Fight to restore the lost glory of Punjabi language continues in UK

LONDON: Irrespective of territorial conflicts and blame game back home, the Indians and Pakistanis living in the UK have intensified their campaign to bring back the Punjabi language as the second most spoken language in the UK during the Census 2021 being held in England and Wales this year following the release of Census 2021 form by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

Indian origin UK based Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar said that the forthcoming Census of England and Wales 2021 was the authoritative means through which Panjabi could be reinstated as the second most spoken language in England and Wales.  

“It is imperative that speakers of Panjabi tick this option in the languages section of the Census,” Kaur said, adding that this was a “golden opportunity” for all Panjabis in England and Wales (regardless of faith or no faith) to be counted as having pride in their linguistic identity and heritage.   

She further stated that The Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies at the University of Wolverhampton UK was working alongside the Panjabi Language Awareness Board UK to promote awareness around ticking the Panjabi box in section 18 of the forthcoming Census 2021. 

While stating that it was heartening to see Punjabi unity across faiths to get the Punjabi language identified as UK’s second-largest spoken language in census 2021 Pakistani origin Dr Iqtidar Cheema, Director Institute for Leadership & Community Development, UK, said it was very significant in view of ethnic and cultural diversity in the population and the government’s commitment to multiculturalism in the UK. 

“All Punjabi families should proactively identify Punjabi as their mother language as Punjabi is a global language spoken across the world by approximately 115 million people,” he said.   

Iqtidar said that the Identification of language in the census was one of the key drivers of social exclusion, barriers to employment, education, and training, and inequity in access to services. 

Harmeet Singh Bhakna, Director, Punjabi Language Awareness Board, UK, informed media that due to coronavirus induced lockdown it was not possible to hold personal meetings and canvass door to door or hold meetings at Gurdwaras, temples, and mosques so they had decided to go online and were carrying all of their activities on various platforms of social media.  

The ONS had released three types of forms each for household, individual, and for communal establishments which would reach people in the first week of March.  

According to Census 2001, the Punjabi language was the second most spoken language in the UK but in Census 2011 the Punjabi language lost to Polish language and slipped to third place.  

According to the promoters of the Punjabi language in the UK, as many as 5.46 lakh Polish people had ticked Polish as their main language whereas only around 2.73 lakh Punjabi’s mentioned Punjabi as their main language.  

Now the promoters are pinning their hopes on roughly 10 lakh Punjabi’s of India, Pakistan and UK backgrounds to tick Punjabi as their language which will once again make Punjabi the second most spoken language by leaving the Polish language behind with a big margin.

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