WE, THE SINDHIS
Today we are confronted with The Crises of Identity
By Dr. Nandlal Jotwani
Today, the Sindhi linguistic minority in India, like several other linguistic minorities, faces a formidable challenge of preserving its language and constructing or retaining its cultural identity. There is a growing chasm between the traditional Sindhi cultural perspective vis-à-vis the exposure and experiences of “We, the Sindhis” in India in the context of diverse environment we live in and interact with the civil society; scattered - as we are. The intergenerational gap, in particular, is today clearly visible as the writing on the wall, indicative of evolution of a hybrid identity of the Sindhis in India, in our tryst with the evolving societies in a multicultural milieu.
I have, from time to time, given a clarion call to our great community about the declining number of learners and speakers of Sindhi language in India. I have often emphasized the intertwined relationship between the language and culture. I have often brought home the fact that the 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 in spite of the pressing socio-economic constraints wherein “We, the Sindhis” are faced with a grim and growing hiatus between learning our language and earning our livelihood. A language unlinked with livelihood faces prospects of disuse and eventual extinction.
Sindhis are the Linguistic Minority in India
The term 'Linguistic Minority' has not been defined in the Constitution. A group or groups of people whose mother languages are different from the principal language(s) of the State/U.T. constitute the linguistic minority. The Supreme Court in DAV College Vs. State of Punjab (1971) said, "A linguistic minority for the purpose of Article 30(1) is one which must at least have a separate spoken language. It is not necessary that the language should also have distinct script for those who speak it so as to be a linguistic minority."
There are approximately 20 crore people who speak a language which is other than the principal language of the State or the Union Territory Thus, approximately 19% of our population happens to be the linguistic minorities. The intra-State migration and movement of population from different parts of the country in search of better economic or educational opportunities also contributes to the emerging linguistic scenario in the country. There is, therefore, an imperative need to effectively implement the safeguards for the linguistic minorities for giving equal opportunities to all and for ensuring harmonious and inclusive development of the country.
The Sindhi Youth Today
The Sindhi youth today is well-informed. He is influenced by various socio-economic indicators and philological factors like 'language utility value'; 'language vitality score' and 'language availability' in our knowledge society, which is driven by market, multimedia and mass media, that are monopolized by commercially viable 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 cultural heritage - tangible and intangible.
My Fervent Appeal
I have often fervently appealed to the dynamic Sindhi linguistic minority to avail itself of various safeguards for the linguistic minorities, which are enshrined in the Constitution of India. As it were, the Sindhis have skillfully managed to move forward and progress upwards, undaunted by lack of the geographic space or public space in electronic media 'Doordarshan', for which this writer has already addressed the Government of India about giving consideration to start an appropriate channel for the Sindhi population on Doordarshan National Network to propagate the language, art and culture of the Sindhi linguistic minority, which is scattered all over India. Since various channels are being operated by the Prasar Bharati, the necessity of consideration of an appropriate channel for the sizable Sindhi linguistic minority, merits appropriate attention of the government.
Realizing the need to incorporate culture as an strategic element in national planning, this writer has also suggested to the government to consider formulation of an appropriate Scheme of Scholarship for Students of the Minority Languages at Secondary and Higher Education levels as a significant initiative in the areas of protection, preservation and promotion of the minority languages, including Sindhi language.
The issue of promoting education in mother languages, including Sindhi, in the Schools and the concomitant provisioning of the Language Teachers for the learners of Sindhi language, has been engaging the attention of this author, who has been constructively engaged with the governments in the States and the Administrations in the Union Territories in this regard. The Nodal Officers of the States and U.T.s have also been effectively sensitized about it from time to time. An individual case of providing a Sindhi Teacher in a School in Rajasthan wherein the sufficient number of students had opted to learn Sindhi language, has also been addressed by this author recently. Besides, this author has further suggested to the government to consider extension of the proposed Scheme of Support for Minority Students Clearing the Preliminaries under the Civil Services Examination and the State Public Service Commission, so as to cover the students of the linguistic minorities too, including Sindhis, which will encourage the linguistic minorities to augment their representation in the Civil Services, at least proportionate to their demographic composition in the country.
Self-love is Not Selfishness
We must learn to love ourselves, our language, our literature, our heritage and our culture. “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”, said Buddha. We, the Sindhis, are indeed the proud inheritors of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The Mohen-jo-Daro and Harappa phenomenon is called civilization because of its town planning, monumental structures, hydrological systems, artifacts, agriculture and commerce, etc. The river Sindhu - the Indus - indeed gave its name not only to the Province of Sindh but also to the sub-continent. When Europeans and others lived in caves, our people along the Sindhu river had two-storey houses of brick and stone, with drainage system, public parks, art-works, fountains and granaries. We therefore owe it to our Generation Youth to keep them informed of our illustrious roots, great heritage and glorious culture.
Decline of the Indus Culture in India
It is not my intention to dwell upon the decline and fall of the great Indus Civilization. What perturbs me most is the phased decline of the Indus Culture - 'sindhiyat' - in India, unless immediate revival strategies and systems are not put in place in time. Within a decade or so, the present generation of Sindhi-knowing, Sindhi-speaking senior citizens may disappear altogether. The emerging generation with its new associations, inclinations, attitudes and aptitudes, mainly driven by market forces, may not carry the cultural baton of 'sindhiyat' as enthusiastically as we wish them to do. The issue of survival of 'sindhiyat' is closely linked to imperatives of the times we live in, in scattered places and in competitive conditions where demands of economic prudence takes precedence over aesthetic and cultural considerations.
Sadhu T. L. Vaswani wrote the following inspiring words, “How many of the Sindhis know that the Sumerians derived their culture from Sindh? How many know that Sindh had a share in checking Alexander's march in India? How many remember that once Sindh carried on commerce with Rome and Greece, with Asia Minor, Babylonia and Egypt? How many know that Sindh sent out her sons to settle in Java? How many know that the Buddha blessed Sindh by his meditations and personal teachings? How many are aware of the fact that her doctors and men of culture influenced the Khalifa's Court at Baghdad and the Arabs who carried the torch of culture to medieval universities in Europe?” Padmashri Dr. Motilal Jotwani has stated in his classic work “The Sindhis through the Centuries”, “The Sindhi dharma is secularist … the best of Hinduism (advaita Vedaanta), Islam (Sufism) and Sikhism congeal into the Sindhi religion and culture.”
Yes, We Can
“We, the Sindhis” have several success stories and accomplishments in various fields of endeavour and entrepreneurship. We indeed can add yet another feather in our cap by skillfully preserving our cultural identity in spite of aggressive market-driven avenues available in the mainstream languages, and thus save our cultural identity. Through this column, I call upon the enlightened Sindhi community and its learned entrepreneurs like Sarvashri Ram Buxani, Murij Manghnani, Hinduja Brothers, Ranjit Butani, Ram Jawhrani, Amar Doulatani, Harish Dubey, Murli Adnani, Nandlal Khanchandani, Prem Lalwani, etc., to launch collective, meaningful, innovative initiatives for the much-needed cultural renaissance among the Sindhis in India, creating vision and the public-private partnership to preserve the Sindhi Identity in these challenging times, when our Sindhi language is virtually on a 'ventilator', gasping for life.
It is hoped that the public-private partnership will help the cause of preservation and promotion of our cultural identity in the multilingual, multicultural ethos and élan of our great country.
The language and culture are intertwined, culture manifests through language while language reflects the culture; the language being the broad indicator of our identity. It therefore enjoins upon “We, the Sindhis” to speak in our mother language Sindhi and thereby retain our identity.
“We, the Sindhis” must contribute our mite to save our language, our heritage, our identity.
Yes, together, we can.
Dr. Nandlal Jotwani is the National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in India, Government of India. This widely-acclaimed column reflects his purely personal views. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org