TIME TO RETHINK?
by - Ranjit Butani
I AM AN INDIAN – was the opening remark of Amar Jaleel, Ex Vice Chancellor, Allana Iqbal Open University, Islamabad (Pakistan), while presenting his dissertation “A Sindhi – Free from Partition's Communal Dogma” at the International Seminar on 6th March 2007, 'Relevance of Sindhyat in Modern Times', hosted by the Department of Sindhi as part of the sesquicentenary celebrations of University of Mumbai. “I was born in INDIA; there was no Pakistan then; and above all I am a Sindhi!” – he continued.
“We are at the first and foremost SINDHIS and then Muslims and Pakistanis” was the refrain of a group of Muslim Sindhis from Pakistan who participated in an informal working session at the 11th International Sindhi Sammelan, held in London during July 2004. “Why are we accorded a cold reception to the point of making us feel unwelcome at Sindhi Forums hosted by Hindu Sindhis” was their singular lament. SILENCE. There were no answers forthcoming.
As far as I can recall, right from my childhood days, none of the elders in my family; parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents ever uttered a single word against the Muslim Sindhis from the pre-partition days. On the contrary they always sang praises and had kind words for their Muslim neighbours and friends. Neither do I recall having read a single article written by a Hindu Sindhi deriding the Muslim Sindhis on any ground whatsoever. There are ample stories and anecdotes about the Hindus visiting mosques of Pirs and Sufi shrines with utmost respect and devotion.
THEN WHY THIS DIVIDE?
Why is it that when we refer to SINDHI DIASPORA we count only the Hindu population and do not include the Pakistani Sindhis. After all, SINDH of today is not the same as it was before partition and I have read and been told by several visiting Sindhis from Pakistan that the Muslim Sindhis in Sindh feel outsiders in their own home state. When they can, without any apprehension and fear, although they are under constant threat of retribution for such acts, openly decry their brotherhood with the Hindus why is it that the Hindu Sindhi shies from reciprocating.
Nayantara Sehgal reviewing Popati Hiranandani's – SINDHIS – The Scattered Treasure states that "the book will impress upon the readers the secular outlook of the Sindhis who draws his language, culture and inspiration from both Hindu and Muslim streams."
Ram Jethmalani in his article 'SINDH AND SINDHIS' written in 2004 states “When the Hindu parted from his Muslim brother, often tearful scenes were witnessed and as Pakistan plunged into economic backwardness and a military dictatorship, the Muslim Sindhi in melancholy and nostalgia wished for the return of his Hindu brother”.
It will not be amiss to reproduce some extracts from Ram Jethmalani's address at the International Seminar mentioned in my opening paragraph :
“Our origins go back 7000 years to the banks of the great river Indus. There was no religion at that time. I am not a man of religion but I mean no disrespect to religion. I am of the firm belief that religion has done more harm than good. Maybe it provides comfort, some solace, some hope to the unhappy people who are looking for something in the world that they could not find otherwise. On the whole religion has a negative balance sheet and that is why after a study of all religions I have found a one line religion of my own – “make as many people as happy as you can during your short span of life”. Religion and virtue are both a special form of ego and ego is the cause of trouble, strife, conflict, violence and war. Angels fly because they are so light; it is ego that makes us heavy and we cannot leave this earth and fly.
5000 years ago our ancestors lived in the best of towns, towns with swimming pools, granaries, godowns, broad roads, underground drainage systems; and art flourished. We have to be proud of that civilization. When I met President Musharraf I told him 'give me Sindh and take away Kashmir'. Sindhis have not received justice either in India or Pakistan. Therefore Sindhis have to join forces together and fight for International Justice.
TIME FOR A RETHINK?
I throw this issue open to debate and invite the readers' views.