Gujrat City, Pakistan– The Gujarati language is facing an uncertain future in Pakistan, to put it mildly. At least its written form is in danger of a slow death.
Although a living and vibrant language in India, Gujarati is suffering from an apparent indifference from those very people who speak it as their mother tongue in Pakistan, a Dawn News reported.
A recent decision by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) sums up the plight this language now finds itself in. Nadra has omitted Gujarati from the column where the applicant is asked to name his mother tongue.
Interestingly enough, both Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi spoke Gujarati. Jinnah knew Persian as well because his mother spoke the language.
Spoken by over 50 million people, Gujarati is the 26th most widely spoken language in the world. The majority of native speakers of Gujarati live in the Indian state of Gujarat, while Pakistan also hosts some 1.27 million Gujratis.
Apart from Gujarat, the regions where the language is spoken as first language include some areas of Maharashtra (like Mumbai), Pakistan (especially the port city of Karachi in Sindh province), Bangladesh, a few African countries — where Gujarati-speaking Indians had settled down several centuries ago — and, of course, countries where Gujarati-speaking immigrants live in large numbers, such as Britain and the US.
The Gujarati literature’s oldest written record dates back to the 17th century. But it was Alexander Kinloch Forbes, a British officer and scholar in the government of British India, who gave a fillip to the language and literature of Gujarati by encouraging local writers, the report said.
Forbes was instrumental in getting the first Gujarati play written, and the first Gujarati newspaper and literary magazine published. He also established a library in Surat in 1850 and Gujarati Sabha in Mumbai in 1865, it added.
The number of Gujarati speakers in Pakistan was declining fast, the paper said adding that one of the reasons for this was that the new generation of ‘Gujaratis’ does not use it.
The few who do speak it, do so strictly within the family or community. Since most of the youth, the offspring of Gujarati-speaking parents, cannot read the script, Gujarati-language publications in Pakistan face an imminent death.