Supreme Sikh Organization, along with various other Organisations of J&K, carried out a strong protest march from Baba Fateh Singh Gurdwara Sahib, Gandhi Nagar, Jammu over the exclusion of Punjabi Language from J&K official language Bill 2020. Protesters expressed deep concerns and anger over the step motherly treatment with Punjabi speaking people and injustice with Sikh Community at large.
S. Gurmeet Singh, Chairperson of Supreme Sikh Organization (SSO), stated that the issues related to the Sikh community have been continuously ignored by every successive government. He further stated that around 5 Lakh Sikhs and various other communities from different religion living in J&K recognise themselves with Punjabi language and they have a strong religious, spiritual, social and cultural connect with it. Punjabi under 8th Schedule of the Indian constitution is not only the official language of India but it is also recognised by many developed countries like Canada, UK, Australia as their second, third and fourth official language.
As per the census of 1941, the chief languages used in the erstwhile J&K state were Kashmiri, Dogri and Punjabi. Also, till 1981, Punjabi was a compulsory subject like Urdu in J&K. Potwari and Mirpuri are the biggest dialects of the Lehndi Punjabi and has a expanse from Khyber to Jammu. All these facts reveal that how since ages Punjabi language has been the part of the deep composite culture of J&K; said the chairperson of SSO. He called the exclusion of Punjabi language from J&K Official language Bill 2020, a direct assault on the identity and the culture of Sikh community. He questioned the government that, Why they are selectively killing Punjabi language in J&K?. The central government has deliberately excluded Punjabi language to impose cultural hegemony on the Punjabi Speaking people in J&K. J&K has a vast cultural, regional and linguistic diversity. For uniformity and better prospect of the region it is very essential to give recognition and importance to Punjabi language.
Condemning the decision of exclusion of Punjabi language, S. Gurmeet Singh, Chairperson of SSO along with spokespersons of other organizations also reminded the current political dispensation of the contribution of Sikh community that in the creation of the erstwhile state of J&K. “We not only live here but we have our long cultural, religious, history in J&K. J&K was once the vassal of the Sikh Empire under Maharajah Ranjit Singh and Sikh empire was the reason behind the present day vast territorial and geographical boundaries of J&K”..
Taking a tough stand on all political parties, many Sikh organizations presented at the march questioned the leaders at large that “Why the rights of the Sikh population of J&K are being termed as myopic. Whether it’s about Ansari committee report, political reservation, appointment of a Sikh member in JKPSC or now exclusion of Punjabi language, every issue related to Sikh community has been deliberately ignored.
On 3rd September, the Union Cabinet approved the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill 2020 to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. The Bill granted approval to Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as official languages in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir along with the existing languages of English and Urdu. The Bill excluded Punjabi and many other regional languages like Gujjari and Pahari, thus affecting the sentiments of all the minority communities living in J&K. The various Sikh organizations and volunteers also demanded that every other native language of J&K must also be given their rightful place. The Sikh community wants all the native languages to grow in J&K. Gujjari, Pahari and Punjabi speaking people comprise of 1/3 population of J&K. Why the central government is ignoring such huge number?
Punjabi belongs to all and not only to Sikhs. Official records reveal that other than Sikh community a huge group of population living in Suchetgarh, RS Pura, Samba, Kathua, Bishnah and even the Valmiki Community recognise themselves with Punjabi language. So, let’s not reduce the demand to include Punjabi language to only one community. J&K has a multilingual culture. If it’s really about honouring the Spirit of Equality then why ignore other regional languages of J&K. The Sikh community stands for Punjabi and the spirit of inclusiveness. Any hegemonic project will only endanger the age-old regional languages of J&K. No language can exude the magic of emotions which are mother tongue can.
The entire Sikh community and various Sikh organizations have threatened the government of any dire consequences if their demand of inclusion of Punjabi language in the J&K official language Bill 2020 is not met. We will not tolerate any injustice with Sikh community. The central government must review it’s discriminatory move against the minority community living in J&K.
Many other prominent spokespersons of their respective organizations and groups who supported and participated in the protest march, also strongly demanding inclusion of Punjabi language in J&K Official language Bill 2020. Others organiszations who supported and participated are as under :-
1. Panthak Talmel Sangathan J&K.
2. Akal Purakh Ki Foj J&K.
3. Punjabi Sahit Sabah J&K.
4. Guru Granth Sahib Study Circle J&K.
5. SYA J&K Trust Regd.
6. Sikh Youth Sewa trust J&K.
7. Bhai Gurdas Ji Sewa Society J&K.
8. Desh Bhagat Yadgaar Committe J&K.
9. Indian People Theatre Association, J&K
10. Progressive Writers Association, J&K
11. Shaheed Sardar Bhagat Singh Foundation, J&K
12. The Humanity First Organisation, J&K
13. All Sikh Sangat J&K and
14. All Punjabi speaking citizen of other communities of J&K
S. Gurmeet Singh
Mob. : 94192-52070
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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