He’raa lo’ko Ket’roo Cho Sa’raaz Mai’roo Pi’ya’ro.
Bo’roo Ru’po’roo Er’noo, Aa’la’koo Cho Sa’roo.
(Look people, how nice my Saraz is!
Every part is very beautiful.)
These lines are taken from a poem Sarazi written by a soldier, in which he glorifies his native region of Saraz in the Chenab Valley in Jammu and Kashmir.
Meet Nehri Sadeeq, also known as Sadeeq Sarazi. He is a CRPF soldier and hails from the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Sadeeq is currently deployed in Jharkhand where he is part of anti-naxal operations. Apart from fulfilling his duty as a soldier, he is also fighting a battle to preserve his native language Sarazi or Siraji.
In Jammu and Kashmir, the Saraz region comprises the northern half of Doda district, as well as parts of Ramban and Kishtwar districts. The two main languages spoken there are Sarazi and Kashmir. While Kashmiri, which is also spoken in other parts of the Chenab Valley, is believed to be an import from the Kashmir Valley, Sarazi, a Western Pahari language, is an indigenous language.
According to the 2011 census, 1,79,014 people live in the Saraz region, of whom 77,362 speak Sarazi as their first language. But according to many polls, the number of speakers is decreasing over time due to the government’s negligence in not privileging this language.
In Sadeeq’s heart, the love for the Sarazi language dates back to childhood. He started writing poetry at an early age. He was born in Dehrote Jatheli area of Doda district and raised to join CRPF in 2005. So far he has served in Nagaland, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Kashmir, Bengal , Haryana, Chhattisgarh and now in Jharkhand.
Sadeeq was only seven years old when he wrote his first Sarazi poem, “Cha’lay Gave ko soo Yaar me Ta’rai’taa, Wa’day Zenii Ke’ro’ray Men’ii Qasm khai’n’ taa”. meaning “where did you go leaving me, with the promises you made for mine”.
Growing up, he also wrote poems in Kashmiri and Urdu. When asked how he manages to write poetry while on duty, Sadeeq said: “Usually we soldiers don’t take time off, so I write poetry at night. Writing poetry as as a soldier was not easy for me, as we were focused on our duty, but whenever I had a break, I spent that break writing poetry.”
Sadeeq has written almost 500 sarazi poems so far as well as many poems, especially ghazals, in Urdu and Kashmiri. “Writing poems is my passion now and I am overwhelmed with the support of people in our area who voluntarily promote my work in schools,” Sadeeq said.
In a publication based on Sarazi-language literature, Vikalp Ashiqehind, a University College London-educated linguist, and Rohan Chauhan, an MPhil candidate in the Department of Modern Indian Languages and Literary Studies, University of Delhi, have also interviewed Sadeeq and praised him for his “romantic and religious writings”. Indeed, Sadeeq wrote many prayers both Islamic and otherwise, which are usually recited in schools in the Saraz region as morning prayers.
He also recorded a Sarazi poetry video and posted it on his YouTube channel, Promote Sarazi, which has over 3,000 subscribers. On this channel there are also videos of dramas of Sarazi, which he created with his friends. “The digital world makes it easier to promote our language and we can preserve our content and share it with the world, otherwise it was not easy for us,” Sadeeq explained.
When asked why there were few books or literature in the Sarazi language, he replied that the region’s backwardness and poverty had left the artists behind. Most of them cannot afford the cost of publishing books. “If a sarazi writer has money to publish, he doesn’t get the resources to contact publishing houses,” he said, adding, “I think social media is a better place. to promote the language, but the government should take some big steps that can elevate the language.”
Sarazi which is also spelled as Siraji is a Western Pahari language which is now losing its existence as day by day its speakers are influenced by other languages.
The Parliament of India has passed the Official Languages of Jammu and Kashmir Act 2020, which lists Kashmir, Dogri, Urdu, Hindi and English as official languages in the union territory. Many people feared that this would obscure other regional languages and hasten their extinction.
Many organizations have expressed concerns about the non-inclusion of Pahari languages, including Sarazi, Bhaderwahi, etc. Sadaqat Malik, who started a movement for indigenous languages in the Chenab region, said: “It is unfortunate that most of the population is excluded and speaks Sarazi, Bhaderwahi, Bhalessi, Padri and Pogali. .
According to Malik, Chenab region in Jammu and Kashmir has a distinct culture, and the government should prioritize these languages, so that the unique culture of Chenab region is also boosted. “Sarazi has not yet been recognized as a language,” he added.
According to G. A. Grierson’s classification of Western Pahari in his study of Indian languages, Sarazi is a Pahari language. “Saraz and Sarazi: Grammatical Features”, a review written by Sadaket Malik defined the eight claims of the Sarazi-speaking population.
These include changes to J&K booking rules, a 4% reservation in recruiting;
free admission to university and professional colleges for Sarazi students free admission to universities for Sarazi students and granting of scholarships (post/pre-matric) to school-going students speaking Pahari.
Anzer Ayoob is a journalist based in Jammu and Kashmir and is the founder of The Chenab Times.