MIRPUR (AJK)-Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan strongly condemned gang-rape and brutal murder of eight-year-old Asifa Bano by Hindu zealots.

The AJK president made these remarks as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the Third International Conference of Linguistics organised by the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (UAJK).

That, he said, was a deliberate act to punish the entire community. He added that the very existence of 1.1 million Gujjars and Bakarwals, nomadic shepherds with a pastoral lifestyle, is in danger.

The culprits must be brought to book and the international community must intercede to give respite to the family and the affected community, he demanded. An environment for such crime against humanity has been created to trample the rights of the Kashmiris with impunity, he said.

The president said that situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir was horrendous where crimes against humanity were committed to silence the people’s aspirations for freedom and self-determination.

Even though there was rich linguistic diversity in Jammu and Kashmir, he said that the territory was treated as one cohesive unit because of its history and geography. Jammu and Kashmir cannot be divided on the basis of language, religion or culture, he added.

President Masood said it was imperative to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Security Council’s resolutions. It would help restore connectivity within the region as the Kashmiris stand for unity within diversity and respect of their wishes for their political future, he said.

The president complimented the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir for making impressive strides by imparting quality education for its students especially through organising such international conferences. The international conference being attended by delegates from the US, the UK, Poland, Japan, France and the Indian Occupied Kashmir demonstrates that Muzaffarabad is fast becoming the hub for intellectual interaction and academic activities, he said.

Thanking the Department of English and the Institute of Languages, Masood said that the conference will help understand different languages, their history, phonetics/phonology, morphology, syntax and socio-linguistics. It would not only promote national and local languages but enhance understanding amongst foreign and national delegates. Such conferences are a vehicle and catalyst for promoting connectivity, he said.

He said that Jammu and Kashmir had a rich linguistic landscape dominated by two major families: Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan. He said that languages spoken in Jammu and Kashmir included Urdu, Kashmiri, Pahari, Punjabi, Dogri, Gojri, Shina, Balti, Tibetan, Ladakhi and Burushaski also have a small niche. Languages, he added, reflect the culture and civilisation of a region and they die or fade out due to the transformation of phonetics. “End of a language is the end of a civilization,” he said.

He emphasised that as many languages were facing extinction, determined efforts were required to ensure their survival. The new internet and cyberspace technologies have created space for multilingualism which is good news for local languages and cultures, said the president.

“Above all,” said the president, “we should strive towards finding a language of peace and harmony and not a language of conflict - a language of amity and not a language of arms and ammunition.” Only dialogue and diplomacy can guide the path towards a lasting solution, he suggested. The impressive event was attended by scholars, academicians, researchers and a large number of students.