A Brief Survey of the Languages of the Neelam Valley

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[i]A brief Survey of the Languages of the Neelam Valley

Khawaja A. Rehman[1]

The Neelam Valley, formerly known as Drawa, is located at an altitude of 4000 to 7500 feet. However, the mountain peaks around the valley range up to 17,000 feet. The total length of the valley is about 150 kilometers and according to the census of 1998 the population was 120,661 with 84 separate villages (online census report). In 2005, it was given the status of a distinct and has been known since then as District Neelam with two tehsils: Sharda and Athmuqam. Previously, it was subdivision of Muzaffarabad District with its headquarters at Athmuqam. Before partition in 1947, the tehsil headquarters of the area was Titwal, now under Indian control, the area was known as Drawa and the river flowing through the valley was called Kishan Ganga (Stein: 1900). The name of the river after partition has been changed to Neelam and the name of the territory to Neelam Valley. The word Neelam comes from the name of a village on the right bank of the river about 12 kilometers upstream from Athmuqam. Moreover, there are also two other small villages known as Neelam in the region. The river Neelam originates from Indian administered Kashmir and enters Pakistani administered Kashmir, known as Azad Kashmir, at Taubutt. Beyond this point it is still referred to as Kishan Ganga.

The population lives on both sides of the Neelam or Kishan Ganga River. A few villages on the left bank of the Neelam valley fall under Indian control

This region remains a relatively uncharted territory on the linguistic map. The Linguistic Survey of India (edited by Grierson in the early 20th century) does not contain substantive information on the languages of the valley, and neither does one find much information about the area in the more recent literature (Schmidt: 1981, 2002, Koul: 2004, Hook and Koul: 2002, Radloff: 1999, Grimes: 2000, O’Leary: 1992). The fact that the Line of Control runs right through the valley is one obvious reason as to why the area is hardly accessible to researchers presently. However, before partition the area was inaccessible due to nonexistence of road link

In this paper, I present a brief overview of the language varieties spoken in the Neelam Valley based on recent research as well as my experience as a resident of the area. These varieties include forms of languages that are spoken widely elsewhere, such as Hindko, Gojri, Shina (Guresi and Chilasi), Kashmiri, and even Pashto, but also the rather distinct language of the village of Kundal Shahi, located near the Neelam district headquarters, Athmuqam (Rehman & Baart 2005)..


. The Hindko language spoken in the Neelam Valley is usually known as Parmi , by the communities other than the Kashmiries and PArim by the Kashmiries and sometimes Hindko or Pahari as well. The word Parmi or PArim’ is derived from the Kashmiri word ApArim ‘from the other side’ Historically speaking the Hindko speaking communities lived in the highlands of the Kashmir Valley and these highlanders were referred to by the Kashmiries as apArim.. Afterwards the use of this word would have been extended to their language as well. The word ‘pArim’ for Hindko is also used in Indian administered Kashmir as the expression I found in a Kashmiri comedy recorded in Srinagar.

The use of Hindko has never been documented before in any part of Kashmir. In traditional linguistic literature the Hindko language spoken in Kashmir is referred to as Pahari In 2004, I recorded a word list, used as part of the Sociolinguistic Survey of Northern Pakistan, from eight different locations in the Neelam valley. I analyzed the word list in collaboration with Dr. Joan Baart, who has been working on the languages of Northern Pakistan for the last 13 years. The analysis of the word list showed that the variety spoken in the Neelam valley was closer to the variety of the Kaghan Valley than that of the Murree Hills. In traditional...
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