On the other hand, Balti/Ladakhi being of Tibeto-Burman family is as far from Urdu as chalk is from cheese. Verbs, pronouns, nouns, adjectives are all different. The uninformed and short-sighted move of General Arjun Ray has interrupted a linguistic continuity from Baltistan of PoK to Ladakh of India to western Tibetan plateau. In fact imposition of Urdu on Kargil is bound to affect the morale of Balti people in PoK who are struggling against Urdu imposition themselves (Kazmi 1996). And it is likely to demoralize people of Leh who are trying to earn a place for their language in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and who too may be the next victim of Urdu hegemony.
The third phase started when the present PDP-Congress coalition came into power in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002. The Common Minimum Programme (CPM) of the coalition says (Hindu 2002):
?The government shall grant full powers to the Autonomous Hill Council for Leh, which has hitherto been deprived of its legitimate powers. Efforts will be made to persuade the people of Kargil to accept a similar Autonomous Hill Council for Kargil.?
When the CMP was written, there was no Autonomous Hill Council for Leh. There was only the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC). Why did the two parties use this mischievous and deceitful language? What was the ulterior motive? There is only one conclusion that can be drawn. Both Congress and PDP were conspiring to politically separate the Muslim-majority Kargil from Buddhist-majority Ladakh. Another interpretation is possible?PDP set this as a condition for alliance and the Congress swallowed it for its greed of political power. It is noteworthy that there was no demand for a separate council from the people of Kargil. Even then, a separate council was being foisted on them from above. The intention was to create a religio-political division where only a religious difference with strong syncretic and even marital links between Buddhists and Muslim existed. This action of the Congress is comparable to its political move in Kerala in the 1950s and 1960s, whereby the ban on the Muslim League was removed, a coalition government with it was formed and eventually a Muslim-majority district of Malappuram was created.
The promise of the CMP was fulfilled in July 2003 when the coalition Government formed the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council for Kargil (LAHDC for Kargil). A strange name indeed! It formed also the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council for Leh (LAHDC for Leh). Why such strange and tortuous names? If we call ?Kanpur Development Authority? by the name Uttar Pradesh Development Authority for Kanpur?, it would be considered absurd. According to a bill passed in Jammu and Kashmir Assembly an autonomous council is legally valid only for Ladakh. Hence an entity called ?Autonomous Development Council for Kargil? would be legally invalid. This explains the ridiculous contortions in nomenclature which is seemingly legally valid (although I am not sure and it should be challenged in a court) and at the same time serves the purpose of separation of Kargil. The religion-based division of Ladakh has been extended to a sub-division of Kargil?only three council seats out of 30 have been allocated to the overwhelmingly Buddhist Zanskar subdivision. The aggrieved people of Zanskar, both Buddhists and Muslims, boycotted the July 2003 election to LAHDC-for-Kargil (Hindu 2003).
The fourth phase has started with the declaration of Mehbooba Mufti outlining her ideas about so-called ?self-rule?. Leh-Ladakh would get a separate Legislative Assembly. But Kargil will likely be joined with Kashmir under the jurisdiction of the Legislative Assembly at Srinagar. If this scenario comes true, then the following is likely to happen:
Leh-Ladakh Assembly will function in Ladakhi and Jammu Assembly will function in Dogri. Kashmir will continue to be administered in Urdu. It cannot possibly switch over to Kashmiri with Balti-speaking Kargil on tow. So people of Kashmir will once again be deprived of the right to education and administration in Kashmiri, their mother tongue. It should be remembered that Kashmiris have always described Kashmiri as their mother tongue, and not Urdu, in census after census. (This should be contrasted with the fact that Muslims of Andhra and Karnataka declare Urdu their mother tongue, although what they speak can at best be called pidgin Urdu and they are more fluent in Telugu and Kannada.)
If Kashmir retains Urdu and abandons Kashmiri, Muslim-majority Doda district of Jammu is likely to demand to be separate form Jammu and merged with Kashmir. It would be persuaded to opt for Urdu written in Arabic script instead of Dogri written in Devnagari, although its speech is Dogri. Little differences with Dogri will be invented and separation will be demanded. PDP surely and even National Conference probably would encourage this tendency with Congress as always playing an opportunistic unprincipled role.
People of Baltistan (of PoK), Kargil and Leh, all parts of the original Ladakh district, speak the same language, but employ two different scripts, Ladakhi (Bodhi) and Arabic (Nasq). Pakistan has a long-standing policy of imposing Urdu while suppressing vernaculars. This stems from the language ideology that Urdu alone is the language of the Muslims of the subcontinent. The language policy of the Jammu and Kashmir government seems to be no different. It is busy suppressing the use of the mother tongue in Kargil district. This policy is unfair to the people of Kargil and particularly so to the people of Zanskar subdivision who are predominantly Buddhist. Clever steps are being taken to extend Kashmiri political hegemony over Kargil to reinforce the Urdu hegemony. The result would be separation of Kargil from Ladakh, where lie its racial and linguistic roots. Kargil people would eventually lose their language.
(The author is a Professor and can be contacted at Aerospace Engineering, IIT Kanpur, [email protected])