A book “Shina Literature and Poetry” published recently is a trailblazing effort by Ghulam Hussain Anjam Danyori. The author has attempted to trace the origin and evolution of Shina language spoken by people inhabiting the Karakoram and Hindukush ranges along the Indus and Gilgit rivers. Tracing the origin of ‘Shina’ dialect in its correct historical perspective has always been a difficult and tentative exercise because of divergent views of other researchers.
How the Shina language evolved is somewhat of a mystery that lies buried somewhere in the valleys of the mountains that have remained isolated for long despite travelers and adventurers traversing the land and carrying their accounts to the plains. But few such accounts yield any certain information about the languages of this area.
Scarce indigenous material also gives few clues. There seems to have been no transmission of even folk knowledge from generation to generation.
It is a guess at best to suggest where the language originate and how exactly did it jell as a distinct dialect. All that the modern researches indicate is that it came from the south.
Modern regional writers think Shina to be a language of the Dardic tribe while older research links it with an area that came to be called Shinaki in an earlier period. The present writer concurs with this view.
The Shinaki area comprises Kohistan, Chilas, Tangir, Astore, Gilgit, Punyal but Shina is also spoken in some pockets if Hunza, Nagar. Similarly, the whole of Dorote in Rondu valley is populated by Shina speaking communities. Likewise, a settlement in Ishkoman is said to include Shina speaking people. In short, Shina remains the lingua franca in the literal sense in areas as far as Daraz and Guraiz in Leh-Ladakh in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
It is noteworthy that the Shina spoken in the mainstream Shinaki areas has the originality to be called chaste Shina compared to the Shina of Hindi (Nasirabad) lower Hunza which has a tinge of Burushaski.
The same is the case with the dialect spoken in Gultari, Satpara and Kharmang with inter mixture of Balti words and accents, in places often so different the original Shinaki would have difficulty in understanding.
The author dates back Shina origin to the arrival of Aryans in the Shinaki area around 1,500 to 2,000BC. It is contended that the language then spoken in the above mainstream area was Shina. The author has referred to the literary and poetical works of Abdul Khaliq Taj and Jamshed Dukhi who have through their work strived to forge unity among the people of different ethnicities.
A religious scholar, a poet and a prolific writer himself, the author of the book under review, deserves praise for his efforts to bring about harmony among various sections of society through the humanism, tolerance and pluralism of his message and drawing inspiration from works of Abdul Khaliq Taj, Baba Chilasi and Ustad Raji Rehmat.
The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor. He can be reached at email: email@example.com