Parties slam Centre’s move to drop Punjabi language in J&K

The Centre’s move of not including “Punjabi” as one of the official languages in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has invited sharp criticism from political parties in Punjab, including the BJP’s alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Expressing displeasure, former Deputy Chief Minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has termed the move anti-minority. The Congress echoed the allegation and described it as another move that exposes the anti-minority mindset of the BJP. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) State president, Bhagwant Mann, condemned the decision and said he would raise the issue in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.

The Union Cabinet had earlier this week approved a Bill to include Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as official languages in the newly created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar on Sunday told The Hindu, “The move reflects the mindset of the incumbent regime, and it’s because of this mindset that no minority community in the country feels secure — be it surrounding their religion, language or culture. This speaks dangerously about our democracy and our social fabric.”

“The government should notify Punjabi language as an official language,” he added.

Mr. Badal in a letter to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant- Governor Manoj Sinha, wrote, “Punjabi is not only the mother tongue of a very significant part of the people of the State but it was also a recognised language duly certified in the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The SAD president pointed out that the Punjabi language had profound religious, cultural and emotional implications for the Sikh community. “As such, the exclusion of Punjabi as official language in Jammu and Kashmir is bound to be seen as an anti-minority and is certain to be seen as an anti-Sikh step of the Jammu-Kashmir administration”.

Propaganda ammunition

Mr. Badal also cautioned that “decisions such as these provide dangerous propaganda ammunition to those who are always looking for such opportunities to disturb peace and communal harmony in the country, especially in the sensitive border States of Punjab and Jammu-Kashmir”. Mr. Badal said the move would deliver “a severe blow to the idea of cooperative cultural and political federalism in the country”.

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