President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Act, 2020, and the Centre has notified it in the official Gazette, the government said in a statement on Sunday. The new law allows for the inclusion of Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, in addition to Urdu and English, in the list of official languages in the Union Territory.

The statement said that English may continue to be used “for those administrative and legislative purposes in the Union territory for which it was being used before the commencement of this Act”. The business in the Legislative Assembly of the Jammu and Kashmir shall be carried out in the official languages of the Union territory, it added.

The lieutenant governor can take steps to strengthen the existing institutional mechanisms such as the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages for the promotion and development of regional languages of the Union territory, the statement said. The institutional mechanisms shall also make efforts to promote Gojri, Pahari and Punjabi languages, it added.

The Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020, was passed in Rajya Sabha on September 23. It was passed in Lok Sabha a day earlier, according to The Hindu.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy had said that people of the Union Territory were demanding that the language they speak should be included in the list of official languages, PTI reported.

National Conference leader Hasnain Masoodi in Lok Sabha had argued against the passage of the bill, saying that five languages will confuse the bureaucracy. He also asked why the Centre was in a hurry to pass the bill as the Centre’s August 5, 2019, move to abrogate the special status granted to the erstwhile state under Article 370 has been challenged in the court and a verdict was awaited. He added that Urdu was the linking language between Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Reddy replied, citing the 2011 Census, that only 0.16% of the population of Jammu and Kashmir spoke Urdu, while 2.3% spoke Hindi.

He said that 56% of the population spoke only Kashmiri languages but it had not been recognised as an official language. He called this a “historic blunder” and said the Narendra Modi government would fix them.