RAM PANJWANI – Towering Patriarch.
Promises dynamic changes at NCPSL
By Mahesh Vaswani
The name RAM PANJWANI takes every Sindhi down memory lane reminding one of the late folk singer and Bombay University Professor who had become the most inspiring cult leader of the community during his times. However the legendary name is also modestly shared by yet another titan of the community who is a well known Supreme Court Lawyer. The Supreme Court Lawyer, who has been recently appointed to the coveted post of the Vice Chairman of the National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Language (NCPSL) unfolds all about his life and plans for the community to SINDHISHAAN in an exclusive interview at his plush Delhi residence.
Born on the 12th of March 1924, in Pakistan, he completed Law from the S. L. Shahani Law College in Sindh. After his LL.B., he did his Post Graduation in Law from the Pune University and began practice in India. The towering personality reveals that he has been a close confidante of the NCPSL Chairman - Human Resources Minister Arjun Singh and has the cause of the Sindhi Community at heart.
Panjwani had been a firebrand student leader and a charismatic orator in Sindhi Language during his college days. Then prior to partition he met the veteran Congressman Barrister Rajni Patel in Pune and joined the Quit India Movement against the British rule. Being a lawyer by profession, he was promptly arrested by the British and jailed for 4 years.
“On October 6th 1947, I landed in Bombay with a princely sum of Rs. 400/- and two bags,” he says. “My mother had carefully packed my Law Degree and other documents relating to my academic qualifications knowing they would be my most valuable wealth after we migrated from Pakistan. And had those documents not been safe, I may not have been able to take up the legal profession at that time.” Today, Ram Panjwani has the distinction of having the largest number of reported cases in the law magazine All India Reporter, as compared to any other Sindhi lawyer in India.
As a lawyer he always fought for the weaker sections in the society and it was his sustained contention that bonus was a right for the workers and not a gift. The Capitalists used to insist that Bonus is an ex-gratia payment to the workers. This was opposed by the Sindhi Lawyer and Bonus is now awarded as a matter of right recognized by law. This became a settled law in the matter of the workers of the Bhopal Textile Mills owned by powerful textile baron Jwala Prasad Shrivastav of Kanpur. This has today become the rule of the industry all over the globe. In 1952, he represented the Sindhi Community in a peace delegation to China and again in 1953 he represented the Community as a youth leader in a delegation to Romania.
On 1st December 1976, a Collegium of 18 Supreme Court Judges considered and approved his name to be designated Senior Advocate. He was the first Sindhi of independent India to be so designated by the top Indian court. Taking a potshot at the US and western world, he says there is a lot of bias against the Indians. Indian Lawyers are not allowed to practise there and they have to study there again before they get a license to practise law. The Indian Government is doing just right by refusing foreign Law firms' entry into the Indian legal system in return, says the octogenarian NCPSL Vice Chairman.
The NCPSL is a body set up by the Union Government to promote the Sindhi Language and keep the Sindhi culture alive, particularly in the times of globalization and the diminishing use of Sindhi language by the new generation of the community. He expresses his disappointment at the lack of the previous Council members to utilize the funds allocated by the Central Government. Merely holding closed door seminars, reading a few poems on those occasions and not being able to reach out to the masses is what had been the trend of the past NCPSL members.
The new captain Ram Panjwani has already put his legal acumen and seriousness to work for the cause of the community. Due to his efforts the Government doubled the earlier budget of NCPSL from 1 crore to 2 crores on 26th February 2008. A compilation of popular Sindhi thirteen short stories titled Registani Phool authored by Jaffar Belddar is top on his agenda.
The NCPSL wants every Sindhi on this planet to feel a sense of pride in being a Sindhi. The Community's declining interest in the Sindhi language and culture is causing concern to several community leaders. NCPSL is planning to immediately publish three basic books in an effort to meet the Herculean challenge of promoting the language. The books will be about “What a Sindhi Means?” from the word Sindhu evolved the word Sindhi and it was on the banks of the Sindhu where the Rigvedas were authored. The Sindhu is the mother river even to the mighty Indian River Ganga. Very few people know that the Rigved was written on the banks of Sindhu, he laments.
The second book he has shortlisted for mass publication is Kadimi Sindh, which has been authored by Behroomal Meherchand Advani. Behroomal Advani who passed away in Mumbai in 1953 has given the copy rights for the 450 page book to the Sindhi Sahitya Academy. And the third book NCPSL wants printed immediately is Charchnama, written by Gobind Khushalani. It is sad that the community does not encourage the writers and authors. They are not paid adequately nor do they get social status or incentives to further their passionate cause towards the community.
Finally the NCPSL Vice Chairman Ram Panjwani makes an appeal to the Sindhi Community to come forward and send in their suggestions and ideas to help keep the Sindhi language and culture alive. Those interested in sending their views may correspond with Mr. Panjwani at NCPSL, West Block VII, R. K. Puram, Sector - 1, New Delhi - 110 066.