PROTEST against DEMOLITION of SINDHI SETTLEMENTS at ULHASNAGAR
By Gobind Jhangiani – Trustee,
Bhartiya Sindhis’ Global Alliance (BSGA)
Attacks against Sindhi community – their heritage, national memory and traditions - are rising in speed and intensity. The latest salvo comes in the shape of the threat to demolish Sindhi settlements at Ulhas Nagar.
Bharatiya Sindhis’ Global Alliance (BSGA) is deeply anguished over this latest attack against Sindhis.
The sister-organizations of BSGA Sindhishaan (www.sindhishaan.com) established in Mumbai, the Sindhi Internet Resource (www.sindhi-net.com) established in London and the American Institute of Sindhulogy – AIS (www.Sindhulogy.org) established in North America share the anguish of BSGA over this fresh attack against the Sindhi community.
The three attacks in recent past were :
1) Threat to delete SINDH from the National Anthem of India JANA GANA MANA.
2) Threat to change name of River Sindhu to River Singhe
3) Threat to discontinue teaching of Sindhi Language in Schools in Gujarat
The threat to delete the word “Sindh” from India’s National Anthem was valiantly and passionately argued by Mr. Ram B. Jethmalani before the Supreme Court of India, resulting in the dismissal of the petition and a penalty of costs against the petitioner who urged this deletion. As to the order to change the name of Sindhu River in India to Singhe River, Government of India readily understood, on the basis of our petition, the firm stand of our community and withdrew the order. Similarly, the Government of Gujarat withdrew its order to discontinue teaching of Sindhi Language in Schools in Gujarat in view of the presentation by us of the legal and constitutional position under national & international law.
While rendering our thanks to Mr. Ram B. Jethmalani, we must also thank Sindhis all over the world, who joined hands with us to associate themselves with our protest and sent representations to Government of India at various levels (including the Prime Minister of India, the President and various Ministers) supporting whole-heartedly our stand, against these three major attacks. It is thanks to that support that we continued our protest till the end, until at last success was achieved.
The Sindhi community now faces a threat of a different kind. The threat is the extensive demolition of properties at the Sindhi settlement of Ulhas Nagar on the ground that certain building codes or construction guidelines were not observed or certain irregularities took place in seeking prior authorizations and that the necessary formalities in this regard were not fully observed.
We are hoping that once again, Mr. Ram B. Jethmalani will come to our rescue in the face of this dire threat and save the situation for the Sindhi community and take up the matter with Mumbai High Court and the State and other authorities in Mumbai to halt demolitions, and if no satisfaction is gained from them, the matter may need to be taken up with the Supreme Court of India and with Government of India at the high political level.
Normally, this matter falls strictly within the jurisdiction of the State – in this case Mumbai – but there are special conditions and considerations pertaining to Sindhis, whereby it may be possible to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, particularly, having regard to the fact that Sindhi community is being subjected to severe form of discrimination.
The following factors may be noted in this regard.
(a) The fact is that Sindhis who fled from Sindh to India after Partition, came originally as refugees While later, such Sindhis moving from Sindh (Pakistan) to India had the benefit of the Indian nationality, it has to be remembered that Ulhas Nagar originally was a Refugee camp and its essential character as a Refugee camp remains unaltered.
(b) To demand strict adherence to building codes and procedural constructional guidelines, except in cases of imminent danger to life, is to expect too much in or from a Refugee camp.
(c) The norms of international law and the spirit of United Nations requiring consideration and compassion to refugees, and special treatment to their camps, are now being violated.
(d) Demolition of property for want of adherence to certain municipal building codes and construction guidelines, represents a cruel, unjustified, unreasonable, severe and excessive punishment, contrary to the policies, procedures and practices of civilized nations.
(e) There is a violation of human rights, natural justice, and in particular, the continuation of injustice to the Sindh community by the policies of the Government right from the days of Partition itself. In fact, it may be necessary to take up the entire case of major grievances of Sindhis against the Indian leadership right from the creation of Pakistan and to draw attention to the following aspects
(1) Sindh with its entire territory, was surrendered to Pakistan as the result of the Partition.
(2) Certain large, defined territories , for instance the district of Tharparkar which had larger Hindu population was surrendered to Pakistan despite protests from local Sindhi Congress led by Dr. Choithram; while Muslims were able to fight for and get every territory or parts of territories with larger Muslim population (for instance, the parts of Syleht district in Assam). The Congress leadership even declined to accept the offer of accession of Khairpur State (in Sindh) to India.
(3) There was indeed no justification for surrender of Sindh in its entirety to Pakistan and at least on a smaller scale, the example of bifurcation of the Bengal and the Punjab could have been followed in case of Sindh. But Sindhi Hindus were thrown to the wolves without need or justification.
(4) Although All India Congress which constituted India’s leadership at and after the Partition instructed Sindhi Hindus not to leave Sindh, a situation developed whereby Sindhis were faced with massacre, rape, looting. Some local Sindhi Muslims tried to help but that help was ineffective. India’s leadership was unable to help Sindhi Hindus in Sindh in any manner. Even so, India’s leadership was unwilling that Sindhi Hindus should leave Sindh.
(5) The situation so developed in Sindh from coercion against Sindhi Hindus to convert to Islam or threats of murder, molestation of their women and beheading of their children, that local Sindhi Hindu Congress leaders in Sindh, despite instructions of India’s leadership to the contrary, began to assist Sindhis to flee from Sindh (NOTE: There are claims by Pakistan and they find support from some high political quarters in India that the threats to Sindhi Hindus in Pakistan have been exaggerated but they apparently choose to live in a dreamland of their own in order to embrace a fairy-tale that Sindhi Hindus left their centuries-old, ancient ancestral homeland of Sindh, abandoning their property, possessions and professions, and came penniless and empty handed to India like refugees, with no threat facing them but merely as the result of a whim).
(6) When Indian leaders were proving lukewarm in providing for Sindhi refugees in India, Dr. Choithram, the Congress leader from Sindh, rushed to Gandhiji. It was then that Gandhiji himself made that famous pronouncement to say “I AM A SINDHI”. Gandhi gave Dr.Choithram letters to various leaders, philanthropists, State Ministers in India and thus the gates of Indian hospitality to Sindhi refugees became somewhat open. (Please note, Gandhiji was against Partition at any cost and certainly of jettisoning Sindh. Consistently, repeatedly, he had warned of endless misery, suffering and blood that will flow as the result of Partition. On August 14, 1947, in New Delhi, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, sworn as the Prime Minister of India, made his famous speech of Tryst with Destiny, Mahatma Gandhi had declined to join in the celebrations in India’s capital over India’s independence. He left for Calcutta to be in a Refugee camp, listening to the melancholy strains of Tagore’s song, ‘Aikla chalo, aikla chalo, Aikla. ..’ (Walk alone, alone, alone).
(7) Thus the Refugee camp at Ulhas Nagar to house Sindhis came to be opened. To treat it as a normal residential or a business colony is totally unrealistic and utterly unjustified.
(8) Now there is litigation that for want of adherence to certain building codes etc., the properties in that Refugee camp be demolished involving losses of crores of rupees and the hard, patient work put in by those refugees to build those properties. In fact, the result will be to render them homeless, penniless and unable to meet the obligations and loans that they have taken on to build those properties, thereby putting the clock back to consign them to the helpless, hapless condition in which they were forced to leave Pakistan to meet the need of India for freedom and independence.
(9) Meanwhile all political rights of Statehood granted to other communities are denied to Sindhis and no representation in the Parliament of India or in the State Assemblies has been accorded to them. It is inconceivable to think that the situation in Mumbai demanding demolition of their extensive properties would have arisen if Sindhis had been given their legitimate rights of citizenship. Even the land allotted to them in their separate State would have been large enough to ensure adherence to building codes and construction norms.
Our submission is that, if need be, the foregoing and many related matters must be put up before the Supreme Court and more so, to the Government of India, to raise the question as to how their predecessors in power handled or rather , mishandled the question of creation of Pakistan and jettisoning of Sindh, and their failure to protect Sindhi Hindus in Sindh despite insistence that they should continue to remain in Pakistan. The entire question of political rights for Sindhis including representation to Parliament be brought in the open – to show that we have long-standing grievances, and that we mean business, remain dissatisfied and will agitate.
“Bharatiya Sindhis’ Global Alliance (BSGA) and its sister-organizations, Sindhishaan (www.sindhishaan.com) – the Sindhi Internet Resource (www.sindhi-net.com) and the American Institute of Sindhulogy – AIS (www.Sindhulogy.org) request that urgent attention be given by Government of India and Government of Maharashtra to the foregoing submissions and in the first instance, a Commission be established immediately to make recommendation for alternatives to avoid demolition and making such alternatives to avoid demolition and making such alterations to the buildings that are feasible in the circumstances.”
SINDHISHAAN ADDS :
“THIS IS IT”
To be humiliated and treated as second class citizens wherever you have settled!