Thu. Apr 2nd, 2020

Resuscitating Endangered Languages – Part III


By Syed Shamsuddin

According to A.F.C. Reed, a Western research, Christian missionaries translated Bible into Balti with the help of Persian script between 1915 to 1938. Later on, famous researcher of Balti, Khalilur Rehman prepared Balti primer and grammar using Arabi/Persian alphabets. After him, his successor Muhammad Yousuf made changes in Balti primer while in the succeeding years, local people made significant contributions in Balti literature and poetry.

About 60 years later in 1960s, famous researcher of Balti Yousus Hussainabadi rediscovered the original Balti alphabets “Agay” and introduced a Balti Qaeda, primer, comprising 30 alphabets in ‘Agay’. Hussainabadi says, ‘Agay script prevailed in Tibet, Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan and Baltistan through which Balti literature witnessed unbounded promotion. But nonetheless, with the introduction of Persian  script in Balti, literary treasure in this way of expression is accumulating since then. According to him, presently the number of people using ‘Agay’ barely exceeds one crore”.

Yousuf Hussainabadi is representing Balti language in the committee of the Board constituted by Gilgit-Baltistan government in order to include the regional languages in the syllabus, along with Muhammad Hasan Hasrat and famed journalist Muhammad Qasim Nasim. Keeping in view the contemporary cache of Balti literature in Persian script, the committee has reportedly made its recommendations for the adoption of Persian script. It has also brought out  Balti Qaeda and presented to the central committee of the Board.

Explaining the reasons of non-recommendation of the ancient ‘Agay’ script to form the part of the syllabus, the committee is of the view that it will not be practicable at this point in time while it could be considered at a later stage for it being made part of the syllabus. The committee holds the view that the young generation of Batistan is capable of benefiting from both Persian and ‘Agay’ scripts in future.

Yousif Hussainabadi’s books include ‘Baltistan par Aik Nazar’, Tareekh-e-Baltistan, Balti Zaban and the translation of the Holy Qura’an into Balti. The Qaeda in the ancient ‘Agay script’ , Baltistan par Aek Nazar and Tareekh-e-Baltistan, both are included in the authored contents. It is worth mentioning that the loss to the heritage of any civilisation – partially or wholly – is a great tragedy. This is what happened to Maya civilization of North and Central America. Maya’s heir Maiso even today practice the ancient traditions but they are wholly forgotten the complex script of Maya by now. This is also what happened to the ancient ‘Agay’ of Baltistan.

Renowned poet Hassan Hasrat says that with the arrival of Islam in Baltistan, both Persian and Arabic gained popularity and thus the old script went into desuetude altogether. He says in furtherance that civilizations, while going through evolutionary process, impact the ways of expression and communication. Though the original Balti script underwent change, the language remains intact with more than 100 publications of Balti solidify its position. Hassan Hasrat does not believe in the very concept of extinction of languages as to him, in this digital era, languages are getting more and more wide dissemination and nations around the globe while communicating in vaster languages, also have a flair to talk in mother tongues.

According to Yousuf Hussainabadi, famous poets of Balti include Hussain Ali Muhib, Abbas Ali Shah, Juhar Ali Jauhar, Ghulam Mehdi Marghub, Raja Muhammad Ali Shah, Sheikh Ghulam Hussain Sahar, Akhond Muhammad Hussain Hakim, Ghulam Mehdi Shahid, Ahsan Ali Danish, Farman Ali Khayal, Raza Baig Gail, and Zeeshan Mehdi Zeeshan. Prose writers Afzal Ravish wrote fictional stories in Balti whilst Ghulam Hussain Lobsang brought out Aqawal-e-Zareen in Balti. The latter also authored a book in Urdu concerning the  Impact of Bon Religion on Gilgit-Baltistan. Syed Abbas Kazmi’s literary products on Balti Folksongs etc. and late Syed Shamshad Hussain’s posthumous publication ‘Rung Yul’ make an addition to the literature.

Khowar Language

A large number of researchers tend to place Khowar, spoken in Chitral and Ghizar, in the Dardic  group of languages. According to researches of Dr Tariq Rehmam, for the first time in 1680 famous poet Attaliq Muhammad Shaheen composed  verses in Khawar language using Persian script. In 1892, Captain D.J.T.O.  Brine of the British Army using Roman script formed a list of words of Khowar language. After this, an official of the office of the Political Agent, Abdul Hakim Khan, translated ‘Ganj Pashtu’ into Khowar. But, nonetheless, he had to use  Roman script. Another great work in the context of Khowar was done by Muhammad Ismail Solan who composed Khowar-English dictionary. For the promotion of Khowar, Nasirul Mulk, Mirza Muhammad Ghufarn and Wazir Khan’s work too is hailed. In addition, from the platform of Anjuman-e-Taraqi-e-Khowar, a great wok has been done for the promotion of Khowar language.

During the British era, it was incumbent upon the British officers posted here to learn local languages within three months or else face the punishment of stoppage of gasht or tour allowance to them. Even after the British rule, it was made compulsory for the bureaucracy to learn local languages to help resolve peoples’ problems. It becomes evident from the British records passing of Chitral language test was compulsory for recruitment to Chitral Scouts.

There has been a significant private (individual) work for the promotion of Khowar but, nevertheless, no funds were allocated for this purpose on governmental level. However, broadcasts in Khowar were started in 1965. Khowar has not been accorded any place in television so far.

Famous native researcher of Chitral Dr Inayatullah Faizi has done great work for promotion and dissemination of Khowar. According to him, Khowar alphabets are 36 in numbers, of which 26 are Arabic, 4 are Urdu, and 6 alphabets represent sounds exclusive to Khowar language.

Khowar Qaeda was  published for the first time from Lahore in 1921 by Nasirul Mulk. In 1957, Anjaman-e-Taraqqi-e-Khowar was formed for the first time while the first book on Khowar for schools was introduced in 1962. According to Dr Inayatullah Faizi, 60 books in Khowar prose while 115 of poetry have been published so far.

According to Dr Ahmad Hassan Dani, Khowar literature was being published in Arabic script between 1917 and 1970s in Arabic script. In eighties, however, Chitrali students at Peshawar University brought out a magazine titled “Tirish Mir” (Tirich Mir) but this could not be continued any longer. In the decade of 80, cultural shows, poetical symposiums, conferences, were held followed by publication of books under the auspices of Anjaman-e-Taraqqi-e-Khowar.

Prominent poets of Khowar include Bulbul-e-Chitral Amir Gul, Aminur Rehman, Maula Nigah, Inayatullah Jalil, Iqbal Hayat, Muhammad Siyyar, Mirza Ali Jan, Mehrban Elahi, Khalid Bin Wali, Javed Hayat, Gul Murad Hasrat etc.

As per information gleaned  from reputed researcher of Khowar, Dr Inayatullah Faizei, famous literary outputs of celebrated authors and poets include Naji Khan Naji’s  Khowar-Urdu Lughat, Professor Israruddin’s drama by the name of Malakhon Salami, Gul Murad Hasrat and Yousus Shezad’s fictional stories, Naqibullah’s Aorooz-e-Quwafi, Shahzada Azizur Rehaman’s Shama’a Majmua Guzaz, Aminur Rehman’s Thak Na Thaki while Islamic books comprise Shahzada Samsamul Mulk’s Seeratun Nabi and Qari Buzrug Shah Al-Azhari’s Transalation of the Holy Quran into Khowar.

To be continued…..

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