include all Pahari speaking people that are still left behind,” Sukhbir Singh further said.

It is pertinent to note here that the Pahari language doesn’t have any particular script like Gurmukhi for Punjabi, Devanagari for Hindi etc.

Another Kashmir resident Sikh Angad Singh said the Kashmiri Sikhs were going to face discrimination in the new reservation policy of J&K government. “We, the Kashmiri Sikhs, always stood against government’s oppression so now it seems like people in power are taking revenge from us,” he said while seeking clarification from the government.

Geet Kaur, a female Sikh activist from North Kashmir, said that almost all Sikhs of J&K speak Pahari but write it in Gurmukhi and Pahari is their mother tongue. “We have faced discrimination from all earlier governments so now we demand this quota as living in  a disputed area like Kashmir is not easy for us and that too as a micro-minority. At least, we should be given this quota to ease our lives here. We want justice,” she said.

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