Interview with DR. MURLIDHAR JETLEY
by Ram Jawhrani
Sindhi Sarmayo by Ram Jawhrani highlights the selfless efforts put in to promote SINDHI language, literature, culture and heritage, along with information about their personal achievements.
History records and narrates descriptions of past events and communities. It chronicles life beginning with the Stone Age, when mankind presumed that darkness of the night signalled an attack of the enemy and fanned the winnowing basket like fools the whole night thinking that they will be able to get rid of the darkness. And as soon as it was dawn, they would presume they had won.
History demonstrates the progress of human civilization and intelligence. From ancient days to the present times, Sindhi writers have shown new paths and directions to society. They have awakened sleeping minds to rise and obtain freedom from the shackles of slavery, they have penned nationalistic and sacrificial songs and articles full of patriotic fervour.
Today one such renowned litterateur is present with us from whose pen our society has received many literary works opening our minds to wider horizons. He is Dr. Murlidhar Jetley, who at present is the Vice-Chairman of Sindhi Academy, Delhi. He has been actively associated with Sindhi educational, literary and socio-cultural activities for the last 60 years and is former Associate Professor and Head of Sindhi studies in Department of Modern Indian Languages and literary studies, University of Delhi.
R. Jawhrani : Dr. Jetley Sahab let’s begin with your date and place of birth.
Dr. Jetley : Ram, I was born on 7th November 1930, in Hyderabad, Sindh. The famous Shahi Bazar of Hyderabad stretches from Ghulam Shah Kalhora’s fort in the south upto the tombs of the Mirs in the north. The Central Jail was also located there near the tombs and close by was the Hirabad colony, established by the Sindhi Hindu Amil’s. The length of the bazaar must have been approximately 1½ to 2 Kilometers, but the breadth was hardly around 15 feet with shops on either side. There were many by-lanes on either side of the bazaar which were known by the different family names like Advani lane, Chandiramani lane, Malkani lane, Mansukhani lane and so on. In the centre of the bazaar on the eastern side was the Mukhiki lane, where we had our 3 houses. One consisted of my grandfather’s clinic, the other was occupied by my grandfather’s younger brother and his family, while my father and his younger brothers stayed in the third house, where I was born. In fact, Shahi Bazaar was built on a bare hill with sloping sides viz. Tilak Chaadhi and Thorhe Chaadhi etc. with Phuleli canal on the east and Sindhu river on the west. Even now the structure of the old city is almost the same, although the splendour and elegance of the pre-partition days is absent.
R. Jawhrani : Can you shed some more light on the Jetley family?
Dr. Jetley : All the Sindhi family names usually end with ‘ani’ suffix which has been adopted from the Sanskrit language meaning children or descendents or ‘related to’. For example Jawhrani means children of Jawharmal, Advani means Adomal’s children, Jethmalani means children of Jethamal, Gidwani means Gidumal’s children, Kripalani means Kripaldas’ children and so on. In short, the family name was derived from our ancestors’ name about 5 to 6 generations ago. Marriages are usually not solemnised amongst couples having the same family name, as it would tantamount to a marriage between siblings of the same family.
Now coming to your question, there were only 20 Jetley families in entire Sindh, residing in Hyderabad, Karachi, Tando Adam, Sehwan and Mirpur Khas etc. The name Jetley is the modified name of a Maharishi ‘Jaitri’ from the Vedic period. Over the last 400 years Jetleys have been residing in the territories of Sindh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. All of them are Saraswat Brahmins, who used to reside along the Saraswati river during the Vedic period. Thereafter, they spread out to different parts of India. At the moment there are many Saraswat Brahmins in Punjab belonging to the Jetley family. Many Saraswat Brahmins also reside in the Maharashtra and Konkan region. Incidentally, Arun Jetley, one of the leaders of BJP is also a Punjabi Saraswat Brahmin.
R. Jawhrani : You just said that on either side of Shahi Bazaar in Hyderabad, there were many lanes named after the Hindu families. Can you elaborate some of its history?
Dr. Jetley : The city of Hyderabad was established by Ghulam Shah Kalhora and the Shahi Bazaar of Hyderabad was built on the upper most portion of a bare hill. Since the 8th century, there used to be an old settlement called ‘Nerankot’, in this area. In 1768, Ghulam Shah Kalhora erected a strong fort in Hyderabad and made the city the capital of his kingdom. Therefore in the initial period of the 18th century many Hindus who used to reside at Khudabad in Dadu district, and later at New Khudabad, in Hala Taluka migrated to Hyderabad. Ghulam Shah’s Haveli and Durbar were situated inside the fort, but the commoners, Hindus as well as Muslims resided on the outskirts of the fort. The Hindu Amils and Bhaibands, who migrated from Khudabad to Hyderabad were granted plots on either sides of the Shahi Bazaar outside the governmental fort, where various Hindu families built their houses. In this manner those lanes took the name after the families residing in those lanes. Gradually, other areas outside the fort also began developing. The houses in Hyderabad could be easily identified by the wind catchers on the roofs which could be seen on almost all the roofs in the olden city. These wind catchers used to face the south-west direction from where the cool sea breeze entered and cooled the entire house. We too had one such wind catcher on the roof of our house.
While going through the ancestral records of my elders from the books kept with the Pandits in Haridwar, I learnt that my ancestors used to reside in the villages of Khudabad and Phakka in Dadu district. Later, when the city of Hyderabad was established during the regime of Ghulam Shah Kalhora, they migrated to Hyderabad and began to stay in the Mukhiki lane of Shahi Bazaar.
R. Jawhrani : You said that some of the Saraswat Brahmins who used to reside in Punjab, and the adjoining states had migrated to Sindh. Did any other Hindu Sindhis also migrate to Sindh from other places? And what was the condition of Hindus in Sindh during the reign of the Muslim rulers?
Dr. Jetley : Ram you must have read ‘The History of Sindhi Hindus’ written in 2 volumes by Bherumal Maharchand Advani. That book throws ample light on this issue. During the times of Raja Dahersen in Sindh, the Arabs under the leadership of Mohammed Bin Qassim attacked Sindh, defeated Raja Dahersen in 712 A. D. and established their rule in many parts of Sindh and Multan. Therefore historically, the Arabs also called Sindh Bab-e-Islam, meaning – the Gateway of Islam. Prior to this, not only in Sindh, but in the whole of India, Hindus were also followers of Buddhism and Jainism. During the Arab rule many of the original inhabitants of Sindh were forcibly converted to Islam. While there were some who accepted Islam out of greed, inducements, association etc.; there were also those staunch residents who adhered to their religion and became victims of various atrocities of the rulers. Then there were some who quit Sindh and migrated to the neighbouring Hindu kingdoms to preserve their religion. During the reign of Mughals, Kalhoras and Mirs when there was comparatively a peaceful atmosphere in Sindh with Hindus and Muslims living amicably together, many Hindus again migrated to Sindh from the neighbouring states. Inspite of this, at the time of partition of India in 1947, out of the total population in Sindh, Hindus were only 23% while Muslims were 75% and about 2% belonged to other religions. Therefore the entire Sindh state went to Pakistan.
In 1843, British rule was established in Sindh and after 4 years Sindh became part of Bombay Presidency. In 1936, Sindh was separated from Bombay Presidency by the British government and given the status of an individual state. There is however no doubt that from the year 712 to the year 1843 when Sindh was ruled by Muslims for more than 11 centuries, Hindus were mostly suppressed and harassed. This is also supported by the history of Sindhi literature. During the Muslim rule, except for Sami, Dalpat and Assuram there were no other Hindu Sindhi poet saints who gained prominence. On the other hand during the British rule in Sindh, immediately many Hindu Sindhis came to the forefront and gained prominence in the field of education and literature. From this it is quite clear that during the era of Muslim rule in Sindh, there must have been Sindhi Hindu litterateurs, poets etc., but their writings or literary works have never come to light or have been destroyed forever.
Even in the Medieval period, we haven’t found any Sindhi poetry or literature in the Sagun devotion of Lord Ram or Lord Krishna. While during the same period, there are innumerable works and poems of Sagun devotion to be found in other Indian languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Rajasthani etc. The translation of Ramayan, Mahabharat, Shreemad Bhagavat Puran and poems based on these great epics has been found in most other Indian languages, but not in Sindhi. During this period Swami Prananath’s 600 quatrains have come to light which have been composed in Sindhi-Kutchhi which is a dialect of the Sindhi language. This is because Swami Prananath was a resident of Jamnagar which is outside the Sindh state but his maternal relatives belonged to Sindh region. Such poems were also composed in Sindh during the British rule. This also goes to prove that during the Muslim rule, Hindu Sindhi litterateurs must have definitely composed various writings depicting their religious feelings, but none of them is available today.
R. Jawhrani : During the time of partition you must have been 16 – 17 years of age and must be having a fair recollection about the conditions prevailing during those days. Can you share with us some memories from your childhood and about your education?
Dr. Jetley : Brother Ram, the environment in our home was associated with language and literature which had a great impact on my mind during childhood. I took my primary education in one of the branches of Nav Vidyalaya High School which was close to our lane at Miyan Faqir’s square. All subjects were taught in Sindhi, but at home there was an atmosphere of Hindi and Sanskrit. My grandfather Pandit Topanlal was a scholar of Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali languages. He was also a well-known Ayurvedic doctor. He was the Principal of Sindh Martanda Ayurved Vidyalaya situated at Chandiramani lane. Students from all over Sindh used to come to that college to learn Ayurveda. Famous Sindhi writers Arjun Sikayal, Govardhan Nathani etc. were also students at that school. Students were prepared for examinations of Prayaga Vidya Peeth. My father Pandit Kishinchand Jetley and other uncles also achieved degrees in Ayurveda from this college.
At home Hindi and Sanskrit were used quite frequently. My father took Sanskrit education at Dayaram Gidumal Sankrit Pathshaala, where a Maharashtrain Pandit Kaashinath Padhye Shastri used to teach formal Sanskrit. When I was about 9 – 10 years old, I started learning Hindi and Sanskrit at home. We children used to learn Sanskrit in the night school viz., Sindh Saraswat Sanskrit Pathshaala at Chandiramani lane. Naagarjun the famous Hindi poet, Phaneshwar Nath Renu, the famous Hindi litterateur, Pandit Kaaluram Vyas the famous scholar of Sanskrit from Jodhpur and various other well-known Pandits had taught Hindi and Sanskrit in that school at different times. In this manner, I became interested in learning Sindhi and other languages right from the tender age of 10.
I obtained my secondary education at Navalrai Hiranand Academy. When I was in the first standard of English section, Rajpal Puri who also taught Hindi was appointed the Physical Training teacher of our school. With his efforts the various games played in the school playground in the evenings took the form of branches of RSS. Through his initiative libraries were established at many places in various lanes to inculcate patriotic feelings in the young minds. One such library was also established near our lane and the responsibility to look after it fell on my shoulders. In the evenings, I used to open the library for about 2 hours. At that age, during that free time at the library, I must have read about 150 – 200 Sindhi books which included books of Sunder Sahitya, e.g. Bal Ramayana, Bal Krishna, Bal Mahabharata, Hindu Veer Balak, etc. the biographies of Sikh martyrs, life sketches of patriots, stories of Rajputs, brave personalities and patriots etc. I developed this hobby of reading at the young age of 10 – 11. After a couple of years, my tastes in reading also changed. I began to read detective books like Chandrkanta, Bhootnath, Gul Bakavali, Chaar Darvesh, Mumtaz Dumsaaz, Black Jasoos, Sherlock Holmes, Emilia Carter etc. and also got drawn to other detective novels. Thus, at a young age, instead of playing games etc., reading literature became my main hobby. During the summer and winter vacations, when I visited my maternal grandparents, I used to carry bags full of story books and other books. My maternal grandparents stayed at Maahjhand which was a small village close to Laakha and Sun. In 1939, during the Diwali vacations, I got the opportunity to witness the last Bhagat of Saint Kanwar Ram at Maahjhand, who was later on murdered by some goons at Ruk railway station, on 1st November.
R. Jawhrani : Did you participate in India’s freedom struggle?
Dr. Jetley : I clearly remember the Quit India Movement of 1942, when I was 12 years old. We were studying in our classroom, when suddenly a few students of 6th and 7th standard of the English school entered our classroom and advised our teacher to shut down the school. But when the teacher refused, they carried us in their arms (as we were quite small) and took us out of the classrooms and taking us out of the school closed the main gate. Soon police reached the scene and lathi charged the students. Some of them were arrested, taken to the Police Station and punished by whipping. A few other students were made to lie nude on ice slabs and tied to the slabs. I witnessed these incidents with my own eyes. The senior students used to give us (juniors) cyclostyled bulletins which we used to secretly distribute to shops and homes. Senior students often put phosphorous in the post boxes to burn the mail and undertook various other destructive activities.
R. Jawhrani : Any memories of the partition?
Dr. Jetley : The Britishers granted India independence on 15th August 1947 and partitioned the country into two – India and Pakistan. Partitioning Punjab and Bengal a new nation of Pakistan came into existence with majority of Muslim population. As Sindh had a Muslim majority it was included in Pakistan. The decision regarding this had been already announced earlier by the British in March – April 1947. Therefore in the Muslim dominated areas riots broke out to oust the Hindus, while in other areas with Hindu majority, the Muslims were at the receiving end. The result was that even prior to independence, migration on a large scale had already begun. During this year, I was in the Matriculation class, i.e. 7th standard of the English School. Our class teacher was Shri Jeevatram Masand. I asked him, “Sir, our Sindh state has been included in Pakistan which means now over here Islamic rule will be established. So will Hindus reside here or quit Sindh?” The teacher replied smilingly, “Just like in the olden days, Hindus who had lived under the Muslim rule will now too be doing the same. The only difference will be that the weekly holiday will be on Friday instead of Sunday.” But, it is evident that this change over of rule was not so smooth and easy.
I distinctly remember that when we went to school after the summer vacations, we saw that each class was occupied by families of Muslim refugees from India. They had broken our benches and desks and thrown them out on the playground. They were using the wooden furniture as fuel and cooking their meals. At that time we went to Principal Ramsingh Advani’s office who was sitting fearfully and helplessly in his room. We asked him, “Sir will the school re-open or not?” He replied, “There don’t seem to be any chances of the school re-opening. Whoever wants can take their Leaving Certificate.” We had no other option but to take our Leaving Certificates and return home. Soon the conditions spiralled out of hand and became so bad that in August itself Hindus started quitting Sindh and migrating to India on a large scale. During that time many Hindus felt that within a short time the situation would stabilize and conditions return to normal and we would soon return to our homes. But later in the months of September and October even our family left Sindh in groups.
R. Jawhrani : Our scholars and litterateurs have time and again said that Sindh is the country of Sufis, Saints and Darveshs, where Hindus and Muslims resided peacefully and amicably. They would stand by each other during good and bad times. Then what fear did the Hindus face that they quit Sindh?
Dr. Jetley : In my opinion the notion that there was absolute peace in Sindh is incorrect. Yes, it can be said that compared to the North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, Bengal, Bihar etc., the environment was much more peaceful in Sindh. History is proof that after Muslim League became powerful in Sindh, Hindus started facing riots even prior to independence. For instance, in Sukkur, riots broke out on the Manzilgah issue, Sant Kanwar Ram was assassinated, Hassaram Pamnani and Allahbux Soomro became victims of bullets. In 1945, Muslims attacked Hindu children, who were playing games in Hyderabad fort and injured a good many people, who came forward to protect them. Nenooram Sharma was stabbed to death in this attack. After partition, lakhs of Muslim Muhajirs came and settled in Sindh, forcefully broke the locks of the houses left by the Hindus and occupied them. During these times of insurgency, even the Police and Law took sides with these Muhajirs. Even Sadhu T. L. Vaswani, other saints and social workers who didn’t want to quit Sindh, had to do so due to the prevalent conditions. The government, the police, law enforcers, various other officers also found themselves helpless. The government, suspecting social workers like Hundraj Dukhayal, Tirth Basant, etc. to be spies of India, imprisoned them in jails. Dacoits murdered the Hindu landlords and wealthy persons and looted their wealth. Can this be termed as a peaceful Sufiana atmosphere?
Ram, during the partition, even I performed a daring and brave task, which I feel is important to mention here. In December 1947, I went alone to Hyderabad, Sindh from Abu Road with just one simple purpose – to bring back to India valuable important books kept at home. On 17th and 18th December riots broke out in Hyderabad, which I personally witnessed. I have presented a picture of the same in the ‘Memories’ issue of Sindhu Jyot magazine published by Sindhi Academy, Delhi. In the last week of December, filling 10 wooden boxes of books with the help of my cousin Gobind, I returned to Abu Road. I thus risked my life, just for the love of books. I don’t think any other Sindhi, all by himself, (especially during this period when thousands of Hindus were migrating to India quitting Sindh) must have taken such a risk of putting one’s life in danger by going back to Sindh just for bringing back books. I have the satisfaction that most of those books are still safe with me.
After I left Sindh, one of the worst riots broke out in Karachi on 6th January 1948. Many Sindhi Hindus lost their lives and property. Then again on 26th January many houses of Sindhi Hindus in Hyderabad were looted. Not only were the Muslim Muhajirs responsible for this, but even many of the Sindhi Muslims had a hand in it. You will find very few examples that you can enumerate on your finger tips, where Sindhi Muslims saved and protected the lives and properties of Sindhi Hindus. Here I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that when Sindhi Hindus were quitting Sindh, their luggage and belongings were being thoroughly checked and most of the police officers responsible for checking were Sindhi Muslims. During the process of checking they retained all items they liked for themselves. So to say that all Sindhi Muslims were sympathetic towards the migrating Sindhi Hindus is incorrect.
R. Jawhrani : After migration, where did you settle in India and where did you obtain your higher education?
Dr. Jetley : After leaving Hyderabad we settled at Jodhpur, Sojat Road, and Abu Road for some time. Due to the migration, I could not appear for my Matriculation Examination in March 1948. Two of my uncles and few other close relatives came and settled at Baroda. Ladharam Mohandas established a High School in 1948 at Baroda for Sindhi students. He was the principal of Gurdasmal High School in Hyderabad, Sindh. At that time my parents and other family members were at Abu Road, while I stayed with my chacha and maasar in Baroda. They resided at Outrom Camp. I secured admission in Ladharam school and appeared for my 11th standard examination for S.S.C. Board, Pune in March 1949. Thereafter, my family shifted to Pune and I obtained my M.A. and Doctorate of Philosophy from Pune University. From 1950 to 1960 I taught Hindi and Sanskrit at Naveen Hind High School while studying in college. From 1960 to 1964 I was appointed as a Research Fellow at Deccan College, Pune, where I did research in Morphology of the Sindhi language and was awarded Ph.D. degree in 1965 by University of Pune.
I am the first Research Fellow in India to do research in the Sindhi language and acquire a PhD. One year earlier Lachman Khubchandani had acquired PhD from America after doing research in Sindhi and Hindi. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Reader of Sindhi language Linguistic Department at Deccan College. There we began the project of compiling the Sindhi-English dictionary, but I regret that till date this project hasn’t been completed. From 1964 to 1966 I was appointed as Hindi lecturer in R. K. Talreja college at Ulhasnagar. During those days, I used to finish with my college duties in the morning at 11:00 and thereafter in the afternoon leave for Bombay, where I worked part time as Sub-editor for the weekly Hindvasi. The Chief Editor was Shri Maansingh Chuharmal. During those days, I came in close contact with Sindhi freedom fighters like Hiranand Karamchand, Jairamdas Daulatram, Prof. Ghanshyam Shivdasani etc. and some Sindhi litterateurs. In February 1966, I was appointed as Lecturer of Sindhi in Delhi University and later as Reader. I taught Sindhi and comparative Indian literature upto 6th November 1995, when I formally retired at the age of sixty five years. I have been writing in Sindhi, Hindi and English on various topics like Sindhi language and literature, its detailed study / research, its history etc. I have written 25 books and more than 100 research articles and papers. Under my guidance 5 students have done research and acquired PhD degree. Other than that I have examined about 20 theses submitted by research students to various universities for PhD degree. These include students from Indian as well as Sindh (Pakistan) universities.
R. Jawhrani : Jetley Sahab, you have been associated for more than 60 years with research in Sindhi education, Sindhi language, Sindhi literature. Could you kindly tell us what is the condition of Sindhi education in India nowadays? Is the future of Sindhi education in India bright or bleak?
Dr. Jetley : Ram, the questions you have asked are truly very important. Sindhi educationists and scholars have been thinking about the same issues for a long time. It has been 65 years since our country gained independence. After independence Sindhi language wasn’t included in the Draft of the Indian Constitution. This was only done on 10th April 1967. For those initial 20 years the Sindhi litterateurs, educationists kept up a constant struggle to get our language included in the VIII schedule along with the other main Indian languages. Soon after coming to India, Sindhi educationists established Sindhi schools wherever there were Sindhis in substantial numbers. Even before partition, the schools in Sindh state were affiliated with Bombay University, therefore, the Sindhi schools established in Maharashtra and Gujarat after partition started imparting education as per the syllabus laid down by the Bombay University. Then soon when Secondary School Boards were established by the government, they started teaching as per the guidelines of those Boards. The Sindhi schools established in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc. also started teaching as per the syllabus laid down by the Secondary School Boards of those respective states. Books on all subjects like History, Geography, Science, Maths, Social Sciences etc. were prepared and published in Sindhi. This went on quite enthusiastically for approximately 30 years. Then gradually the thinking gained momentum that in India, the future of children could be bright only if they learnt English and Hindi. Hence many parents began to get their children admitted to English medium schools. The result was that by the year 2010, there were only a few schools left imparting education through Sindhi medium. Now in most of the places Sindhi institutions, organisations and trusts which manage the Sindhi medium schools are shutting them down and running English medium schools, although some of these schools have made it mandatory for students, whose mother tongue is Sindhi to take up Sindhi as a subject. The sad truth is in the last 60 years Sindhi education has suffered an irreparable loss.
R. Jawhrani : Most of the Sindhi educationists are of the view that many Sindhi schools have shut down on account of the conflict between the Arabic and Devanagari script. What is your opinion on this?
Dr. Jetley : According to me, even if this conflict didn’t exist, Sindhi schools would have slowly shut down due to the growing dominance of the English language. In India, even today the English language has become dominant, due to which schools imparting education in regional languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati etc. are all dwindling. The elite class of our society is of the view that a child’s future will be bright only if he is educated in an English medium school. That they can then succeed in competitive examinations held by UPSC etc., and get appointed to top posts in government jobs; clear their MBA examinations and get selected for high postings in private multi-national companies, domestic as well as international, achieve and earn a lot, only if they are fluent in the English language.
R. Jawhrani : Tell us which script Arabic or Devanagari will be more beneficial for Sindhis in India?
Dr. Jetley : Currently in India, 65 years after independence, if we look at statistics it will become quite clear that amongst the Sindhi youth aged 30 – 35, there are hardly 1% Sindhi students who know the Arabic script. On the other hand in all the states in India, where Sindhi children are being educated in English or other medium schools, they have to compulsorily learn Hindi. Now as Hindi is written in the Devanagari script all the students have gained knowledge of that script formally. Therefore, if Sindhi language is written adopting the Devanagari script in India, then all the Sindhi youngsters will be able to read Sindhi books. This script can play the important role of keeping the younger generation of Sindhis connected with each other.
R. Jawhrani : Jetley Sahab, if we adopt the Devanagari script for Sindhi language then Sindhi children of the younger generation will be deprived of reading thousands of books written in the Arabic script. Also the Sindhi literature which is being produced in Sindh will not be able to reach us and they will be unable to read even that. They will thus get completely cut off from their literary heritage. What are your views on this?
Dr. Jetley : Brother Ram, what you are saying is absolutely correct that a major portion of our literature has been published and is still being published in the Sindhi Arabic script. Undoubtedly, most of literature produced in Sindhi is in this script. My response to your question is that we should select the Sindhi literary masterpieces of the earlier days as well as the present day and get them published in the Devanagari script. The textbooks as well as the popular books of poetry, novels, fiction, plays, life-sketches, history etc. read by ordinary people should also be included; so that even those who don’t know the Arabic script can get acquainted with their literary heritage, history and present their literary compositions also in Devanagari script.
I am also of the opinion that youngsters who wish to learn Sindhi language and literature at home, or who want to do research for their PhDs, should compulsorily learn to read and write in the Sindhi Arabic script, else their foundation will be weak. Take the example of the Punjabi language. Punjabi is written in the Urdu script in Pakistan, while here in India it is written in the Gurumukhi script. If Pakistani research scholars want to read Punjabi literature produced in India then they have to learn the Gurumukhi script, and similarly Indian Punjabi scholars learn the Urdu script and do research on Punjabi literature produced in Pakistan. Sindhi research scholars from both the countries can adopt a similar approach. It is quite obvious that the number of scholars doing such type of research is quite small and there is no need to force the common readers of Sindhi to compulsorily learn the Arabic script to read Sindhi literature written in that script.
I also have my personal experience regarding this. When we started classes for teaching Sindhi Arabic script to Sindhi youngsters, initially there was lot of enthusiasm amongst them but then this gradually waned to such an extent that in the end only about 8 – 10 students remained in these classes and even they forgot what was learnt within 2 – 3 months, if they didn’t continue to practice reading or writing. Therefore those who are genuinely interested or those who want to do some research are welcome to learn the Arabic and / or other scripts. Here I would also like to give the example of Dr. Ravi Prakash Tekchandani of Delhi University. He has done research on the topic – ‘Sindhi Proverbs : A Linguistic and Socio-Cultural Study’ and written a thesis which is in the Devanagari script. This has been transliterated into the Arabic script and recently published in 2010 by the Sindhi Language Authority, Hyderabad, Sindh. This thesis has been immensely praised in Sindh. Therefore, even other research books published in Devanagari Sindhi in India are being transliterated into Arabic Sindhi script by the litterateurs in Sindh, Pakistan. There are no limitations or boundaries on acquiring knowledge and education. It is said that where there is a will there is a way. Some scholars of Sindh, Pakistan, Abdul Karim Sandelo, Tanveer Abbasi, Dr. Fahmida Hussain, etc. can also read and write in Devanagari script.
R. Jawhrani : Could you throw some light on the future of the Sindhi language.
Dr. Jetley : There is no doubt that Sindhi language does not have a place to call its own in India and there are very few speakers of this language in this country and they are settled in various linguistic states. Therefore it is quite natural that Sindhi language faces many hurdles in its path and in the efforts to promote it. Amongst the languages enlisted in the Constitution of India, there are only two languages – Urdu and Sindhi without their own state in this vast country. But comparatively, the condition of Urdu is much better than Sindhi, because in Jammu and Kashmir it is notified as the official language of that state. Besides this in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh it has been notified as the second official language. There are also several universities working hard for the promotion of Urdu language like Aligarh Muslim University, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad Muslim University etc. Compared to this there is hardly any initiative from the government for the promotion of Sindhi language.
After being appointed lecturer in Delhi University since 1966, I have been associated with various schemes for the promotion of Sindhi language initiated by the government. In 1975 in Central Hindi Directorate, New Delhi, under Central Government’s Education Department a Sindhi unit was established. An advisory committee was set up for the same and I was a member of that committee. From 1989 to 1994 I was also the Vice-Chairman of that committee. Various schemes were initiated by that unit for the promotion of Sindhi language which are still operating till date. It is due to the emphatic and consistent efforts of this advisory committee that National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Language (NCPSL) was established in 1994. Other than this, Sindhi Academies have also been established by the State Governments of the respective States where Sindhis reside in considerable numbers. These States are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Delhi. The Indian Government has also established the Minority Commission which is working for the promotion of Sindhi language.
In my opinion many schemes and plans have been initiated by the government for the promotion of Sindhi language and literature, but till we don’t strengthen the roots at the base, there won’t be satisfactory or substantial progress. These roots are – family, where a child learns his mother tongue and various other customs and traditions. It is the responsibility of the parents and other family members to speak with their children in Sindhi. If from childhood a child hears his mother tongue then he will definitely learn and speak in that language and those cultural values will remain with him for life. I have seen many such Sindhi children, who are educated in English and Hindi medium schools, but who speak in Sindhi at home with their parents and other relatives. But there are also many who speak in Hindi and English, but can’t speak in their mother tongue Sindhi; and there are also those who don’t even understand Sindhi.
Since the past 7 years, I have been the Vice-Chairman of Sindhi Academy, Delhi. Over the past 20 years we have observed that young Sindhi children cannot speak their mother tongue or properly pronounce g, j, d, b, etc. and hence every year during the summer vacation we started teaching them Sindhi through plays, songs, dances etc. The result of this was quite satisfactory. Now these children speak chaste Sindhi and many of them have been drawn to the language and its literature. From this it is quite clear that through vocal cultural programmes we can teach Sindhi and its literature to our children in an entertaining manner. There is a saying in Sindhi that when the cattle are thirsty they go by themselves towards the pond and drink water. But when they aren’t thirsty, even if you forcefully take them to the water source, they won’t drink. From this it is quite clear that programmes such as music, dance, dramas, etc. are the only means to develop that desire in the young minds to learn Sindhi and getting inspired by these, they will by themselves get attracted towards learning the language, reading literature etc. If such efforts are constantly maintained the future for Sindhi language is bright.
R. Jawhrani : If relations between India and Pakistan become favourable would you like to go back and settle in Sindh?
Dr. Jetley : After partition we Sindhis have got scattered in different cities, and got ourselves fruitfully settled at various locations in India. Under such circumstances, I don’t think any Sindhi would like to go back to Sindh. It is more than enough that the relations between the two countries improve, trade and travelling improves, and literary and cultural exchanges take place amicably.
Ram you must be aware that I have participated thrice in the Sindh International Conference. First time in 1986, in Sukkur at Shah Latif Conference, the second time in 1989, in Karacht at Sachal Sarmast Conference and the third time in 1996, in Karachi at Kalhora Conference. I presented papers at each Conference and the Sindhis welcomed and showered lots of love and affection besides honouring us. Inspite of this, during the present times, the prevailing official and social conditions in Sindh are such that no Sindhi, who has once been uprooted from there would like to go back and settle there permanently.
R. Jawhrani : During the present times, in India we don’t get to see Sindhi youngsters at cultural programmes organized by us. How should we connect them with their musical heritage?
Dr. Jetley : Ram what you just said is absolutely correct. The younger generation of Sindhis has been cut off from us to a great extent. If we see in the field of Sindhi literature due to closure andlack of formal Sindhi education, no new young writer has emerged. Nowadays, you don’t find any young Sindhi writers of 25 – 30 years age. In the same manner there is lack of young Sindhi singers, musicians, dancers, actors, performers, artists etc. Therefore we have taken great efforts on behalf of Sindhi Academy Delhi and started various schemes to encourage youngsters to come forward. For example, during the summer vacations we organize ‘Bal Utsav’. We have also started teaching Sindhi software programmes on computers to Sindhi youngsters. After taking such training they are equipped to earn a lucrative livelihood for themselves. We have also started various schemes to prepare Sindhi youth for acquiring jobs and good positions through Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh. If we can connect the study of Sindhi language and literature with decent livelihood, then automatically the youth will learn their mother tongue, its literature and get acquainted with it. By starting a channel on Doordarshan we can show Sindhi programmes and promote our language on one hand, while also giving Sindhi artists an opportunity to showcase their talent.
R. Jawhrani : What is your opinion about the need for Sindhis to have their own state in India?
Dr. Jetley : All the states in India are formed on linguistic basis and since Sindhis are not present in a majority in any of the states, Sindhi language hasn’t got official status in any of them. From the point of view of Linguistics, Kutchhi-Sindhi is a dialect of Sindhi and keeping the similarities of these languages in mind, Bhai Pratap had asked for land from the Maharaja of Kutchh to settle the migrant Sindhis, and he generously granted many acres of land to Bhai Pratap, who established Sindhi colonies of Adipur and Gandhidham. But prior to that many Sindhis had already settled at various places in India and had started earning their livelihood. Obviously they didn’t want to uproot themselves again and go and settle in Adipur and Gandhidham and at present there are many non-Sindhis also staying there. Moreover, the Sindhis who stay there haven’t been able to merge with the life-style of Kutchhis with regards to cuisine, attire, etc. The Sindhis who came and settled here after partition haven’t been able to assimilate themselves with the locals in the border areas of Rajasthan like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Baarmer etc. or with the people who speak the Dhaatki language. The reason for this being the vast difference in the lifestyles of these locals and the Sindhis. If here too we think of establishing a new Sindh, it won’t succeed. Areas of Ulhasnagar, Chembur, Pimpri, Bhairagarh etc. where Sindhis were made to settle in large numbers immediately after partition can be considered as prominent Sindhi areas in India now. If we plan to establish new Sindh in Union Territories, which are under the Central Government, then even that won’t be successful, because the Sindhis who have already settled in various places won’t leave those places and go and settle in the new area.
Keeping all these points in mind, establishing a new Sindh in any area is just a wishful dream, according to me. It is better to strengthen the areas as Sindhi cultural centres where Sindhis reside in large numbers. In Mumbai, the plan to build Sindhi Bhasha Bhavan should be put into reality at the Kalina Campus of Mumbai University. There we also have Sahyog Foundation Corner for the preservation and promotion of Sindhyat. We should strive hard to make these efforts a success and these efforts will surely be successful.
R. Jawhrani : Jetley Sahab, thank you for giving us your valuable time and sharing your thoughts with us.