Volume - 3 : Issue - 2

Published : April - June 2004

Group : Culture


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A CARAVAN of Committed Creators


By Arun Babani

Brief History
The partition of India was unfortunate for the country, but it was virtually a great tragedy for the Sindhi community, which had to flee their beloved ancestral land SINDH. In this tragic process, the highly civilized and advanced community got uprooted from its soil and in the absence of a well-planned rehabilitation scheme, the Sindhi community was scattered throughout the length and breath of this vast country, and even spread to far flung countries of Asia, Europe, America and Africa.

The challenge was really formidable, but Sindhis’ summoned their courage and strong will. With hard work, perseverance and acumen, they broke many grounds and records and achieved impressive economic progress.

On the cultural front, a young band of forward looking writers, became very sensitive to the dangers Sindhi language was exposed to. It became ominous, when the top leaders of the community, issued sermons to the people to forget their homeland - Sindh. Soon after, the very same leaders, recommended to the Government of India a change in the script of the Sindhi language, from the present, THREE HUNDRED years old script to the Devnagari script, without referring this important issue to the scholars and writers of the community. Sindhi writers opposed this illegal and harmful move and got the order modified.

SINDHI SAHIT MANDAL, with the sole object of promoting the cause of Sindhi language, literature, culture and other arts, was established at Bombay (1949). A well-known dramatist Prof. M. U. Malkani was elected as the President of the Mandal. It was the first such Sindhi literary association in India, which in the years to come, became a beacon for literary cum cultural upsurge and a source of inspiration to Writers and Artists, all over India to organize themselves in defence of their language and culture in various cities of India.

In a few years time at many places such literary circles sprang up. It became an everexpanding stream which assumed the form of a movement, which later on came to be popularly known as ‘SINDHIYAT’, which inter-alia asserted the distinctiveness of the Sindhi people with their glorious past and ancient culture.

The year 1957 was a turning point in the postpartition history of the Sindhi community, when an all India Sindhi Boli (Language) Convention was called in the capital (New Delhi) by the Sindhu Samaj (Delhi) to review the literary and cultural scene of Sindhis in India after a lapse of a decade (1947-1957). Groups coming from different directions, like small revulets merged into a big stream at New Delhi. Nearly two hundred delegates participated in the two day convention, which was inaugurated by Hon’ble Dr. Radha Krishnan the philosopher, Vice President of India. An eminent Sindhi scholar Principal Lalsingh Ajwani, presided over the inaugural session. The convention pressed its major demand of giving rightful status to the Sindhi language by including it in the Eigth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

The following year (1958), Convention, now characterized as Sindhi Sahit Sammelan, was held in Bombay, which was inaugurated by Hon’ble Shri Humayun Kabir, a cabinet minister in the Government of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. Shri Jairamdas Doulatram, well known Sindhi Congress leader presided over the delegates’ sessions. Third All India Sindhi Sahit Sammelan was convened in 1959 at Nagpur, where an idea of forming an All India body of Sindhi Writers, Artists, Educationists Scholars and other intellectuals was mooted to impart the movement the status of an all embracing, permanent platform for voicing the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Sindhi community in the fields of art, literature, culture, education, language etc. A provisional committee with Shri A. J. Uttam as Convenor was setup to frame the rules for such an All India Organization.

The fourth Sindhi Sahit Sammelan at Gandhidham in the year 1960, became a significant event in more ways than one. The attendance of the delegates shot upto 1800. The rules of the constitution for the all India organization framed by the provisional committee, were placed before the open session of the delegates, which were approved unanimously. An all India organisation was formed and named as the AKHIL BHARAT SINDHI BOLI AIN SAHIT SABHA, with head quarters at Bombay. The veteran Sindhi dramatist Prof. M.U. Malkani was elected as the first President of the SABHA.

Sindhi Sahit Sammelans became a regular feature. The sammelan became such a popular occasion for the Sindhi Community that it seemed as a National Festival. Thousands of people coming from far off corners of the country participated in the festival. Apart from the regular literary, educational and cultural sessions, Sammelan provided a broad platform for cultural entertainment. Numerous cultural troupes and most outstanding artists of the community were invited to take part in the three day pageant of Sindhi Song, Dance, Drama and Folk art.

The Tenth Sahit Sammelan in the year 1972 was of great significance. It was held in the metropolitan city of Bombay, second time, after a lapse of fourteen years. In all the previous nine sammelans, most senior and elderly literateurs had occupied the Presidential chair. It was for the first time, a representative from the younger generation of Sindhi Writers, Shri KIRAT BABANI was elected to preside over the proceedings of the sammelan and also become the President of the Sabha. With its youthful spirit and great fund of energy, it had erstwhile been mostly an agitational platform. Now, constructive and creative activities were introduced. Shri Kirat Babani remained President of the Sabha continuously for eleven years.

Again the 20th Sahit Sammelan at Jaipur in the year 1997 was a great historic event. It was celebrated in a big way, as it was the glorious occasion of completion of TWENTY Sahit Sammelans, and also FORTY magnificant years of the movement of Sindhyat (1957 -1997).

Record of Achievements

Recognition of Sindhi Language: An injustice had been committed to the Sindhi community by excluding the rich and one of the most ancient languages of the world from the schedule of languages mentioned in the constitution of Independent India. Sabha launched a vigorous agitation against such discriminatory treatment to a community. A movement was built up by organizing meetings, demonstrations, passing of resolutions, sending telegrams, offering dharnas and hunger strikes in the capital and other big cities and towns focussing attention of the nation to the wrong done to the Sindhi language. Ultimately the Sabha succeeded. After seventeen long years of agitation and fight, in the year 1967, during the Prime Ministership of Smt. Indira Gandhi, Sindhi language was given its rightful place in the Indian constitution, through an amendment, supported by all the parties in the Indian parliament.

Literary Seminars: To inspire and encourage creative literary activities among the Sindhi Writers, Sabha has been organizing Sindhi Writers’ seminars since 1973, with the specific object of discussing literary problems of mutual interest to them. SIXTEEN such seminars have been held in different cities in India. Sabha invites nearly a hundred prominent Sindhi writers and provides them facilities of lodging and boarding and also pays both way traveling expenses.

Drama Festivals: It has been Sabha’s earnest desire to promote dramatic arts and encourage Sindhi stage activities. To meet this end, Sabha held first all India Sindhi Drama Festival and competition at Calcutta in the year 1972. So far THIRTEEN such festivals have been held at different cities in India, the last being at Bhopal in the year 1999. Sabha gives each participating dramatic group a lump sum of Rs. FIVE THOUSAND in addition to making arrangements for comfortable lodging and boarding for the artists. Each group and every artist is honoured with a specially made artistic trophy also.

Educational and Youth Conferences: Sabha has also paid keen attention to the problems of education of Sindhi children in India. So far six educational conferences have been held in different states, that have discussed difficulties of the Sindhi students and formulated urgent demands of our children. Likewise youth conventions have been held to bring the Sindhi Youth on a common platform and to draw attention to their specific requirements and further to inculcate among them love of their language and cultural heritage and encourage them to take up creative cultural and literary activities, Sabha has been organizing Youth Festivals also.

Sindhi Bhagat Mela: To bring living Sindhi Bhagats on a common platform to present “The Bhagat” (A unique Sindhi folk form of music, dance and story telling), Sabha organized a three day mela at Gondia (Maharashtra) in the year (1992). Out of TWENTY available Bhagats, TWELVE were invited, of whom EIGHT participated in the festival. They performed the Bhagat in the traditional open air atmosphere. In appreciation, Sabha gave each Bhagat a cash prize of Eleven Hundred Rupees, a specially made trophy with Bhagat Kanwarram’s carving on it and a dushala. Sabha produced a cassette on `Bhagat’ during the mela, in order to preserve this Sindhi folk-art form, for the coming generations.

Felicitations of Writers & Stage Artists: In the year 1994, a worthy example was established. Sabha organized a special felicitation programme of honouring TEN literateurs who had reached the age of SEVENTY and above, for their overall services to the Sindhi Language and Literature. The function was held at Jaipur, where each one of them was given a cash prize of Rupees ELEVEN HUNDRED, a specially prepared artistic trophy for the occasion and a dushala. In a similar way, on the occasion of Centenary Celebrations of Sindhi stage, FOURTEEN outstanding Sindhi Stage Artists and Dramatists, who had put in fifty years of service to the Sindhi Stage and Dramas, were felicitated in the year 1995 at Nagpur. Each one was given a cash prize of Rupees ELEVEN HUNDRED, a specially made trophy and dushala.

International Women’s Year : In the year 1975 on the occasion of the International Women’s year, Sabha held a function to honour NINETEEN distinguished Sindhi Women, who had rendered significant services in different fields of activity-social, cultural, and educational. The function was presided over by the well known freedom fighter and national leader, Ms. Jethibhen Sipahimalani at K.C. College, Bombay, and the well known film actress Mrs. Sadhna (Nayyar) Shivdasani, gave away a trophy and a shawl on behalf of the Sabha to the distinguished ladies.

Celebration of Cheti-chand : Postpartition period has witnessed a great upsurge in the community spirit among the Sindhis. The birthday of Sindhi God Oderolal (Jhulelal) has been identified with such spirit. Today Cheti-Chand has become a rallying occasion for the Sindhis to unify themselves on one platform. Sabha had given a call for celebration of this auspicious day as a day of ‘SINDHYAT’ some Forty years back. Now it has caught the imagination of not only Sindhis in India, but all over the world. There is a great rejoicing on this day, apart from putting up cultural programs, displaying great talent of Sindhi song, dance, drama and folk-arts.

Offering Annual Cash Awards : For last many years, Sabha has introduced schemes of awarding handsome prize for meritorious services in literature, art, education, social service and promoting Sindhi language. Every year these cash prizes are given at the time of celebration of Chetichand.

In conclusion, Sabha was the earliest united platform of Sindhi intellectuals formed to unite Sindhi artists writers, scholars, dramatist, singers and others for the all round promotion of Sindhi, language, literature, art education and preservation of the distinct identity of the Sindhi community which had been uprooted from its soil and got scattered through the length and breadth of India, and the whole world.

The leading force of Sabha was a trimurti of Sindhi writers, that had emerged during the struggle and vicissitudes of scattered life. The trimurti is well known in the Sindhi community - Sarva Shri (Late) Gobind Malhi, Kirat Babani and A.J. Uttam, who have given their whole life in the cause of Sindhiyat.

The outstanding or the most important achievement of Sabha is its crowning success of getting the Sindhi language recognised by the Indian Parliament and included in the 8th scheduled of Indian Constitution in the year 1966.

The work of ‘Sabha’ is not complete, much has to be achieved yet and the caravan goes on.....
and Sindhishaan wishes the Sabha Greater Success.