Jammu And Kashmir: Distribution Of Languages
The area comprising the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is one of remarkable linguistic diversity. Within it two major language families, the Indo-European and the Sino-Tibetan, each dominate over extensive areas, while an as-yet-unclassified language, Burushaski, occupies a relatively small niche along the border with China and Afghanistan. Among the Indo-European languages, Kashmiri, Shina, and several other local tongues (spoken over much of the Northern Areas and in a small portion of Kargil district) form a distinct Dardic group, whose area of dominance also extends across the northern part of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan and into northeastern Afghanistan. Whether or not this group constitutes a separate sub-family within the Indo-European family is a question still debated by linguists; but none doubts the linguistic affinity of Dardic languages. Kashmiri, despite accounting for the largest number of speakers in the state, occupies only a relatively small area centering on the Vale of Kashmir. Punjabi, accounting for the second most numerous group of speakers, dominates in Azad Kashmir, while Dogri, often considered a dialect of Punjabi, is the principal language of Jammu, but its dominance there is much less pronounced than that of Kashmiri in Kashmir. Also within the Indo-European family are several locally dominant languages, most notably Gojri, the language spoken by the Gujar and Bakerwal pastoral communities, and various dialects collectively grouped under the designation “Pahari” (i.e., of the mountains). All these were grouped by the 1981 Census of India under the term “Hindi,” in marked contrast to Census practice up to the year 1971; and it is no longer feasible to disaggregate them. Finally, two mutually comprehensible dialects of Tibetan, Balti and Ladakhi, dominate in an area straddling the Line of Control in the Pakistani-held region of Baltistan and the Indian-held region of Ladakh. The following table provides estimates for the year 2001 of the number and percentages of speakers of the major languages, by major regions. It is based on extrapolations from the data of the censuses of 1981, the latest year for which reasonably complete census data (except for the Northern Areas) are available. In preparing the table we have assumed that the proportions of speakers of specific languages within each region remained constant since 1981, while recognizing that a variety of factors may be at work to weaken the validity of that assumption.
Figure 4: Jammu and Kashmir: Principal