We, the Sindhis . . . . .
Yes, We Can
By Dr. Nandlal Jotwani
I have, from time to time, given a clarion call about the declining number of speakers of Sindhi language in India. The nation is left with only a few institutions, which impart education through the medium of Sindhi language or teach Sindhi language as a subject in the school. The sad story obtains in undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels, too, wherein the number of students opting for study of Sindhi language has been on decline. The number of students enrolled for studying Sindhi language has been markedly declining with the over-all decline in use of Sindhi language among the Sindhis, even in their own homes. A language is a skills subject and the skill of speech precedes the skills of reading, writing and listening. The clarion call of mine should awaken our great community to do something positive to transmit the Sindhi language gene in new generation, the pressing socio-economic constraints notwithstanding.
Sindhi is one who speaks Sindhi
We would do well to speak in Sindhi language in our homes, the home being the primary school of learning by the child. Of course, I do recognize the daunting challenges posed by the unprecedented partition and massive migration in challenging conditions.
The Sindhi linguistic minority, like many other minority languages in India, faces major challenges in preserving its language and constructing or retaining its cultural identity. It would be interesting for the Sindhi Academies in various States to carry out a scientific survey or research into the traditional Sindhi cultural perspective vis-à-vis the experiences of its youth in the context of diverse environment they live in and interact with. The intergenerational gap may probably be clearly visible, indicative of evolution of a hybrid identity. This perspective gained from the studies may lead to further exploration of the Sindhi youth's desire to be open to plural worlds and to interact in our ever-changing, ever-evolving societies with a constructive vision of cultural globalization.
Yes, we can
The economic and political domination of the British in India has left behind a legacy where English is looked upon as a language of prestige and opportunity. The new generation, informed as it is, generally goes by the 'language utility value' and 'language vitality score', encompassing multiple factors and variables like the 'language availability' in the knowledge society marked by multimedia and mass media - cinema, newspapers, television, radio, etc., - monopolized by commercially and culturally dominant mainstream languages. Most of the Sindhi boys and girls today tend to lack motivation to learn their native language or assert their cultural roots. Hence, we need to integrate our higher level support to the grassroots level activity to ensure the sustained promotion and propagation of our language, literature and heritage. Yes, together, we can.
As it were, the linguistic minorities have been provided with certain safeguards by the Constitution of India. For example, any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same; no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them; the minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice; in making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause; the State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language; every person shall be entitled to submit a representation for the redressal of any grievance to any officer or authority of the Union or a State in any of the languages used in the Union or in the State, as the case may be. In sum, it shall be the endeavour of every State and of every local authority within the State to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the mother-tongue at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups.
Besides, there are additional Consensual Safeguards, which have been agreed to by the Central and the State Governments, for example: Instruction through minority languages at the Secondary stage of education; translation and publication of important rules, regulations, notices, etc., into all languages, which are spoken by at least 15% of the total population at district or sub-district level; etc.
The Constitutional and the Consensual Safeguards together with practical way to implement them has certain Combined Scheme of Safeguards, for example, translation and publication of important rules, regulations, notices, etc., into all languages, which are spoken by at least 15% of the total population at district or sub-district level; declaration of minority languages as second official language in districts where persons speaking such languages constitute 60% or more of the population; receipt of, and reply to, representations in minority languages; scheme of safeguards; instruction through minority languages at the Primary and Secondary Stage of education; advance registration of linguistic preference of linguistic minority pupils, and inter-school adjustments; provision for text books and teachers in minority languages; implementation of Three-language Formula; no insistence upon knowledge of State's Official Language at the time of recruitment (the test of proficiency in the State's official language to be held before completion of probation); issue of pamphlets in minority languages detailing safeguards available to linguistic minorities; setting up of proper machinery at the State and district levels.
The dynamic Sindhi linguistic minority shall surely avail itself of various safeguards enshrined in the Constitution of India, etc. As it were, the Sindhis have skillfully converted the formidable challenge into opportunities. In spite of various constraints, they have managed to move forward and progress upwards, undaunted by lack of the geographic space in our country.
We have several success stories and accomplishments in various fields of endeavour and entrepreneurship. We hope and trust that we shall be able to add yet another feather in our caps by skillfully balancing our identity against the aggressive market models of development available in the mainstream languages, and thus save our Sindhi language from extinction. Yes, we can.
Happy New Year! Happy Everything!!
Dr. Nandlal Jotwani is an IAF veteran, an eminent educationist, linguist, litterateur, scholar and poet. He is recipient of several national and international awards, in addition to having been honoured with the status of 'Visiting Fellow' by Stanford University, U.S.A. Presently, he is the Commissioner, Linguistics Minorities, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India. Email: email@example.com