Brij Nath Betab
Our mother tongue Kashmiri not only gives us our cultural identity but also magnifies our cultural ethos by connecting us with our traditions and cultural expressions. Today, when we boast of our rich past, it could not be possible if the language would not connect us with our ancestors and particularly with those whose words of wisdom have become guiding principles of our social life.
Despite having contributed magnificently to India’s social and cultural milieu, apprehensions of an onslaught on Kashmiri language have been lurking large. One can only wail while analyzing the grave situation that the language of about six million people is not taught in schools. Despite bagging a Jnanpith award (The Jnanpith Award is a literary award in India.), preserving the lingua fauna has become a challenging task.
It is the idea of offsetting this situation, that in 1971 Cultural organization established Adbee Markaz Kamraz, (AMK) born out of the far sight of Kamraz’s most multitalented writer late Mohi-u-din Hajini. It is as part of this struggle that AMK organizes annual literary conferences where not only the issues related to the language are deliberated upon but ways and means to involve the civil society at large are also chalked out.
There is no doubt that the participation of more than three hundred delegates from every nook and corner of the state and some prominent writers residing in other parts of the country at the 36th annual Kashmiri conference of AMK was organized at Pahalgam for two days . What made this annual conference an historical event was the presence of two important ministers of the state government.
The Minister for Finance and Cultural Haseeb Drabu and Minister for Law and Rehabilitation Syed Basharat Bukhari attended the conference for entire two days. The presence of firebrand MLA Er Rasheed, also added to the charm.
The way Drabu exhibited his vision for the ‘cultural renaissance’ was reassuring not only for the Kashmiri community in general and the Artisan community in particular, but must also guide the new secretary of the Cultural Academy Aziz Hajini in implementing his own ideas of a ‘cultural revolution’ where in the Kashmiri language is granted the status of a ‘Classical Language’.
Linguists today may be terming a language as ‘a bit as an enemy’ because they believe that communication and speech are not the same. Syed Basharat Bukhari, proved them wrong when he while giving away annual AMK Awards became emotional, accepting the significant role that a writer plays in a society. His assertion that ‘I will help at every level to make the struggle of language and culture easier for AMK’ was reassuring for the entire community of writers.
This year’s annual conference was significant in ways more than one. The theme paper presented by well known writer and broadcaster Mushtaq A Tantary said it all, ‘The future of Kashmiri language shall become bright only if the community becomes conscious of its culture’. Unfortunately the Heen Bhavna, the sense of guilt attached to the language still prevails. Er. Rasheed’s poem “Lookh che vanan” (The people say it), described it all.
Literary conferences are being held every now and then, and I have also the fortune of attending many national and international conferences at Delhi and other places, including in some prestigious Universities of India, but what made the two day Kashmiri conference of AMK, most outstanding were the announcements that an international conference shall be organized soon and a confederation of all the literary bodies is on the anvil. The confederation is bound to unite Kamraz and Maraz, and benefit the cause.
In making the two day event successful, were the members of the affiliate organizations and their office bearers who had to vacate the seats to accommodate the guests. Among the veterans who kept away from the limelight was the octogenarian Mohammad Ahsan Ahsan (Tahta). Not many writers knew that he was handling the accounts even at the conference venue, missing even his usual cup of tea despite his falling health.
The newly elected president, Syed Shujat Bukhari, was keenly making the stay of every single participant comfortable that one fails to see even at one’s son’s marriage. His plans with regard to the struggle for the rightful place of the language, that he put out in his presidential address was a Vision Document. The stage management by the well known dramatist Mohammad Amin Bhat was unparallel. At evening when singer Rasheed Jahangir obliged everyone who requested for his favorite number.
Writing about the conference one cannot ignore the contribution of many departments in making this event a grand success. They include the state tourism department, the state Cultural academy, Radio Kashmir Srinagar, Doordarshan Srinagar, the state Information department and the staff of Pahalgam units of different departments including the state Police department. One can also not skip the participation of the veteran broadcaster and writer Avtar Krishan Rehbar, who in his inaugural address summed up the essence of the conference in his usual wit.