War on Language

By NAZIHA SYED ALI

WHILE visiting Balochistan, one becomes aware of just how removed that province is from mainstream Pakistan. And it’s not only the obvious things — such as the dire lack of development, the air of oppression or the stories of enforced disappearances and dumped bodies. There’s also the more subtle issue of language.

According to Article 28 in the chapter on fundamental rights, the Constitution says: “… any section of citizens having a distinct language, script or culture shall have the right to PRESERVE and promote the same and subject to law, establish institutions for that purpose”. Most of the national conversation on this is centred on the fact that many private schools, at least in urban areas, do not teach the relevant provincial language in contravention of provincial laws to the effect.

In Turbat some weeks ago, I learnt that the situation is quite the opposite in Balochistan. This is the only province where government schools do not teach either Balochi or Brahui, the two most widely spoken native languages outside the Pakhtun-majority areas in the north of the province. Balochi is only taught in a few private schools here.

Public schools in Balochistan teach neither Balochi nor Brahui.

One of the most devastating weapons of repression EMPLOYED by a state is the suppression of a native language.History is replete with examples of forcible assimilation of a people in this manner.

To exclude the teaching of a native language while imposing on its speakers the language of the dominant polity is exactly what it sounds like — an act of cultural warfare. Language is an inherent part of a people’s identity, the repository of their history and culture, a record of epic battles fought and of heroic exploits for its generations to emulate.

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