Status & Mandate: One of the few constitutional bodies in the State like Universities and Public Service Commission, the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages was set up by the Government in the year 1958 by proviso to Section 146 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir for a specific purpose of to foster and co-ordinate activities in the spheres of letters and languages, visual and plastic arts, music, dance and drama and of culture generally. It was declared as an autonomous corporate body, vide SRO No-340 of 1963.
Having jurisdiction over the entire State, the Academy combines in itself the functions of: a) Sahitya Akademi (Akademi of Letters)b) Sangeet Natak Akademi (Akademi of Music, Dance & Drama)c) Lalit Kala Akademi (Akademi of Visual and Plastic Arts). Other than its headquarters at Srinagar, which moves to Jammu during winter in camp, it has also set up regional offices at Srinagar and Jammu and sub- offices at Leh, Kargil, Doda and Rajouri. In Jammu the Academy has its office.
Governing Authorities: With the Governor as ex-officio Patron, Chief Minister, as the ex-officio President, the Secretary is the principal executive of the Academy. The supreme authorities that exercise entire administrative and financial control over the Academy are a General Council and Central Committee.
Achievements: The pioneer institution now popularly known as Cultural Academy, having the fortune of flourishing under stewardship of luminaries like Jail Lal Kaul and Mohammad Yusuf Taing and others as Secretaries, has made a seminal contribution in preserving folk arts and promoting developing languages and cultural expressions in all the three regions of the State through a number of novel schemes and initiatives.
Languages & Literature: Various schemes operated by the Academy for the promotion of languages and literature which have yielded fruitful results include publication of ‘Sheeraza’, a literary journal in all languages of the State, annual anthologies, books in regional languages. So far more than 300 books bave been published by Academy in Kashmiri, Urdu, Persian, Dogri, Hindi, Punjabi, Ladakhi, Gojari, Pahari, English and on Fine arts and Music.
Cultural Academy has done a yeoman’s service in Preservation of Folklore and Music by way of collecting and documenting in book form folk songs and folk tales, folk proverbs, in all the major regional languages of the State. Other initiative of the Academy is the on-going projects of publication of Dictionaries and Encyclopedia. So far multi-volume dictionaries in Kashmiri, Dogri, Gojri and Urdu- Kashmiri Farhang, have been published while the work on Ladakhi, Pahari & Dogri- Hindi Dictionaries is in progress. Encyclopedia Kashmiriana’s four fully illustrated volumes have been published and cover areas like Kashmir Archaeology & Architecture, coins, handicrafts, language and literature. While the fifth volume on Folklore of Kashmir is in process. Academy has also started the project of Encyclopedia Dogriana.
Other measures to encourage writers in the Sate include, ‘Subsidy to Authors’, ‘Best Book Awards’ holding of Mushairas, Seminars, Literary Conferences, Sham-i-Afsanas, Sham-i- Ghazals and Literary Get-togethers, All State Writers Camps, Play Script Competitions, Meet the Eminent Contemporary programmes. The following Eminent Contemporaries have participated in these programmes till date are Sarva Shri Amin Kamil, Rehman Rahi, Hamidi Kashmiri, Dina Nath Nadim, Ram Nath Shastri, Jagan Nath Azad, B.P. Sharma, Ved Ghai, Padma Sachdeva, Sukhdev Singh Charak, Mohd.Yousuf Taing, Nishat Kishatwari, Madan Mohan Sharma, Dinu Bhai Pant, K.S. Madhukar, Yash Sharma etc.
Performing Arts: With reference to development of Music, Dance and Drama, Academy in its role of Sangeet Natak Akademi, has been working for revival of Bhagat Theatre in Kashmir. Today the dying tradition stands revived and here are more than 32 theatre groups, which are committed to the upliftment and development of this most cherished folk form of Bhand Pather.
Theatre: The vibrant modern theatre movement in the State today that has brought J&K theatre on national scene is due to the policies of the Academy which included sponsoring scholars to National School of Drama, New Delhi for training in dramatics, and holding of ‘Theatre Festivals’.
Music: Academy has been organizing Classical Music and Dance Concerts from time to time. Almost all the top-notch vocalists, instrumentalists and dancers of the day have performed in these concerts.
Academy is regularly organizing Folk Festivals with a view to encourage the folk performers and keep their interest alive in this field. The results have been encouraging as is evident from the revival of ‘Bhand Pather’, ‘Daastan’, ‘Chakkari’ and ‘Dhamali Dance’ forms from Kashmir likewise ‘Haran’, ‘Masadhe’ and ‘Geetru’ etc. from Jammu region.
Academy’s the Inter State Cultural Exchange programmes in form of sponsoring organizing visits of local cultural troupes to various States of the country have contributed in promotion cultural understanding between the State of J&K with rest of the country.
To encourage various age groups from among school and college going children, Academy has been organizing On-the-Spot Children’s Music Competitions, Summer Training Camps are also organized by the Academy to introduce children to the dramatics and dance.
Academy in collaboration with Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi, had sponsored the visits of State Cultural Troupes to Germany, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, France, Malaysia, U.A.E and erstwhile U.S.S.R. etc.
Visual Arts: In the field of visual arts Academy was first in the country to hold All India Artists/ Sculptors Camps from in 1968 in order to introduce local artists to the works of senior artists of the country. At present the Academy collection includes nearly 385 paintings and 118 sculptures. Great Artists of our time like M.F. Hussain, G.R. Santosh, Luxman Pai, N.S. Bendre, J. Swaminathan, B.C. Sanyal, Jatin Dass, Manu Parekh, Sukumar Bhattacharjee, Paritosh Sen, Tyub Mehta, Amba Dass, Robin David, Vidya Rattan Khajuria and a galaxy of other artists’/ sculptors’ works form the Academy’s most valuable collection of modern art.
Holding Annual Art Exhibitions launched in 1960 have since become a yardstick for acknowledging individual excellence in the field. To provide encouragement to the artists, Awards were also instituted. The scheme of giving subsidy to artists has been facilitating in holding of one-man and group shows both within and outside the State.
Academy also confers Robes of Honour and Fellowships on the towering personalities of the respective fields. The State Academy Award of Rs 1.00 lac for the life, to the outstanding, significant contribution in the field of literature and art was instituted in 1997.
Reference Libraries: The regional libraries in offices at Srinagar, Jammu, Leh and Kargil have collection of rare and reference books, which are made available to scholars for consultation.
To keep the age-old tradition of Urdu Calligraphy alive in the State, Academy is running a calligraphy class. The students are also paid scholarships.
Financial Assistance/Recognition is being given by the Academy to the voluntary organizations engaged in the promotion of languages and literature, performing arts etc. Presently the Academy is providing financial assistance to more than 100 cultural and literary institutions. Academy provides financial assistance at the uniform rate of Rs.300/- per month to the writers and artists who are in indigent circumstances and who leave their families unprovided for. Kitab Ghar: Academy has set up outlets in the cities of Jammu, Srinagar and Leh for the sale of its own publications and audiocassettes besides other books. Books of local authors, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi and many other agencies are also being sold through the following Kitab Ghars.
Issue of Autonomy: In the light of fast changing scenario in Jammu and Kashmir where boundaries of politics and culture are getting blurred day-by-day, there is an urgent need to strengthen the functional as well as financial autonomy of the institutions like Cultural Academy.
The delay in appointment of Academy’s permanent Secretary, despite the recommendation of the Selection Committee formed for the purpose, lying in its Chief Minster office since more than three months, has again raised question in the minds of community of littérateurs, regarding the seriousness of the highest political authority towards the affairs of the Academy.
Make the General Council functional:
In a blatant violation Academy’s Constitution, there has been no meeting of the General Council, the so-called supreme authority of Academy, since 1989. Despite the fact that after every five years, the official term of one General Council, the process of the nomination of the members has regularly been taking place. But term of each of such Council was allowed to lapse without holding any single meeting.
This much-needed step to correct blatant violation of Academy’s Constitution will not only restore the democratic functioning of the Academy but also address one of the major grievances of intellectual community.
Trifurcation of the Academy: In the light new forms and products that are redefining present day practices of arts, it is time to consider the reorganization of the Cultural Academy into three separate academies on the national pattern that is also being followed in many other states of the country. That is the Sahitya Academy, Sangeet Natak Academy and the Lalit Kala Academy. This demand of trifurcation of the Academy which is being raised by J&K writers and artists since last few decades, needs to be taken up seriously so as to provide equitable opportunities for promotion and development Arts of Letters, Performing and Visual Arts in the State.
In the light of the above it is also felt by writers and artists that instead of more infrastructure like the proposed plan to open sub-offices at Kishtwar, Bhadarwah, Kathua, Udhampur, Pulwama, Kupwara, Shopian, Baramulla and Budgam districts of the State, it is important to update and modernize existing schemes, facilities and infrastructure like the proper cataloguing and conservation of art collection and books, digitization of libraries, display and presentation at Kitab Garhs etc.