Why is the Jammu and Kashmir Official Language Bill being opposed?

The parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Official Language Bill 2020. According to the bill, apart from the existing Urdu and English, the Union Territory will now have Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi as its official languages too. No other state has five official languages so far.

Rajya Sabha passed The Jammu and Kashmir Official Language Bill 2020 using voice vote. The Lok Sabha cleared the bill on September 22, 2020.

What is the Jammu and Kashmir Official Language Bill 2020?

The inclusion of Kahsmiri, Dogri and Hindi in the list of official languages of the Union Territory has been in demand for a long time now. The main highlights of this bill, are –

  1. Developing a spirit of equality in the Union Territory after the state of Jammu and Kashmir was dropped from its statehood and converted into two separate union territories in August 2019. This happened in accordance with the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019.
  2. The bill is the result of public demand that has been going on for a long time
  3. The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution already identifies Urdu, Hindi and Dogri as official languages of the country .

The Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy said that it was a long-standing demand of people of Jammu and Kashmir that the language they speak should be included in the list of official languages.

He also pointed out that around 74 percent of the people in the Union Territory spoke Kashmiri and Dogri languages.

Apart from this he also stated that according to the 2011 census, only 0.16 percent of the total population in Jammu and Kashmir spoke Urdu, while 2-3 percent speak Hindi.

The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act

The retraction of Article 370 was the legal mandate provided by this Act. The introduction of this Act was the base for fractionizing the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two separate Union Territories.

To view the official documentation of the Act, Click Here.

The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution

The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution enlists the official languages of India. In total, there are 22 official languages in India.

Initially, there were 14 official languages of India. The inclusion of Sindhi happened in 1967. Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were included in 1992. Bodo, Dogri, Maithali and Santhali were the last ones to be added in 2004. Apart from these, the initial languages include Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

Together, these 22 official languages of India come under the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

The Arguments Surrounding the Bill

There have been a lot of arguments surrounding the Jammu and Kashmir Official Language bill. The Gujjar and Sikh community have been protesting against the bill, as according to these communities, Punjabi and Gojri should have been included in the list of official languages in the Union Territories. Arguing that the exclusion of Punjabi and Gojri languages from the bill is an anti-minority move.

The opposition raised concerns over more people demanding the inclusion of more languages in the Union Territories. It was also stated that no other state or Union Territory has five official languages.

The status of Urdu holding its position as one of the official languages in the Union Territories is also being opposed. This is because people claim that only 0.16 percent of the population in Jammu and Kashmir speak Urdu.

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