LAHORE: Hundreds of people from various walks of life took out rallies in city on Friday to mark the International Mother Language Day, demanding the government to declare Punjabi a compulsory subject for all students from Class-I onwards.

Organised by the Pakistani Punjabi Adbi Board (PPAB) in collaboration with the Awami Workers Party (AWP), Sangat, Punjab Lok Sangat, Christian True Spirit and others, the rallies moved from the Court Road and the Lahore Press Club and concluded at Charing Cross after passing through The Mall and Egerton Road.

“We need to be united to save the dying mother tongue—Punjabi. I just ask what’s harm in speaking Punjabi. Why we feel ashamed while speaking our mother tongue and why the people unnecessarily term this sweet language rough,” deplored Nazir Joya, AWP’s cultural wing (Punjab) chief, while talking to Dawn as the rally reached Charing Cross from the Court Road.

“But we will not allow anyone to ignore this issue since we all are committed to not only save and promote Punjabi. We demand the government make it compulsory for the students to learn it till 5th class in all public and private sector schools,” he said.

The participants, while carrying placards and banners inscribed with various slogans and demands, expressed anger over a recent viral video clip, showing a woman in Islamabad as misbehaving with a traffic police official for addressing to her in Punjabi.

“Those terming Punjabi a rough language must feel shame as we consider this attitude hate and discrimination against our lovely language,” said Sarfraz Safi while talking to this reporter.

The participants in the rally continued raising slogans of Punjab Di Boli Punjabi, Sada Haq Aithay Rakh, Kamyabi Di Pehli Manzal, Sirf Maa Boli Vich Taleem etc. They criticised the government for ignoring the issue of Punjabi language. They were of the view that Punjabi was merely an optional subject at Intermediate and BA levels, indicating that the subject was being taught without its basic teaching in schools. Under the Unesco charter, it was compulsory for every country to use local languages as the medium of instruction and this should also be done in Punjab, the rallyists said.

They added that Punjab lagged behind other provinces in teaching local languages and making them medium of instruction. “Sindh had introduced Sindhi as medium of instruction in 1973. Both Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were also teaching their three or four languages,” they said.

“We want graduates (in Punjabi) be given jobs. We also demand that the government must establish Punjabi departments in all colleges and universities,” Punjab Lok Sangat Convener Amjad Saleem Minhas said.

He also urged the government to also declare Punjabi compulsory from Class 1 to 10.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2020

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