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Seminar Report: Experts worried about marginalization of Punjabi in education, media and social use

October 7, 2011 | By

Patiala (October 05, 2011): Linguistics and media experts raised the issues of marginalization as well as distortion of Punjabi language in education, media and social use, during the seminar organized by a students’ body at Arts Auditorium, Punjabi University, Patiala on October 05, 2011. Sikh Students Federation, the premier body of Sikh Students in Punjab, organized the seminar on “contemporary condition of Punjabi language” with special focus on its’ use in education and media.

Presenting his paper at the seminar Dr. Joga Singh, head of Linguistic Anthropology and Punjabi Lexicography (Punjabi University, Patiala) insisted upon need to make Punjabi as a medium of instruction at all levels of education. Referring to credible research sources, he said that pupils could develop better understanding of concepts if they are taught in their mother language.

“It is a misconception that at younger age students could learn other languages in a better way, rather the fact is that those who gets primary education in their mother language could learn other languages in a better way” he added.

Dr Joga Singh, Head of Linguistics Anthropology and Punjabi Lexicography addressing the gathering He rejected the contention that Punjabi is a handicappped language because it lacks technical terminology. He argued that no language could be termed as handicapped or incomplete, as each language has all sufficient terminology according to the needs of related society. If other factors do not intervene, the language systems can create or loan words when the need arise. But when these other factors, mostly political, make their intervention it is only then the wrong notions like incapability of a language to adapt to new needs begins to emerge. He refuted the notion that Punjabi can not be medium of technical or higher eduction.

He said unnecessary infiltration of words of other languages, such as Hindi and English, is a threat to the integrity of Punjabi language.

Presenting his paper on use of Punjabi language in press and media, Senior journalist Sirdar Jaspal Singh Sidhu, said: media plays great role in development and consolidation of a language, but it is also a fact that at the same time media plays equally significant role in marginalising and distorting languages. Indian media, being a part of Indian state empire and controlled by elite class, works according to policies of the state. Punjabi press/media, at the same time is also non-serious about preservation and development of Punjabi language.

A view of audience at the Seminar

A view of audience at the Seminar

He criticized the policy of excessive focus on commercialization, adopted by Punjabi newspapers, which has not only reduced the quality of content but has also contributed to the growing menace of distortion of Punjabi language. He supported the argument of “distortion of Punjabi language” by media. In his paper, with plenty of examples he showed how Hindi words are being unnecessarily and excessively used in Punjabi newspapers. “Even where suitable Punjabi words are available, media, as a matter of policy choose and popularize Hindi words” he added.

Dr. Sikandar Singh, Assistant Professor of Punjabi at Eternal University, Baru Sahib (Himachal Pardesh), in his paper, raised many issues related to marginalization of Punjabi language through a systematic process. He said that deliberate efforts were being made by the governments to reduce the geographical, as well as usage area of Punjabi language. He said that attempts are being made to establish kangri, dogri, lehndi and other sub-forms of Punjabi as independent languages and thereby reduce the area of Punjabi in social use. This process is not based on linguistic research or studies, rather it is motivated by political reasons. Linguistics research proves that kangi, dogri, lehndi etc. are only sub-forms of Punjabi language and not independent languages.

“Attepts to detach Punjabi language from Gurmukhi script, and its’ attachment with Devnagri script also indicates the gravity of efforts that are being carried out to distort it” he added.

Second part of the seminar witnessed a significant debate among audience and speakers on various issues raised during the seminar.

SSF presidnet Parmjeet Singh Gazi presented the vote of thanks to the speakers and the audience for their co-operation. He also thanked the Sikh Education Council (UK) and Sangat TV (UK) for their support.
While quoting a UNESCO Courier on language endangerment that- “the rise of nation-states, whose territorial unity was closely linked to their linguistic homogeneity, has also been decisive in selecting and consolidating national languages and sidelining others” PS Gazi related the problems faced by minority or regional languages in India with the “nation-building project” of the Indian State. “A document by UNESCO says that – by making great efforts to establish an official language in education, the media and the civil service, national governments have deliberately tried to eliminate minority languages – and all these things are happening to our language” he added.

Arrangements for this seminar were made by Punjabi University, Patiala Unit of Sikh Students Federation, led by Gurpartap Singh. Sukhinderdeep Singh successfully conducted the proceedings of stage during the seminar. Dr. Gian Singh (Department of Economics), Dr. Balkar Singh (Former head and Professor, Sri Guru Guru Granth Sahib Studies), Dr. Dharamvir, Dr. I. S. Borker (North Regional Languages Center), Dr. Sewak Singh (Former President, SSF), Dr. Balwinder Singh (Chairman, Mai Bhago Group of Colleges, Ralla), Advocate Jaspal Singh Manjhpur, Bhai Harpal Singh Cheema (Secretary General, Panch Pardhani), Surjeet Singh Gopipur (Sub-Editor, Daily Ajit), Sandeep Singh (Delhi Univeristy), Harinderpreet Singh, Manjinder Singh and Shehbaz Singh were also present during the seminar.

Video recording of Seminar would be made available to viewers worldwide over the website of Sikh Students Federation ( SSF has announced to publish a book comprising papers presented during the seminar.

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