Anzer Ayoob, a 23 year-old, college dropout, is rapidly becoming a household name in journalism in the Chenab valley region of Jammu and Kashmir.
Ayoob preserves the local endangered languages of the Chenab region through his daily news roundup on his portal The Chenab Times. His efforts are lauded by many, from commoners to officials.
Anzer said, “I found that our region (Chenab valley) is being ignored in all ways and our distinct culture and history are not being prioritized, so my team started the news headlines bulletin initiative in two major local languages of the Doda district.”
Followng his news roundup in Urdu, Anzer repreats the segment in Sarazi and Bhaderwahi — two local languages.
The initiative began in January 2021 and instantly become widely acknowledged.
“Idea of preservation of these languages came after we found out these languages are stepping towards extinction,” he added.
Anzer was just 16-year-old when his mother’s health began to deteriorate, forcing him to give up his education in 2017. Anzer, as the family’s lone male member and sole Bread earner, explored all options to continue his studies but was unable to do so.
Anzer’s first step into journalism was to write about regional issues for local publications. He argued that ‘the mainstream media overlooked several issues in the District Doda.’
After writing in various newspapers and reputed online portals, he also did an internship with some media outlets.
After getting the much-needed confidence, Anzer started his own portal in July 2017, which he named The Chenab Times—a name derived from the river Chenab and represents the Chenab region.
According to a local, the way of reporting the issues in the region made his portal credible among the people. It has more than 1,53,000 followers on Facebook.
In September 2020, just three months before Ayoob started a multilingual broadcast. The Modi-led government passed the Jammu and Kashmir official Language Bill in Parliament.
Apart from English and Urdu, the bill proposed to make Hindi, Kashmiri and Dogri the official languages of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 was passed by Rajya Sabha through voice vote.
Following the bill’s passage in the parliament, various organizations expressed their displeasure, with the majority claiming that the government had overlooked their native languages and was dreading their extinction.
Other communities, who speak Gojri, Pahadi, and Punjabi had resented their absence.
During a debate on the bill, National Conference parliament member Hasnain Masoodi objected that the central government does not have the legislative competence to frame a bill in this regard.
According to Economic Times, Masoodi asked,” If only 0.16 per cent of people in the UT speak Urdu, then why would the government include it as an official language?”
The linguistic diversity of Chenab valley is being fading lately. The valley is considered to be the home of so many languages.
The bill was also condemned for imposing Hindi in a place where it is spoken less, prompting fears of Urdu’s marginalization.
According to the 2011 census, only 2.3 per cent spoke Hindi.
“We are fighting silently to preserve our culture and languages through our portal. We have no grudges with the government’s recent bill but our languages also need to be promoted and preserved”
According to Anzer, the Chenab Times has been nominated for the “best news portal” award by the Pahari Core Committee.
Besides local languages, ‘The Chenab Times’ also focuses on the issues of development, infrastructure, and healthcare in the region.
“The government has never considered looking after the issues of Chenab valley like schools, roads, hospitals, and other necessities,” added Anzer.
The Chenab times have a Core team of six editors and a staff of about 18-20 including reporters, writers etc.
“We want to increase our news coverage and publish news in a variety of other local languages, but we don’t have the resources.”