Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

Resuscitating Endangered Languages – Part V


By Syed Shamsuddin

Famous Wakhi poets include Asmatullah Mushfiq, Nazir Ahmad Bulbul, Saifuddin Saif, Safar Muhammad Afghan, Fzal Amin Baig, Ahmad Riaz, Ghulam Mustafa, Hassan Ali Sagar, Shahid Ali Yakhsooz, Amanullah Nachiz, Saadat Shah Saadat, from Tajikistan Bakht Ali, from China Zangir Baig, while from Russia Sangeen Murad top the list.

In 1993, Radio Pakistan Gilgit started Wakhi transmissions. Famous researcher Backstrom says that Wakhi speakers encourage expression and promotion of their language and like their children get education in Wakhi too. On the other side of the border in Wakhan, Tajikistan and Russia, a great work on Wakhi has been done. Those doing doctorate in Wakhi language include Dr Bakhshu Baykov, Dr Aziz Mir and Dr Eid Muhammad.

Famed linguist Fazal Amin Baig says that the researchers have employed Latino-Greek script during research of Wakhi language but Professor Dr Boghsho, after years of research, has reached the conclusion that Roman script shall inevitably have to be employed for researches on small languages of the world, including Wakhi, if at all their protection, preservation is to be ensured.

Acting on this advice, researcher Tudheiu at Frolida University submitted his dissertation on Wakhi language in Roman script. Wakhi researchers  hold the view that in Tajikistan and Russia, Roman script is preferred to Latino-Greek.

Late Dr Eid Muhammad belonged to Tajik Wakhan. He had a great knowledge of Wakhi sounds and grammar. In addition, Dr Pakha Lenov from Russia researched Pamirian dialects, including Ishkomani, Siraquli, Shogni and Roshani. In an interview given to the Linguist Fazal Amin Baig, Dr Eid Muhammad said that in Pakistan and Afghanistan, effects of Urdu and Persian are visible while in Tajikista, it is visibly impacted by Russian language.

Fazal Amin Baig writes that ancient words of Wakhi are found in Buruhaski and other Dardic languages. He says that 43 Wakhi sounds play the role of a bridge between South and Central Asian regions, in addition to China and Europe.

In Pakistan, two books of Wakhi poetry have been published using Latino-Greek script. One book, “Biyoz-e-Bulbul”, is written by Nazir Ahmad Bubul, while the other, entitled “Piwand”, was complied and Published by Bulbulik, a Pamiri Music and Heritage School established by the community in Gulmit village of Gojal Valley, Hunza.

Domaki Language

Researcher classify Domaki as an Indo-Aryan languages, which is seemingly impacted by Brushaski. D.R Lorimer, through his researches undertaken in 1950, says that Domaki was fast becoming extinct. Famous  linguist Dr Tariq Rehman in his book ‘Languages & Politics in Pakistan’, holding the same view, expressed his great concerns that the number of Domaki speakers has by now dwindled to mere 500 due to which it is among the top languages of Pakistan about to get extinct.  This, as alluded to before, becomes straightaway ascribable to a history of ceaseless ordeals faced by the Domaki speakers which eventually overwhelmed them during the course of time. Of late, statistics put the total number of Doamki speakers in Gilgit-Baltistan at about 200.

According to Backstrom, Domaki speakers of Hunza have shunned speaking their own ancestral language and instead resort to Burushaski or Urdu as a medium of conversation.

It transpires from perusal of regional history that the rulers of Hunza and Nagar settled Domaki speakers at various locations of their respective Mirdoms and assigned these people the work of preparing tools and agricultural implements besides amusing the people as musicians at the time of festivals an weddings. This group was kept away from education and other institutions.

Unfortunately, Domaki speaking community did not get equal rights in society and thus lagged far behind other tribes. In other words, Domaki speakers were, all along in the past, made subject to untold exploitation at all levels. In order to lessen their deprivations, Domaki speaking people were constrained to speak in Shina, Brushaski,Wakhi, Khowar and Balti as means of conversation.

These were, in short, the social injustices and discriminatory dispensations in the face of which Domaki speakers could not maintain their identity.

However, in this era, this tribe which historically remained subject to an unending exploitation, as if it were untouchable, has at long last, subsumed into the mainstream societal groups. However, at a village called Mominabad in Hunza wholly and exclusively inhabited by Dom tribe, most of dwellers shun from speaking Domaki, i.e their own language.

According to Rahat Ali Khan, a staffer at the World Bank who belongs to this tribe, there are 70 to 80 percent households but merely 7 or 8 of them can speak Domaki. To him, the extinction of this language becomes straightaway ascribable to social discrimination and exploitation.

Gujjri or Gojarri Language

Gujjri or Gojjari language is spoken across Gilgit-Baltistan, Kohistan, Swat, Chitral, Mansehra, Punjab, Azad Kashmir, Indian Occupied Kashmir and Indian Gujjrat. In Indian, Hindi script is being used for the expression of Gujjri and even films are made in this language. In Pakistan, ‘Gujjar Forum’ is at work for the welfare of Gujjar community. It is said that former chairman Lahore Development Authorit(LDA) Chaudhry Abdul Hamid played a great role in the context of promoting  Gujjri. In addition, functions and poetical symposia on Gujjari literature are being held in Lahore and Islamabad periodically. This tribe is inhabiting Gilgit-Baltistan from a long time and are ancestrally engaged in cattle-raising/tending. In addition, the people of this tribe are engaged in agriculture, businesses and private and government service in Gilgit-Baltistan. While grazing cattle and goat-herds in the mountains, they sing melodious folksongs.

In eighties, the president-ship of Gujjar Youth Form was with Dr Siraj. Shah Jehan is the president of Gujjar Youth Forum Naltar. He is referred to as saying that the objective of Gujjar Youth Forum is promotion of Gujjari, overall welfare of Gujjars in matters of education, health etc. According to Shah Jehan, Gujjari in {Pakistan is being written in Urdu script albeit 5 or 6 alphabets are of Gujjari itself. Poets in Gujjari in Gilgit-Baltistan include Sikandar Shamsi, and poet and singer Waki Sajan, poet and singer Hamdard, Qaisar Abbas, Sabir Jan, Alam Jan, Bazeer, Basharat and Urfan. According to Shah Jhan, Gujjari speakers to him, is in millions and hence it faces no threat of extinction whatsoever.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is pertinent to make a reference to an interesting ‘Round Table’ discussion emanating from Voice of America (VOA), on 13th November, 2019,  which shed light on how to best protect the languages spoken in northern Pakistan.

Highly literary persons and luminaries, i.e Yousuf Hussainabadi, Muhammad Hassan Hasrat, Muhammad Qasim Nasim – all the three recipients of the coveted award ‘Pride of Performance’ – shed light on how best to preserve Balti in its original form. Underlining the significance of Balti, they said it was an offshoot of the Tibetan group of languages widely spoken in a number of countries – Tibet, Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan and Baltistan.

Other participants, Noor Pamiri and Fazal Amin Baig, respectively, shed light on the ongoing efforts aimed at preservation of Wakhi language which too, is spoken across the border in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China and Russia.

Regarding a unified Wakhi script, the latter participants explained how efforts are afoot in that context by way of gleaning content online and gathering information from Wakhi speakers inhabiting the adjoining countries in the matter of introducing a uniform script.

Shina speaking communities was represented by Jamshed Dukhi,  prominent poet and writer from Gilgit.

Ibrahim Sanai, Provincial Education Minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, another participant, apprised the audience of the measures underway to include the regional languages in the syllabus.

It came to the fore that the provincial government has constituted a committee in this regard while simultaneously forming representative committees of each linguistic group for making their recommendations. Hopefully, all decks are cleared and breakthroughs made for the inclusion of these languages in the syllabus at the earliest.

Concluded.

The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger.He can be reached at Email: shamskazmi.syed@gmail .com

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