WE, THE SINDHIS
We Sindhis hail from Sindh - a province, now in Pakistan , but previously a part of undivided India. It was in Sindh that flourished the great Indus valley civilization, a marvel in social set-up and communal living, millennia before the birth of Christ. It was Sindh that was famous for ship-building, and that it carried on commerce with far-off lands such as Rome, Greece, Asia Minor, Babylon and Egypt. The Sumerians derived their culture from Sindh and it was on this soil that Gautam Budha and Guru Nanak preached their doctrine.
India stands for the land of the Indus (river that flowed through Sindh) and the word Hindu is derived from the word Sindhu. Sindh dates back to the reign of Bharat, the brother of Ram, who ruled in Sindh and then handed over the reigns to Luv, the twin son of Ram and Mother Sita.
Sindhi Hindus faced centuries of trials and tribulations for they were conquered by invaders who not only conquered their land but remained to rule with a barbaric hand. All the rulers that came to rule over Sindh had one thing in common. They sought to spread Islam converting Hindus at the point of sword. Most were forced to abandon Hinduism and accept the shift in religion to save their lives and those of their dear ones held captive. The ancestors of Indian Muslims of today were those Hindus who were converted. History is full of stories of Aurangzeb, the Moghul emperor who forcibly converted Hindus to Islam. Many of these Hindus reached the shores of Sindh to only continue to be persecuted by Taalpurs, Kalhoras and Mirs.
A common saying in Sindh stated:
Aayaa meer, Bhaga peer
Which literally means that when the Meer (rulers) came, the wise ones fled.
To safe guard the women folk from the onslaught of the persecutors, they were made to observe Purdah, i.e. the women were covered from head to toe, except for one eye. This mode of attire, the Sindhis called “Akhri”
It was the British rule that brought to an end the relationship of the oppressor Muslim and the oppressed Hindu. A new era began. British rule brought safety, progress and reforms, not only to the Sindhi Hindus in general, but for Sindhi Hindu women in particular. She was no longer confined to the four walls and her formal education commenced.
The Sindhi-Hindu had arrived. The Amil Sindhi excelled in services and the Bhaibunds in commerce. Both reached foreign lands. The Amils generally to pursue a higher education and the Bhaibunds to spread their business.
After roughly a century of peace and progress came the Freedom Movement in which participated all Hindu Sindhis, actively or passively little imagining that the so called Freedom would mean sacrificing their culture, home and birthplace.
The British administration that had favored the Sindhi Hindu, stopped patronizing them as it was they, who had initiated for self-government in Sindh as part of an all India Freedom Movement.
Instead of helping, the British started to ignore the atrocities that the Muslim started to once again inflict upon the Hindus. These tyrannical incidents reached a zenith during the partition of India. Their leaders had failed them. On January 6, 1948, Genocide of Hindus took place in Sindh. Though, in many cases helped by Muslim neighbors, the terror in their heart is indescribable. The trials that each and every Hindu went through in those dark bleak days would fill volumes and make even the gods weep. The Sindhi Hindus had only one option left. They had to flee and they found shelter wherever available in Hindustan.
They started once again from sub-human conditions. In many cases they had nothing left but their intelligence and pride. It is believed that at that time there were more refugees in India than there were Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Sindhis became an uprooted race. Yet they managed to build, brick by brick their new life and once again learned to live with honor and human dignity.
Because of their need to survive, they spread their wings through the length and breadth of the globe. They set new roots in the land that showed promise for a new and probably bright future. They imbibed the customs, mannerisms and language of their new domicile in return for the love and security that their new abode promised and provided.
I am proud of the fact that Sindhis, due to their perseverance and hard-work, survived. They succeeded by accommodating themselves to the way of life and customs of those who welcomed them. But in life, just as joy comes with sorrow, death comes with life and tears come with laughter; the triumphant Sindhis lost touch with their own culture, religion and language. As time passed by, it became increasingly difficult for International Sindhis to cling to their roots.
It has been observed that it is became increasingly difficult for the newer generation to speak the Sindhi language.
Perhaps the parents are partly to blame, or maybe Providence willed it so. Possibly humanity needs to unite under one language, one religion, one banner. Maybe we have to break the narrow walls of constriction.
The latter may be true, but that should not stop us from being grateful to our ancestors for the seeds of wisdom that they sowed in our subconscious psyche.
Thankfully there is a renewed interest amongst our youngsters in the Sindhi Language and culture.
It is said that that what is painful to remember, we simply don’t forget. This pain kept ‘us’… the past generation remembering…and we do not want the children of the future to forget.
Feedback From :
Hope u are in perfect health and spirits as u always advocate and preach. I'll take a few minutes of your time only. Few months back i subscribed to your webpage accidentally while I was searching for info about my tribal origins. since then I've been getting your messages from time to time. and I've time and again received many beneficial tips and suggestions from u -for that I shall always remain thankful to u. But sometimes the messages I've received make me ponder if it is the one sent by a preacher of love and peace as claimed. Please don't take me as a fanatic, critic or a hate-monger. Myself, I am just an ordinary Sindhi Muslim with only a little knowledge of history and religions. and I am as much proud of my Sindhi origins as I am of my religious inclinations. since u seem to be a devout and interested scholar of religious and historical studies, I am in no position to argue against or contradict your many well-researched or strongly-believed postulates and pre-set notions. These words that I feel obliged to jot down are to provide u an opportunity to know about the mind set of an ordinary Muslim Sindhi who is confronted with questions like why and how we got converted and whether partition was ok or not. Please I urge u that it may not be seen as an attempt to try to change your opinion, but it is a honest try to explain mine. Also, I would like to add that those like you and your parents who migrated from their homelands after partition have every right to feel on more personal and intimate way unlike me who did not lose much except a feeling of nostalgia and sometimes real pain in losing a part of our beloved Sindh, in the partition's wake. If I am not sounding a little patronising, I wish to add that such pain and bitterness seem easy to justify as I have seen among many of my friend's, specially among their parents, who have migrated from India under the similar conditions. therefore, I've tended to take lightly, if not completely overlooked, some of the generalisations made in your remarks as in articles 'we sindhis'. After all we are all humans.
Sorry, before I explain that, bear me with my interpretation of the root cause of all problems including ours as it also suggests its solution too.
It is a basic human nature to propagate and take pride in its individuality of thought, origins, physical appearance, culture, history, etc. That is how we get different ethnicities, languages, religions. It also leads us to new innovations and inventions. And these sources of individuality could be material as well as non-material or perceived. This pride in individuality goes against the nature as well as society only when these differences are promoted negatively in order to subdue, harass or intimidate or harm those not possessing those traits. I think that is what happened at the time of partition between two dominant communities of India- Hindus and Muslims and it culminated in total alienation of both which continues to some extent to this day.
I've seen that the source of most of problems among us- in this subcontinent revolves round our historical baggage of the distant past- rule of Muslims, emergence of Indian Muslims in India , as well as more recent partition days. Our opinion and perception about each other how faulty or without much proof these may be, are mainly shaped by these periods. The division of Indian subcontinent, howsoever we may dislike it or label it unnatural, was left as the only viable option then. this was due partly to the failure of leadership of people of both major communities, egoism and egotism on both sides, some material & some perceived differences- both reconcilable as well as irreconcilable- in the points of views of both major sides. Obviously 'created-differences' played their part too, but in that persistent air of great mistrust, suspicion and fear, partition was the only feasible option despite great human cost and material loss attached to it. You may disagree with me and u may present some ingenious plan to salvage the situation then. but remember nobody came up with the plan despite all hectic efforts by some very intelligent and forward looking minds present then. Not many people on both sides were in favour of a radical partition plan initially. It was only due to continuously deteriorating conditions with no solution in site that such partition was grudgingly accepted by both sides. And and you must not forget that this option of partition was already exercised and has since then been exercised from time to time, in the places like Europe, Arabia, south-east Asia, Africa among people and places with equal or even greater similarities than you can ever find in very diverse Indian subcontinent. if such things are never bound to happen, how can u explain the fall of British empire, specifically partition or independence of its English-speaking/cultural colonies of U.S.A., Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc.? or conflicting aspirations of Irish people with different religious backgrounds found in the so-called enlightened European continent's northern Ireland corner? or differences among and their preferences to stay independent among many small or big Arab countries, likewise sharing a common heritage or culture or ethnic background or religion? Or more recently among Slav people of former Yugoslavia to have their own way? Believe me, as I am in Balkan these days, their differences in culture and languages are trifle if u compare those with ours in great Indian landmass. Even when u look inside India today, if a Sikh becomes totally alien to the concept of the Indian union sometimes or a major north-south divide or a high-caste-low caste divide exists in India as elsewhere in the world may be in different forms. My friend it can be traced back to one ultimate common motivation or human urge- to be different and maintain their individuality. when someone thinks that his right or even the self-created individuality is in danger he fights back. This all can be avoided or more practically minimized only if points of differences with others are not looked down upon but always appreciated from their point of view. Only then we can be in a position not to annoy or antagonise those sharing many other things in common with us. it is not an easy task but it should be discussed and practiced like an art. no wonder many old prophets and sages told us not to indulge in unnecessary talk as u might end up annoying or hurting some other human being. In my opinion, we could have avoided the partition of India in this way only if we had talked and listened to each other then instead of calling each other foreigners, wicked bannias, cow-eating maleech or back-stabbing conspirators. So my brother, I just want to tell u that I feel hurt when I see a very educated and enlightened person like you, may be unintentionally, hurting another fellow being again and on the same lines. it hurts more when in such case both persons/parties share some common heritage. They say that the most vicious fight is the one fought within the family members. if the common heritage and culture is that of liberal and love-adoring Sindh who gave refuge to all from pre-historic times, as u yourself explained, such statements made by anyone tend to become clichés and oxymorons altogether. Hope I am not being too insolvent or rude.
Yes I am proud to be from the line of one of the oldest Rajput families of Sindh. but I am also equally proud to be a Muslim by faith. and I totally reject the assertion that my ancestors became Muslims accidentally under the duress or due to some lame reasons. Of course such cases can not be ruled out altogether in any society with a conqueror and conquered debate still very ripe but u can not change the belief system of an entire community for very long and that comprehensively that way. this becomes even more difficult to believe when you see the rise of the same indigenous community to power after a little while. Immediately after Arab rule when sumeras or sammas of sindh came to power, it would have been very easy and even expedient to revert back to the religion of their ancestors if it were imposed under duress. After all Arab caliph was very far in Baghdad and Muslims were in a small numbers in Sindh or elsewhere in India at that time; and central Asian Muslim rulers had no forceful permanent presence as yet. may be we should not blame such harsh judgements about Indian/Pakistan Muslims as they are themselves judged more on the basis of actions and strategies of those medieval kings and conquerors like Mahmud Ghaznavi, Mohammad Ghuri, Aurangzeb etc and in present times on the basis of stereotype images of very secular leaders of partition like Jinnah and his colleagues. when we do it we tend to forget that those kings or rulers or leaders were, may be very fine battle-field strategists, fighters and men of immense energies, but only that and never always the models of Islam as a religion. if there were any model Muslims in those days, these were sufi's like Qalander, Shah Latif, Sachal, Data Ganj Bux, Nizamuddin Aulia, etc. and people flocked to them and put their faith in their teachings not because of fear or greed but because of their message and spiritualism. We may disagree on this my friend as the faith is an intangible thing hard to prove but it also help u channelise your hidden inner energies and faculties. Had it been the sword of an emperor or ruler to make us convert to Islam, believe me most of Indian people would have been Muslims by now. after all they were the rulers for so many centuries. Also, at least a big majority of people in UP and adjoining areas would have been Muslims as it has mainly been the supreme seat of their governance and power. on the contrary, only a small minority of Muslims- though always privileged due to close proximity to the Muslim seat of power- live there. All I want to say is that most of us- rather our ancestors- converted on the basis of making a conscious choice of faith and many others did not do so. other factors might have nurtured this faith at one time or the other. Like Ashoka the Great's conversion to Buddhism helped that religion in India, etc. also, some instances of forced conversions can not be ruled out by some over-zealous persons in power as in case of one incident at a talpur-court. Please don't equate Islam with the acts of one or more individuals- it says clearly in quran that "there is no compulsion in the religion (islam -to follow it)". If taleban destroy Buddha's statues- without getting into its political reasons- it is not Islam that we believe in. strangely enough, in Balkans many Serbs use the same logic to explain and criticise why most Slavs in Bosnia converted to Islam or most Albanians did the same under Turks without explaining why the bulk of Slavs in Serbia, Croatia and many Albanians, and Greeks did not do so though they remained under the same Turk rule for almost the same period of time. On the contrary, these events are very much unlike the mass murder and exodus of Muslims and Jews in Spain after the fall of Muslim Spain of 600 hundred years old. Today u can't find a single original Muslim or Jew there after what happened to them in the name of religion-the inquisition. but we must not forget that the acts of king Ferdinand and church leaders then, although carried out in the name of Christianity had nothing in common with teachings of Christianity. Likewise, in India it was simply a power struggle which had resulted in equal if not greater number of muslim-against-muslim battles / killings similar to many other muslim-against-hindu battles. if force had prevailed in such matters Aurangzeb would have made most of Deccan and Rajasthan as muslim-majority areas, or equally Akbar the great would have made a big chunk of Indian populace as the follower of his self-created din-e-illahi.
We need to get out of this nightmare of yester years in order to think more positively and clearly. after all each partition leads to a new union. may be we are now better placed to forge together a new union of some sorts ultimately based on the same European model that they are experimenting with these days. while we head in that direction, let us hold our emotions and listen to each other's point of view. may we succeed in creating a better and more tolerant future for us all.MY REPLY:
You wrote:' ... we need to get out of this nightmare of yester years in order to think more positively and clearly. after all each partition leads to a new union. may be we are now better placed to forge together a new union of some sorts ultimately based on the same European model that they are experimenting with these days. while we head in that direction, let us hold our emotions and listen to each other's point of view. may we succeed in creating a better and more tolerant future for us'
Your last paragraph is the bottom line 'sou baaton ki ek baat'. I also honor your point of view. Do I have your permission to put up your letter on my web-site under 'Readers Respond' so that 'we can listen to your point of view'When I put up your letter on my web-site, I shall put up mine unedited. I would like to clarify however that when I wrote the last line in my article, my intention had been to make my readers 'not forget their culture and language'. But I realise that it can be misunderstood!
Dal Sabzi for the Aatman
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