(Says voice of people of J&K muzzled, says Bill passed without taking into consideration views of SAD and regional parties of J&K who had supported inclusion of Punjabi as an official language in UT)
Chandigarh, September 23 – Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal today expressed shock and anguish at the manner in which the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 was bulldozed in parliament and said it was condemnable that the voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in support of Punjabi language had been muzzled.
In a statement here, the SAD President said it was a matter of deep concern that parliamentary procedures had not been followed while putting up the Bill for approval before parliament. He said the Bill was neither put on the agenda of the Lok Sabha yesterday nor the Rajya Sabha today. “Even today it was passed at the last minute in the absence of the opposition”.
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal condemned the fact that the Bill was taken up for approval without taking into consideration the objections of the SAD as well as other regional parties of Jammu and Kashmir. He said while speaking in the Lok Sabha he had pointed out that Punjabi was not only the mother tongue of a large number of people of the union territory but was also a recognized language as per the constitution of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. “Dr Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, who is a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, supported me and said a sizable number of Kashmiris also spoke Punjabi. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has also supported the inclusion of Punjabi as an official language in the union territory”.
Mr Badal said Punjabi was being spoken in Jammu and Kashmir since the time of the Khalsa Raj of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was widely used as a medium of instruction and was also a compulsory language along with Urdu till 1981. “The first Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir – Mehr Chand Mahajan was a Punjabi and even now Punjabis constitute three per cent of the population of the State”.
Terming the entire development as a sad day for democracy, Mr Badal said the founding fathers of the constitution were inspired by a vision of India as a multi religious, multicultural and multilingual nation and respect for regional languages was seen an important tool to preserve and promote this ideal. He also expressed anguish that while Punjabi had been excluded from the list of official languages, English had been included in the list. “This is sure to hurt the sentiments of Punjabis in Jammu and Kashmir as well as everywhere else”, he added.