A Brief Survey of the Languages of the Neelam Valley
[i]A brief Survey of the Languages of the Neelam Valley Khawaja A. Rehman The Neelam Valley, formerly known as Drawa, is located at an altitude of 4000 to 7500 feet. However, the mountain peaks around the valley range up to 17,000 feet. The total length of the valley is about 150 kilometers and according to the census of 1998 the population was 120,661 with 84 separate villages (online census report). In 2005, it was given the status of a distinct and has been known since then as District Neelam with two tehsils: Sharda and Athmuqam.
Previously, it was subdivision of Muzaffarabad District with its headquarters at Athmuqam. Before partition in 1947, the tehsil headquarters of the area was Titwal, now under Indian control, the area was known as Drawa and the river flowing through the valley was called Kishan Ganga (Stein: 1900).
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The name of the river after partition has been changed to Neelam and the name of the territory to Neelam Valley. The word Neelam comes from the name of a village on the right bank of the river about 12 kilometers upstream from Athmuqam.
Moreover, there are also two other small villages known as Neelam in the region. The river Neelam originates from Indian administered Kashmir and enters Pakistani administered Kashmir, known as Azad Kashmir, at Taubutt. Beyond this point it is still referred to as Kishan Ganga. The population lives on both sides of the Neelam or Kishan Ganga River. A few villages on the left bank of the Neelam valley fall under Indian control This region remains a relatively uncharted territory on the linguistic map.
The Linguistic Survey of India (edited by Grierson in the early 20th century) does not contain substantive information on the languages of the valley, and neither does one find much information about the area in the more recent literature (Schmidt: 1981, 2002, Koul: 2004, Hook and Koul: 2002, Radloff: 1999, Grimes: 2000, O’Leary: 1992). The fact that the Line of Control runs right through the valley is one obvious reason as to why the area is hardly accessible to researchers presently.
However, before partition the area was inaccessible due to nonexistence of road link In this paper, I present a brief overview of the language varieties spoken in the Neelam Valley based on recent research as well as my experience as a resident of the area. These varieties include forms of languages that are spoken widely elsewhere, such as Hindko, Gojri, Shina (Guresi and Chilasi), Kashmiri, and even Pashto, but also the rather distinct language of the village of Kundal Shahi, located near the Neelam district headquarters, Athmuqam (Rehman & Baart 2005)..
Hindko . The Hindko language spoken in the Neelam Valley is usually known as Parmi , by the communities other than the Kashmiries and PArim by the Kashmiries and sometimes Hindko or Pahari as well. The word Parmi or PArim’ is derived from the Kashmiri word ApArim ‘from the other side’ Historically speaking the Hindko speaking communities lived in the highlands of the Kashmir Valley and these highlanders were referred to by the Kashmiries as apArim.. Afterwards the use of this word would have been extended to their language as well.
The word ‘pArim’ for Hindko is also used in Indian administered Kashmir as the expression I found in a Kashmiri comedy recorded in Srinagar. The use of Hindko has never been documented before in any part of Kashmir. In traditional linguistic literature the Hindko language spoken in Kashmir is referred to as Pahari In 2004, I recorded a word list, used as part of the Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, from eight different locations in the Neelam valley. I analyzed the word list in collaboration with Dr.
Joan Baart, who has been working on the languages of Northern Pakistan for the last 13 years. The analysis of the word list showed that the variety spoken in the Neelam valley was closer to the variety of the Kaghan Valley than that of the Murree Hills. In traditional literature, the language spoken in the Murree Hills is classified as Pahari and that of spoken in the Kaghan Valley as Hindko. The conclusion was also confirmed in informal discussions with the Hindko speakers as well as the Hindko speakers from the Kaghan Valley and Mansehra.
This proves that the Northern dialect of Hindko is also spoken in Azad Kashmir and my hypothesis is that same variety is also spoken on the other side of Line of control. There are many villages in Indian administered Kashmir along the line of control, at a distance of only few yards from the villages of Azad Kashmir. The Line of Control actually divides some villages in the Neelam Valley. Linguistically speaking, it may be interesting to look into the speech differences that have evolved during the last 58 years among adjacent villages lying on either side of the Line of control.
It is worth distinguishing two populations of native Hindko speakers in the Neelam Valley: ethnic Hindko speakers and the Hindko speakers of other ethnicities. According to the oral histories Hindko speakers came from Mansehra and the Kaghan Valley, which parallels the Neelam Valley where as the non-ethnic Hindko speakers came from either the Valley of Kashmir or other parts of South Asia. In spite of the fact that most of the groups originally speaking languages other than Hindko have shifted to Hindko, they retain a strong ethnic consciousness, identifying along ethnic rather than linguistic lines
The variety of Hindko spoken in the Neelam valley very interestingly retains, unlike other varieties of Hindko, Pahari and Punjabi, the old Indo-Aryan voiced aspirated stops /bh/, /dh/, /Dh/, /gh/, in the initial positions. However my present research shows that a shift is going on very rapidly. The reason being that the frequent contact with the Hindko speakers of other varieties of Hindko, Punjabi and Pahari speakers, is a major cause of this change. The shift is quite evident along the roadside and in main towns, where the influx of the outsiders is very frequent.
The settlements away from the main road and further up stream from Dudnial, show strong retention of this feature. The influence of the Punjabi is not only restricted to the Phonology but also at syntax level. The dative and accusative marker kUo f traditional Hindko is being replaced by the nuu of Punjabi. Hindko is the predominant language of the Neelam Valley. It is the main lingua franca. Speakers of other languages are usually proficient in Hindko except some women in a few Kashmiri and Shina speaking villages.
It is also encroaching upon the languages of smaller groups. Virtually all members of the other language communities are bilingual in Hindko. A process of language shift to Hindko is going on in many of these communities. In some of these communities this process started relatively recently, while in others it has been going on much longer. . Kashmiri Kashmiri is the second largest language of the area. it is spoken by the ethnic Kashmiries. However many kashmiries have switched to Hindko in the last two centuries.
The villages where Kasmiri is spoken exclusively as a mother tongue include: Halmat, Sardari, ShunDdas, Tehjian, Malik Seri and Khawaja Seri. Among these the former three are adjacent to each other at the distance of about 193 kilometers from Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir. And if we go further up the stream we come to Nekro, where majority are Kashmiri mother tongue speakers with a few families of Shina speakers. The village Nekro is adjacent to Karimabad, formerly known as Sutti, where Guresi Shina is spoken as a mother tongue.
The residents of these villages are less proficient in Hindko than other Kashmiri speakers of the region. They usually prefer to use Urdu with the Hindko speakers. The latter two villages Malik Seri and Khawaja Seri are adjacent to each other and normally known as Khawaja Seri but the revenue department of the state lists them separately. These villages are bout 130 kilometers from Muzaffarabad. Tehjian, another Kashmiri speaking village, is about seven kilometers further down stream from Khawaja Seri Almost all individuals of these villages are bilingual in Hindko.
Apart from these there are some six other villages where Kashmiri is the language of majority group. The variety of Kashmiri spoken in the Neelam Valley is closer to the variety spoken in northern Kashmir especially that of the Kupwara District, of Indian administered Kashmir rather than that of Muzaffarabad city. Although the Kashmiri spoken in Muzaffarabad is intelligible to the Kashmiries of the Neelam Valley, they can understand the variety of Srinagar better than that of Muzaffarabad. The Kashmiri spoken in the Neelam Valley has retained some archaic features.
For example, Nealam Valey Kashmiri has daram maj ‘woman’ and daram boi ‘friend’, which are hardly found in other varieties of Kashmiri. The word daram is probably derived from the Sanskrit word dharma. Moreover, my research reveals that the Neelam Valley dialect of Kashmiri retains the third person plural subject agreement suffix –ukh more consistently than other dialects.. Speakers of the Srinagar dialect accept this usage, but it is not in common use, suggesting that it is an archaism. It also shares the retroflex flap /R/ with the variety of Kupwara, which is an alveolar flap in the variety of Srinagar.
A historically very important town located five kilometers upstream from Khawaja Seri and Malik Seri, known as Shardi or Sharda, is headquarters of the tehsil of the same name. . A marvelous Hindu/ Buddhist temple is still standing and ruins of a great civilization are still visible. The place had been a seat of learning for a long time and it is likely that the Sharda Script developed to write the languages of the region. The script was developed some 1200years back and was popular in most parts of the South Asia and was named after Sharda (Deamb:online).
No substantial research has been carried out so far in Sharda. It is very much likely that the script would have been developed in Sharda as this place had been a very famous seat of learning (Stein: 1900) Before partition the place was frequented by the Hindus from different parts of India and was esteemed sacred. Kundal Shahi Kundal Shahi is a village that is located in the Neelam valley 74 kilometers upstream from Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir, and seven kilometers from the district headquarters ‘Athmuqam’. The Kundal Shahi anguage is spoken by an ethnic group, called Qureshi. They make up the majority of the Kundal Shahi village. There are some other tribes, but they do not speak it as their mother tongue (Rehman and Baart 2005). The people claim to have migrated from a town called Tajjar, presently in the Indian part of Kashmir some three centuries back. No other variety of the language is known. A first publication on the language, ‘A First Look at the Language of Kundal Shahi in Azad Kashmir’ appeared in March 2005 (Rehman &. Baart 2005) The tribe comprises approximately 1,500 to 2,000 people(ibid).
In recent years a process of language shift has been taking place to Hindko. Almost all members of the community are bilingual in Hindko and are very rapidly shifting to Hindko. Gojri Third largest ethnic group in Neelam valley is Gojars. Basically there are two types of Gojars: settled Gojars and nomads or Bakarwals. Settled Gojars Local folktales indicate that the settled Gojars are the earliest settlers of Neelam valley. They are believed to have migrated to the Neelam Valley to find summer pastures for their goats and sheep and gradually settled down permanently.
These Gojars no longer raise sheep and goats on a large scale. Their villages, Marnat, Kharigam, Kuttan and Ashkot, are scattered all over the Neelam valley. The interesting thing about these Gojars is that the majority have abandoned their mother tongue and adopted Hindko. However, there are still a few settlements among the Gojars who speak their mother tongue at least at home. The settled Gojars hardly use Gojri in bazaars and other public places in front of speakers of other languages. The Bakarwals The Bakerwals ‘goatherds’ are those Gojars who still raise goats and sheep.
They are not permanent residents of the Neelam Valley, but come during the summer with their animals, especially goats, sheep and mules (for carrying load). They go to high pastures for the summer and sometimes even travel to the Northern Areas and the Kaghan Valley. These people usually go to the Punjab plains and lower parts of Azad Kashmir during the winters. They use the Gojri language in their daily communication and show a strong tendency for language maintenance, reducing the probability of. Language shift among these people in the short term.
The total population of these nomadic Gojars is not available. However, according to the crude estimate of the Wildlife Department of Azad Kashmir, the summer of 2005 saw a total of 150,000 goats and sheep traveling into the Neelam Valley (personal communication with Manzoor a local official) Shina Although the Gojars are the third largest ethnic group in the Neelam Valley, third largest language spoken is Shina. Though Shina is only spoken in three villages, there are two clearly different varieties of Shina, Guresi Shina and Chilasi Shina. Guresi Shina
Guresi shina is spoken in Taubutt, the last village of the Neelam valley and its adjacent village: Karimabad (Sutti) Taubutt is about 215 kilometers from Muzaffarabad. Both villages are on the right bank of the river Neelam. The language is locally known as ShiNa and some times Dardi. Total population of these two villages was 1332 in 1998 and majority among them are Lone by tribe. Most of the Shina speakers of the area are bilingual in Kashmiri. They use Kashmiri with their neighboring Kashmiries. They have also borrowed many Kashmiri words. Their Hindko intelligibility is very poor and with Hindko speakers they usually use Urdu.
Moreover, they don’t consider themselves grouped in any way with the Shina speakers of Phulwei. On the other hand they are culturally closer to the Kashmiri speakers of Halmat and Sardari and associate themselves with these people rather than Phulweites. There are intermarriages between the neighboring Kashmiri communities and there is no record of intermarrying with the Shina speakers of Phulwei. According to my informants the mutual intelligibility with the people of Phulwei is very poor and their language is different in vocabulary and pronunciation.
They claim to have relatives on the other side of the line of control and also claim that their variety is similar to the variety spoken in the Gures valley of Indian part of Kashmir. However when I compared some words with the Guresi Shina collected on the other side (Schimdt: 2000) I found most of the words quite different These Shina speakers also claim that they can communicate easily with the people from Qamri – a town in the northern areas – without any difficulty and their variety is quite closer to theirs. Chilasi Shina
Phulwei a large village with many sub villages, locally known as Mozas, is at the distance of 180 kilometers from Muzaffarabad Total population of the village was according to 1998 census 2912. My current research shows that the in the beginning, about some two centuries back, the first group of these shin speakers settled at ‘Pain Seri (meaning lower plain). This group included four brothers who had migrated from Nait, a town in Chilas, owing to some family feud. Majority of the people claim to belong to lone tribe, have assumed local titles.
Clans living in this village include: Kachray, Nasray, Butt, Sheikh and Rajput etc. The majority belong to Kachray and both Kachray and Nasray claim to belong to Lone clan. It is very interesting that in Taubutt and Karimabad the same tribe is in majority. Grierson (1915) claims by using secondary information, that in Nait , Chilas some people speak Guresi Shina. However neither any research (Schimdt: 2002, Carla: 1992, 1999) reports such kind of variety and the variety spoken by the people of Phulwei also negates the statement of Grierson. My respondents belonged to all groups and all claimed to have come from Nait.
Their mutual intelligibility with those of from Nait is far better than the shins of Taubutt and Sutti/ Karimabad. They have their close relations in Chilas and frequently travel to Chilas. However for the last nine years the intermarrying with these people has been terminated. This boycott is a result of feud, which claimed many lives on either side some nine years back. The people in the Neelam Valley are normally very peaceful but the people of Phulwei are known for their feuds and fights all over the region. They themselves also admit the fact.
One of my informants told me that there are very frequent murders and narrated that his grand father had committed seven murders, his father three and his son killed a man. Locally these people are known as Dards and they themselves call the Hindko speakers Gojars irrespective of their ethnic group. They have no record of intermarrying with the people of Karimabad/ Sutti or Taubutt. However there are some instances of their intermarrying with the local Hindko Speakers. According to them the Shina or Dardi spoken in Taubutt and Karimabad is not standard variety and refer to it as kachi ‘half-baked’
In the village there are few Hindko speaking households but they are bilingual in Shina Pashto Dhaki and Changnar are two villages of Neelam valley, where Pashto is the mother tongue of all residents. The speakers of the language refer to their language as Pukhto/Pakhto. The population of these two villages, according to1998 census, was 1087 with 170 households. The people claim that some two centuries back their forefathers migrated from Swat, a region in Northern Pakistan, and settled in Dhaki and few others, among these, settled in Kashmir valley as well.
The main reason, according to the oral history for choosing the place, was its conducive and rich environment for raising livestock. Dhaki is at about two hours walking distance from the left bank of the river Neelam and later some, among these, shifted to another nearby village Changnar. Both villages are right on the Line of Control, separating Indian part of Kashmir from that of Azad Kashmir. Almost all male members of the group are bilingual in Hindko. Some of the females of the group can understand Hindko but most of them are not bilingual in Hindko.
The reason being that the men have very frequent contact with the Hindko speaking population where as the women are less likely to travel outside these villages and have no Hindko speaking community nearby. During the last fifteen years cross border firing between the Indo-Pak troops has caused large scale migration from these villages and this migration has led to the language loss at large scale. It will be very interesting to document the degree of this loss The Pashto spoken by the population is quite different from other varieties of Pashto and is a dialect on its own right.
These Pashto speakers can communicate with the Pashto speakers from outside but they can’t understand them fully. My current research shows that they have assimilated many Hindko words into their Pashto, and also have kept some archaic words of Pashto, which are no longer used by the other Pashto speakers in Pakistan. . No linguistic literature has mentioned the existence of Pashto in any part of Kashmir (Grierson 1921, Hallberg 1992, Personal communication with Hook and Koul. To my Knowledge this is only settlement in both parts of Kashmir who speaks Pashto.
In the Neelam Valley, apart from these Pashto speakers, there are some other groups who claim to be ethnic Pathans, but have apparently shifted to Hindko long time ago. Locally these groups are still known as Pathans and they also refer themselves as Pathan. Present Member of legislature and minister in the cabinet of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, from the District Neelam, also belongs to the same group. . Conclusion: Apart from these local languages Urdu and English are also used. These languages are medium of instruction.
No indigenous language is taught in schools. No standard orthography is available for these local languages. However, Some Kashmiri literatures, especially poetry books, published before partition, are available at some houses. Lots of borrowings from Urdu and English are obvious in these local languages. This is a preliminary overview of the languages of the Neelam Valley. The aim of this study is to introduce this linguistically rich but undiscovered area to the outer world and invite scholars to carry out linguistic research in the region.
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A & Joan Baart (2005) A First Look At The Language of Kundal Shahi in Azad Kashmir, SILewps, 2005-2008, Dallas, Texas, USA. http://www. sil. org/silewp/abstract. asp? ref=2005-008 . Rehman, Khawaja. A. 2005. Ergativity in Kundal Shahi, Kashmiri and Hindko: A paper presented in 11th Himalayan Languages symposium, 6-9Dec 2005, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand Rehman, Khawaja. A. 2006. Hindko: A Grammatical Sketch (Forth coming) Schmidt, Ruth Laila. 2002. A grammatical comparison of Shina dialects in Himalayan Languages past and present, 33:55 Ed, Anju Saxena.
Mouton de gruyter, Berlin Stein, M. A. 1999. KalahaNa,s Rajatarangni. A chorological of Kings of Kashmir. Trans. Mirpur: Verinag Publishers. Originally published: London: constable, 1900 ———————–  The author is a PhD candidate at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan ———————– [i] Paper was presented at the 19th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Panel 31: ‘Linguistics in Lesser-known languages in South Asia’, 27-30 June 2006, Leiden, The Netherlands. http://213. 207. 98. 217/index. php? q=node/56