By Syed Mujahid Ali Shah
Till the near past when people from different linguistic regions visited one another in Gilgit Baltistan ,they always needed a translator for communication. While I was ten years old my Shina speaking maternal grand-parents family members from Minapin in Shinaki area ( lower region of Hunza-Nagar in the west where people speak Shina) and Nomal visited our home in Phakar Nagar situated just four Kilometers in the east of Minapin in Burushso Nagar,( upper region in the east where people speak Brushaski) .Whenever one had to talk to my Burushaski speaking paternal grandfather or neighbouring old people in my village they used to call someone able to speak Shina who might have lived in Gilgit to help them as translator.
It is recently that Urdu has become a lingua franca for Balti, Shina, Khowar, Wakhi, Domaaki, Burushaski, Pashtu and Punjabi speakers in Gilgit Baltistan .In Nagar valley on every social occasion when people from both Burusho-Nagar and Shinaki-Nagar meet they use make code switching and code shifting for communication. Similarly in Hunza when people from the three different linguistic regions of the Shinaki in lower regions in the south, Brusuho-Hunza at central town areas and Wakhi in upper region namely Gojal come together, Urdu becomes their language rather than English, especially among the young people.
This situation has boosted up Urdu in the region.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Siddiqui who taught students of Gilgit Baltistan at Pakistan Study Centre,University of Karachi wrote in a newspaper article as “ The Karachites will be surprised to know that when it comes to written Urdu the average Gilgiti, Balti or Hunzai proves to be a better communicator in Urdu than most of the Karachi boys and girls”
He further describes the growth of Urdu poetry in Gilgit Baltistan as “A mushaira recently held in the valley below the world-famous Rakaposhi peak outdid the Lucknow style of mushairas. A participant described its grandeur in the following words. “Even the full moon, stuck as the crown on the Rakaposhi head, was presenting the Aadab in the Lucknow style, and the whole valley seemed intoxicated with the mushaira grandeur.””
While giving thee reason to marvelous Urdu poetry in Gilgit Baltistanin Dr.Siddiqui has taken the point of view of Dr.Nasir Uddin Hunzai as” In the Northern Areas the language of the elite and aristocracy, insofar as cultural expression is concerned, is Persian; hence one is taken by surprise by the imagery of Northern Areas’ poets. It sounds so musical and sweet that it easily wins over lovers of the traditional diction of Urdu poetry.”.
But as for as the extra ordinary skills of the students of Gilgit Baltistan to learn and write poetry in Urdu as their second language is concerned it is not only Persian as an embedding language of Gilgit Baltistan being that of historically language of elites but more than that it is the experience of students from their very child hood to learn more languages spoken in the area when they have to move to main educational cities like Gilgit and Skardu which are multi lingual societies . While Persian as a language of elites and autocrats may have a limited impression on mass level. Because the then illiterate commons of Gilgit Baltistan could not read and write Persian except that of listening it from religious scholars. As the education had been historically a recent phenomenon in the region where education was not allowed in the then principalities in the region before British period when the ﬁrst state-sponsored school was established in 1892 in Gilgit city.In 1948 primary schools grew to 50 and 3 primary schools were upgraded to middle schools in Gilgit and Skardu regions. After 1970s with the end of fuedal system and construction of Karakoram Highway education became a common phenomenon in the region when elected leaders established schools in the region and people were allowed to go to educational institutions out side of the then principalities into over all the country and the world.
Today when in government,private and NGO school systems education is accesible to almost of the population in Gilgit Baltistan and youth in the area aquire education in modern languages of Urdu and Endglish and through media and communication, globalization and modernization have made their way into the area,being only spoken ,the indigenous languages of Gilgit Baltistan are pose to endangerement . In such a situation with every death of an ielder person in the area a bit of the laguage he spoke also diminishes .
According to UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger , in Gilgit Baltistan languages like Brushaski Khowar and Balti are venerable, Wakhi , Domaaki and Chilisso are critically endangered .In some cases like that of Domaaki the languges is critically endangered with only 500 speaker left who are scattered in Gilgit ,Ghizer and Hunza-Nagar districts. Among many reasons one big reason of its endagerenment is that because the native speakers of younger generation have literally stopped using it. As the the Domaaki speakers were confinement to the special trait of blacksmith by local kings in the past which the youth do not want to speak to be their past identification any more.
The languages of Gilgit Baltistan have also been tried to be documented . But very limited literal works can bee seen in the world catalogues
In Shina language ,dialects of which are mainly spoken in districts of Gilgit,Diamer and Astor while in western parts of Hunza-Nagar ,some parts of Skardu and Ghanche and in a considerable part of Ghizer district, Gilgit based Shina poet Mohammed Amin Zia has written. Shina Qa’ida aur Grammar in 1986 .He has been working on a co-authored series of work on a translating Shina idioms and phrases into German and English with Georg Buddruss which have been published in various international research journals in 1987,1993 and 1996.
Abdul Khaliq Taj compiled. Shina qa’idah. and published in 1989. Shakeel Ahmad Shakeel has written Shina short stories in the books of Dadi Shulukay, Alkhan Basharon, Gilgiti and Folktales in the Shina of Gilgit was coauthored by Karla F. Rudolph and published by Summer Institute of Linguistics and National Institute of Pakistan Studies, Quaide-e-Azam
His other books of Shina may Parhna Likhna : Aik Taaruf and Shina – Urdu – Angrezi Bol Chal he has tried to introduce alphabets to make the language written and readable. Ruth Laila Schmid and Razwal Kohistani. have worked on grammer of Kohastani dialect of Shina and compared it with various other dialects in Gilgit Baltistan.They published various research papers including those in 1985 2000,2001and 2004.
In Balti language mainly spoken in districts of Skardu and Ghanche in Baltistan division an Skardu based writer and educationist Muhammad Yousuf Hussainabadi has translated The Holy Quran into Balti language in 1995.Dr Richard Keith Sprigg has compiled a Balti-English dictionary in 2002.
Brushaski is spoken in three dilects in the valleys of Hunza, and Nagar in district Hunza-Nagar and one in Yasin Valley of district Ghizer .When I started learning German for my studies and living in Germany for my current master programme at Greifswald University it was quite interesting for me to know that in the very limited German vocabulary of mine I found 6 words which sound almost alike and mean the same as Brushasky dialects of Hunza and Nagar .Some samples are as follow:
In Brushasky late Professor Dr. Hermann Beger at Heidelberg University published his first work on Yasini Dialect of Brushuski in Yasin valley district Ghizer with the name Das Yasin-Burushaski (Werchikwar) : Grammatik, Texte, Worterbuch in 1974 which comprised grammer,translation of Brushusaski text into German and a Brushaski(Yasini)/Werchikwar-
Syed Yahya Shah gave an orientation of Burushaski and Shina terminologies related to the primitive myth of Shamnism in the Gilgit,Hunza and Nagar in his book Brushaal ke Qabail published in 2005.
The language of Khowar spoken in some parts of Ghizer district in Gilgit Baltistan and Chitral district of Khaybar Pakhtunkhaw province has been aslo focused to some linguists like and Georg Morgenstierne has written Some Features of Khowar Morphology.1947 .Badshah Munir Bukhari who compared Urdu and Khowar in 2001.
In Wakhi language which is spoken in the upper region of Hunza called Gojal, Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association Pakistan organises annual Wakhi cultural festival and encourages poetry and music in the language
Among all the languages of Gilgit Baltistan critically endangered language of Domaaki in the area, still needs literary attention to compile the dictionary of the language.
Documentation of the spoken languages through literary work is the mile stone in protecting them. Karakoram International
Since the languages have no culture of writings therefore only electronic media can play main role to preserve and develop these languages in the region. Two state run radio stations in Gilgit and Skardu are presenting one to two hour programme daily in the languages of Burushaski,Shina Wakhi .Khowar and Balti except Domaaki which has had played great role in this regard. In the future telivision can play very important role to revitalize the endangered languages of Gilgit Baltistan.
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