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There is a new offshoot to the Valley divide following the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits — the Kashmiri language, which used to be a binding factor between Valley Muslims and Pandits, is undergoing a transformation.
For centuries, the accepted Kashmir script has been Perso-Arabic but Kashmiri Pandit organisations are promoting the language among their youth using Devnagari. The reason: the young generation of Pandits born outside the Valley have no knowledge of the Perso-Arabic script, the accepted form of writing among Hindus and Muslims for centuries in Kashmir.
The annual Khir Bhawani Mela at Tullamula in Srinagar last week — it has now become the biggest Kashmiri Pandit gathering in the Valley — was witness to the change. Most organisations were distributing literature in Devnagari. Shailender Dhar of Satisar Foundation, a non-profit formed eight years ago in Jammu, said: "We are concerned with people who form our audience. That is why we use Devnagari. They can't read any other script."
Even the weekly and fortnightly classes that the organisation holds to promote Kashmiri culture among the youth are in Devnagari. "We are not creating a wedge between the two communities, we are just trying to promote the dying Kashmiri Pandit culture. Our aim is to preserve and promote age-old values of the Kashmiri Hindu cultural tradition which includes language, philosophy, art and literature, history, sciences and the spiritual tradition. We are not against any script but we are just trying to revive our old roots," said Dhar.
Kashmiri language known as Kashur belongs to the Dardic linguistic sub-grouping, part of the Indo-European language family, and is spoken primarily in the Kashmir Valley and parts of PoK. It is one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.
In the past few decades, Kashmiri was introduced as a subject in universities and the colleges of the Valley. It has now been made a compulsory subject in all schools of Kashmir. Kashmiri has remained a spoken language up to the present times, though some manuscripts were written in the past in the Sharada script and then in Perso-Arabic.