Kashmir: Language, Ideology and Subjugation

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Jul 12 14:22:31 UTC 2007

Language, Ideology and Subjugation-IIAATIF AHMAD MEHJOOR

 The Jama'at has co-opted the ideas and speeches of Jinnah to justify
its own program of Islamisation, even though Jinnah was a staunch
nationalist (and a secularist as well). Recently, a leading Kashmiri
leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, claimed that Urdu was the 'national
language' of Jammu and Kashmir. This implies that Jammu and Kashmir is
a nation, hence contradicting a fundamental Islamic principle that the
whole Muslim ummah is 'one nation'.

 The importance of language to separatist movements and to colonial
efforts to suppress such movements can be seen throughout the world
today. Take, for example, the cause of Kurdistan. The Kurdish people
are the largest nation in the world without a country. They number
about 25 million and are currently spread over four countries: Iraq,
Turkey, Syria and Iran. Promised a state by the British in the 1920s,
the Kurds were cheated and oppressed by nearly ever major power in the
region. The British gassed them using chemical weapons in the 1920s,
when they rose up in revolt. The same policy was followed by Saddam in
1989 when he massacred over 5000 Kurds in the village of Halabja.
Currently, the Kurds face the severest oppression in Turkey, where the
Kurdish language was banned up to 1991. The language is still banned
in schools, colleges and government offices, with the result that it
is dying out and being replaced by Turkish. Kurdish parents are
prohibited by Turkish law from giving Kurdish names to their children.
The colonisation of the Kurds in Turkey is proceeding so fast that in
a few decades the whole of the Kurdish population in Turkey (currently
some 13 million) will have lost its language and with that its
distinct identity.

 The same policy has been followed by China in suppressing its
minorities. The first step to be taken by the so-called communists of
China (who were in fact nationalists) was to adopt Mandarin as the
'national language'. This was followed by a massive program of
teaching this language to all the ethnic minorities of China. The
result of this devastating campaign of cultural genocide was the
eradication of a number of minority languages, such as Manchu and
Jurchen. The Chinese authorities also flooded the regions of Tibet and
Sinkiang with ethnic Chinese speakers and forced the native Tibetans
and Uighurs to learn Chinese. This was accompanied by extremely brutal
and savage treatment of separatist politicians and activists or anyone
who raised their voice against China's colonialist policies. In a few
decades, the whole of the Tibetan and Uighur population will have been
Sinicised and two ancient nations will have been destroyed for ever.
 Language policy has also been deployed as a weapon by America's
occupation forces in Iraq and by the puppet regimes of the Arab world.
One of the first measures to be taken by the American colonial
administrator in Iraq was to make English a compulsory subject from
class 1. There was a research paper last year in the US journal
Foreign Affairs where the American author argued that teaching Arab
students in English as opposed to Arabic made them more likely to
support the West. Another article by a leading American policy-maker
recommended setting up English-language colleges and universities in
Iraq to train a native puppet elite that could easily do the bidding
of its colonial masters, much like the elite of half-literate 'babus'
set up by the British in India (who still pretty much control things
in Kashmir).

 This brings us to Kashmir. The so-called nationalists of Kashmir, the
JKLF, have never formulated their vision for a future independent
Kashmir, nor have they dealt with questions of national identity and
how it is to be constructed. The Hurriyat Conference issues all its
communiques in Urdu and its leaders also give interviews and
statements in Urdu. On the other hand, the leaders of the LTTE give
statements in Tamil: they expect the foreign journalists to translate
them! The National Conference was supposed to be the guardian of
Kashmiri nationalism back in the 1950s, and took some steps to promote
Kashmiri as a language in education. However, in their 2000 Autonomy
Report, the National Conference too emphasised Urdu as the "national
language" of Jammu and Kashmir. The party is committed to the unity of
Jammu and Kashmir, but has horrendously discriminated against backward
regions like Ladakh or Kishtwar for the last six decades. The lack of
any political program or any manifesto setting out their vision for
Kashmir, which is found in all the parties of Kashmir (except perhaps
the Islamic parties which at least envision an Islamic state), shows
that they are all opportunists and are motivated only by a desire to
grab power. Otherwise, one would have expected these self-styled
leaders of the nation to comment publicly on the wretched state into
which Kashmir's native language has descended. Had they been aware of
the happenings in other parts of the world such as China, Iraq,
Kurdistan or Bangladesh, they would have realised that language
matters when it comes to claiming a national identity for oneself.
Their failure to understand the political role of language is thus a
reflection of their immaturity and lack of political wisdom, and it is
something for which Kashmiris will pay dearly.


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list