THE GENESIS AND OBJECTIVES OF SAMMELANS
By Ram Jawhrani
The concept of gatherings usually known as “Sammelan” now, dates back to ancient days. In ancient days, people used to wander alone for a living and in search of food. Eventually humans, who by nature are social animals, realized that they needed someone to share their space, and their knowledge. They started roaming in groups who had similar hunting activities and ate the same kind of food. They then started interacting with other groups who shared their way of living. They communicated various aspects of their life and their surroundings and spoke about how their group had survived on a certain kind of plant in the forest or spoke about how to fight a particular animal and their various hunting techniques and activities. They even spoke about their innovation of tools which help them survive, and they shared whatever they learnt with each other. These groups which were scattered, shared the same interests and started meeting on a regular basis.
Later get-togethers, meetings etc. became traditions or customs of the society. In the days of the joint-family systems, whenever some important decisions regarding the household had to be taken, all the members of the family came together, to ponder over the point in discussion, debate on it and only then was a decision finalized. Not only in households, but in villages and towns also, for development or to uphold discipline in life, and lay down norms for the society, Panchayats were formed. During the Panchayat Meetings all would put forward their opinions (which were always welcome) and only after considering the opinion of all those present, decisions would be taken. To take these meetings a step forward, religious events and festivals started being organized. On the occasions of Diwali, Holi or birthdays, all the family members, relatives, friends and well wishers would look forward to meeting each other to air their thoughts, feelings and emotions, or to take advice or offer opinions.
With the passage of time, population increased and so did the gap between towns and the villages. The meetings between relatives and family members gradually decreased. The institution of joint-family also slowly started declining. The modes of travel and transportation were not well developed and communication was quite difficult. The caretakers, well wishers of the society and social workers felt that – to preserve our customs, to assist each other, to share happiness or sorrow, like a family, these meetings, get-togethers, congregations are a must. The importance and significance of these meetings was felt greatly at the time of Partition, when Sindhis migrated from different regions of Sindh like Sukkur, Shikarpur, Karachi, Larkano etc. to India. No doubt all of them were Sindhis, but being from different regions they did not have direct communications with each other and were not familiar with each other. Those were the most difficult times for the community, when support was desperately needed. During those times, such get-togethers were obligatory due to which a few well wishers came together and formed associations and institutions. The social institutions' main aim was to meet and discuss how to alleviate the hardships encountered, and assist the community members in obtaining a roof over their heads and means to earn their daily bread, preserve our culture and tradition.
In a similar manner, after some time, Sindhis who were staying abroad felt that we must inculcate the love for our mother tongue amongst the youth in order to save our culture. For this, get-togethers were necessary. So wherever in the foreign countries, where about 15 to 20 Sindhi families resided, they started building temples and 'Shivalayas'. They started organizing get-togethers in these temples on occasions like Diwali, so that the children got the flavour of being Sindhi. All efforts were made to acquaint the young ones with our culture. The frenzy of changing one's name, which occurred amongst Sindhis staying in foreign countries, was pinned down well in time. And these get-togethers went on from one town to the other and from one country to the other.
In India as well as abroad various institutions were formed and their organizers were applauded for the same. Seeing this shortcut to instant fame and recognition, many wanted to participate and bask in this glory. Hence many more new Sindhi institutions sprang up every where, with the same aims and objects. But slowly and gradually the basic aims and objects and the principals of these institutions vanished in the intoxication of seeking fame. Many institutions remained only in name, while the actual functioning did not exist. Only those institutions that worked honestly, keeping in mind their duty towards society are till now functioning satisfactorily.
There is one such institution, whose foundation was laid at a Diwali function – Alliance of Sindhi Associations of America which gave birth to International Sindhi Sammelan. This institution moved forward with the eagerness and zeal of visiting all the corners of the world. It took them about ten years to reach out to the world. In the beginning its functioning was restricted only to the USA and then they brought their message of Sindhyat to London and India. The main achievement of this International Sindhi Sammelan in the past 15 years has been that the Non-Sindhis have also started believing that the community which showed the path of civilization to the world will not be wiped out and will always keep adding new pages to history. I feel it is necessary that the purpose as well as the aims and objects with which these Sammelans started, should be modified, keeping in mind the changing times and circumstances.
Sindhis residing in India look with great hope and aspirations toward the Sindhis who live abroad. Like the members of other communities come forward to lend a helping hand to their community brothers and sisters, that same expectation exists in Sindhis too. The Sammelan should look forward to provide solutions keeping in mind the following points:
- providing employment in foreign countries
- awarding scholarships to intelligent and deserving students
- offering financial help to those who excel in sports
- providing assistance to poor families
- helping the needy in such a way that every Sindhi should be able to provide for himself and his family.
- encouraging new and budding artists
- making efforts to enable renowned Sindhi artists to reach out to the whole world
- promoting new authors, because if our literature is lost then there will be no trace or history of our culture and civilization.
- considering minutely about how to reach out to our younger generation, to revive their interest and pride in Sindhyat.
Our history is not being taught in any of the schools in India, because every state is interested in teaching its own language and history to its students. Our rich and ancient Sindhi literature, penned down by our legendary and distinguished litterateurs, is on the verge of disappearance due to non-usage or very little usage of the Sindhi Arabic script. To preserve this rich literature it should be translated into Hindi and English.
Nowadays one of the most difficult tasks is matrimonial alliances, which is faced by everyone in India as well as abroad. Towards this direction we have to take some concrete steps, like maybe hosting a website and giving information about the eligible youngsters on the website. Also on the website should be the entire information about our ancient culture and history so that not only Sindhis but also non-Sindhis feel proud.
It is truly heartening that during the Sammelan held in India, Global Sindhi Council was formed under the presidentship of Shri Ram Jethmalani. At that time, one aspect that was clearly felt was the vast difference in the Sammelan held in India and those that are held abroad. The Sammelans that are held abroad are usually held in the affluent atmosphere of five star hotels and delegates move around in air conditioned comfort. Varied decisions are taken at such Sammelans by the well-wishers of our community, who have great apprehension for the community. But Sindhis from India are not able to reach such Sammelans as traveling abroad requires lot of finance. Those who are able to make it to such Sammelans are usually the wealthy people. Barring a few, who are really concerned about the community and who desire to find out some concrete solutions to the existing problems, the remaining delegates, who attend the Sammelans, are usually the ones who desire to travel and take a tour of that country in which the Sammelan is being held. They are seldom interested in participating in the debates and discussions or the various decisions and the important resolutions passed at such Sammelans.
I would like to offer a suggestion to the organizers of the Sammelan that we must reach the root cause of the problems faced by the Sindhis living in every nook and corner of India, residing in remote towns and villages. These Sindhis, from small towns and villages, attend the Sammelans that are held here in India and inform us about the various problems faced by the community. Today also, if we glance, post partition, the government opened 96 refugee camps for the Sindhis which were in horrific conditions. For example, in the Ulhasnagar camp, low grade military personnel used to be housed. In this way all the refugee colonies were not at all habitable specially for Sindhis who had lived lavishly in Sindh. Its been a long time now and even till date there has not been much improvement in their living conditions. The problems faced by our Sindhi brothers and sisters who are staying in those colonies till now, and also of those Sindhis staying elsewhere in India should be considered by the International Sindhi Sammelan. I would like to request the organizers of the Sammelan to form a committee which would interact with the Sindhis in India, get a feedback on their problems, suggest various methods to solve those problems and present a detailed report in the Sammelan. The said reports should be discussed and debated over in the Sammelans and specific resolutions be passed for further steps to be taken. Only then can it be said that something has been achieved at these Sammelans. This is because Indians look at these Sammelans with lots of hope and aspirations. They do believe that there are well wishers from our community who are concerned about our future and will definitely help us for a brighter tomorrow.
My friends I think now the time has come that we get together and strengthen the tasks of the International Sindhi Sammelan and unite the Sindhis of the world to find out solutions to each and every problem faced by our community and prove to everyone that our organization believes in action more than words.