A language that is given special status in a particular country or state is known as its official language. It is the language used by the government, which includes judiciary, legislature, and administration. An official language does not necessarily mean one which is used by the people in the region. A state may consider one or more languages as official. Of all the states and union territories in India, Jammu and Kashmir is unique, as it has 5 official languages.
Of the 28 states of India, Goa and West Bengal have two official languages, Tripura has three and Sikkim has four, while all other states have only one official language. Of the 8 union territories of India, Andaman and Nicobar Islands has two official languages, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu has four; Delhi and Ladakh recognize two languages as official; Puducherry has three, while J&K recognizes five languages as official. The official languages of Jammu and Kashmir are Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi, English, and Urdu.
Initially, only Urdu and English were the official languages of Jammu and Kashmir. A bill passed in 2020 added Dogri, Kashmiri, and Hindi to the list. On September 22, 2020, the Lok Sabha introduced and passed the J&K Official Languages Bill, 2020, which sought to include Kashmiri, Dogri, and Hindi as the official languages of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir. There was a debate over this decision, with Hasnain Masoodi of National Conference saying that five official languages would confuse the bureaucracy. In response to this viewpoint, Union minister of State for Home, G. Kishan Reddy, said Urdu the official language of J&K is spoken by just 0.16% of its population, while Kashmiri is spoken by more than 50% of the J&K’s population and still wasn’t its official language. He called this a historical blunder and underlined the importance of correcting it with the inclusion of Kashmiri in J&K’s official languages.
On September 23, 2020, Rajya Sabha passed the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 through voice vote. G. Kishan Reddy said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had expressed their wish since a very long time to have the languages they speak on the list of the UT’s official languages. He stressed on the fact that around 74% of Jammu and Kashmir’s population speaks Dogri and Kashmiri. He further stated that as per 2011 data, 0.16% of the people in the UT spoke Urdu and 2.3% spoke Hindi.
Naresh Gujral said that Punjabi should have been included in the official languages of Jammu and Kashmir since 13 lakh Punjabis live here, and that the J&K Constitution had recognized Punjabi as its official language and J&K’s first Chief Minister was a Punjabi. Mir Mohammad Fayaz said that Gurjaru, Punjabi, and Pahari should also be included in the list of Jammu and Kashmir’s official languages.
With a large population of Jammu and Kashmir using Kashmiri and Dogri, and with Hindi also being used in the region, these languages indeed qualify to be enlisted as J&K’s official languages. Here’s some information about each of these languages.
Kashmiri: It is among the 22 scheduled languages of India and spoken by about 7 million Kashmiris of the Kashmir region in J&K.
Dogri: It is one of the 22 official languages of India, among the Western Pahari group of languages and spoken by around 5 million people in India. Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, Dogri is also spoken in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.
Urdu: This Indo-Aryan language and the official national language of Pakistan is an Eighth Schedule language in India. It is the 21st most spoken language in the world. About 62 million people speak Urdu as their native language.
Hindi: This Indo-Aryan language is one of the two official languages of the Government of India. It is an official language of many states and UTs in India and one of the 22 scheduled languages of the Indian Republic. Around 322 million people use Hindi as their first language and about 270 million people use it as their second language.
English: It is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family. It is the world’s most spoken language and the third-most spoken native language. Around 2 billion people speak English and it is also the most widely learned second language.
When a language is given the status of the official language of a state, the natives who speak that language feel more belonged to that state and its inclusion as the official language of a state or country promotes that language in terms of its usage in communication and expression. This can lead to the creation of more literary works in that language, thereby enriching the culture of that state or nation.