Volume - 2 : Issue - 3

Published : Jul. - Sep. 2003

Group : Language


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By Dr. Manohar Matlani

The knowledge of a language is related to anthropology. To study a language is like studying a community, culture and civilization. A language and its literature take birth from the life of existing people. Literature is composed of prose and poetry, the source of which in ancient times used to be folklore. One should never underestimate the traditional songs our forefathers sang. Such songs should have been preserved for posterity as we know that the stories and legends of the past, of the people who lived before our time, of rivers, mountains, valleys, flowers, trees, birds, animals, longings, yearnings and aspirations of the years gone by, were all woven into songs and poems. Some of them have survived, while others are either half remembered or forgotten altogether. It is unfortunate that only a few, stray fragments of that knowledge of the past remain. Our memory poems are the treasure, the trustee and the guardian of the knowledge of our generation and through those poems, messages of our times passes on to all mankind for ever through time and space. The history of a language leads one to the history of a nation. The language enables people to explore different areas of our vast planet, called Earth.

Sindhi language is a humongous store of vocabulary, literature and a medium of expressing oneself. Its history dates back to the history of Sindh itself. Sindhi language is a storehouse and fountain head of our glorious past. It is rich in traditions and through it, we can gaze on our past aspirations as well as experiences. It has remained a medium of education since 11th century and even in those days it was used in literary circles, education, day to day affairs and for commercial purposes. Samma and Soomra rule and the fame of Thatta scholars saw mass entry of learned people from Iran, Afghanistan, Khorasan and from many other places into Sindh. Famous literary people of the times like, Qazi Qadan, Isahaque Ahangar and Makhdoom Ahmed Bhatti were responsible for giving impetus to Sindhi literature and education. Arghun and Turkhan era saw creation of immortal poetry by Shah Lutfullah Qadri, Shah Karim, Makhdoom Nooh and other poets of high caliber. Kalhora period brought new trends and new values. Makhdoom Abul Hassan, Makhdoom Ziauddin, Makhdoom Mohd. Hashim Thatvi, Shah Inayat Shaheed, Makhdoom Moin Thatvi and Shah Abdul Latif pumped new spirit into the Sindhi language. Talpur era saw provision of Sindhi education in seminaries along with education in Arabic language. Even before the advent of Britishers, Sindh saw great litterateurs and poets, who came out with finest renditions, raising Sindhi language to a higher pedestal. The list includes Sachal Sarmast, Mian Sarfaraz, Sabit Ali Shah, Makhdoom Abdul Rauf Bhatti, Sami, Dalpat and Rohal.

The Britishers too realized the importance and richness of Sindhi language and decided to make it a medium of education as well as the government and court language. Sir George Clerk, Governor of Bombay Presidency, made Sindhi the official and government language of Sindh, through a decree issued in 1848. The said decree read as follows :
“We should make native language (Sindhi) as an official language. I cannot understand as to how our revenue and court officers are able to carry on their work in alien languages, like Persian or English. In this respect, I propose that the officers be given a time frame of 18 months to learn Sindhi and pass its examination. Such officers can seek the help of Lieutenant George Stack’s dictionary, which he may be permitted to publish . . .”

Sindhi language got a great fillip in English era due to the regularization of Sindhi alphabet through a committee headed by B. H. Ellis. As a result many printing presses came inot existence and a good number of newspapers, books and magazines were published. Initially, Sindhi literature depended on translations from various languages, such as English, French, German, Russian, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hindi, Bengali, Sanskrit, Gujarati and Urdu etc., which gave way to original creations with due passage of time.

Sudden and untimely division of motherland India, dealt a heavy blow to the lovers of Sindhi language and literature, as majority of Sindhi litterateurs in pre-partition days were Hindus and they had to leave Sindh (as it was included in Pakistan, after partition) and proceed towards new areas of India. In the aftermath of partition, Sindhis had to initially worry about their very own survival, which led them to every nook and corner of India, resulting in a scattered population of Sindhis throughout India. Then too, some of the litterateurs did not lose heart and continued with the creation of new writings. But suddenly a G. R. from Central Government of India, issued in 1949, changed the script of Sindhi language from Arabic-Sindhi to Devnagari. The same was to be implemented from primary courses upto XII Std. gradually. The writing community of Sindhi language was infuriated on receiving this bolt from the blue. They challenged it in different for a, agitated, represented to the law makers for redressal and after a long pursuit, the Government issued another G.R. which entitled any school with minimum of 40 students and any class with minimum of 10 students to opt for any Sindhi script, i.e. either Arabic-Sindhi or Devnagari.

This episode of tow scripts divided Sindhi community vertically  into two parts. The aficionados of Sindhi language did not lost heart and instead trained their guns at the Government and tried for inclusion of Sindhi language into the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of India. Their hard work bore fruit and the language was made part of the Indian Constitution on 10th April, 1967. The move helped the langue a lot, as it was not only provided with necessary cover but gave it new avenues to grow and prosper. But the recognition of two scripts had dealt a deadly blow to the language, which was further compounded by the general aversion against vernacular languages and the lucre of English, obviously for its use in pursuit of higher commercial prospects.

Just three decades after independence, many Sindhi litterateurs started declaring that Sindhi language in India would not last more than ten more years. But thank God, Sindhi has still survived even after these prophesies from so called doomsdayers. One can never predict the turn of events in the future, as only God is privy to prior knowledge of the days to come. It is now fifty five years after the unfortunate partition of India, and presently not only Sindhi but many other vernacular languages find themselves at the crossroad of existence. The events of rapif progress, globalization, computerization and the use of internet have left all other languages, other than English, far behind. Every language is gasping for breath of fresh air. It looks as though only English will survive and the rest of the languages will become part of history.

Now where does Sindhi stand in the present scenario, As Sindhi in India is already termed as a landless language? Leave alone its use in literary pursuits, it even faces the prospects of extinction, as our present generation has stopped conversing with their offsprings in their mother tongue. Instead they opt for wrong mutilated Hindi or English. Presently only metropolitan aeras are afflicted with this malady, but the disease is fast spreading and it won’t take much time to reach up to muffasil areas. The time may not be far away, when we may be denied the luxury of eve the sweet sound of our mother tongue around us. What to talk of other areas of India even the pilgrim city of Sindhunagar (Ulhasnagar) is facing the same problem. Here too, many parents opt for conversing with their children in disfigured and mutilated Hindi, and proudly proclaim that their children do not speak Sindhi language. They even forget to comprehend, that the knowledge of an extra language is an asset and not a liability and that their children will even otherwise, learn Hindi and English from the society and educational institutions. When our children are denied the rich cultural and civilized tradition of our language it is very much possible that they start disliking their very own mother tongue, instead of loving it. The gist of this whole discussion is that the parents are solely responsible for this sorry state of affairs.

The Government has also played its part in diminishing interest in Sindhi language. Sindhis being scattered throughout the length and breadth of India, could not make themselves a powerful vote bank. Sindhi children couldn’t opt for Sindhi as a second language, or as an optional subject, due to minimum requirement of 15-20 students in a class. Occasionally non-availability of Sindhi books from local booksellers also plays its part in repulsion for the language. Many a times, even Text Book Boards fail to provide the course books in both the scripts in time, or even sometimes books are not published in time, citing one or the other excuse.

The situation has come to such a pass that we don’t ask parents for providing primary education to their wards in Sindhi medium, but at least they can direct them to opt for Sindhi as a second language. Even this step can help us to introduce our children to our distinguished literary past.

Again we get to square one – how many institutions are there to provide education in Sindhi, even as a second language. There was a time when non-Sindhi managements like Khalsa College – Kings Circle, Jhunjhunwala College – Ghatkopar and Somaiya College – Vidyavihar, Mumbai used to offer Sindhi as a subject. But unfortunately these days even institutions belonging to Sindhi managements have stopped such education. It is heartening to see that these managements offer 50% of their seats to Sindhi speaking students, but they fail to extract commitment from these very students to opt for Sindhi as second language. Many such institutions don’t have even a single tutor for Sindhi language. Some institutions don’t even have provision for the option of Sindhi language in their admission forms. Many students lured by the prospect of easy admission come to such institutions and call themselves Sindhi. But the moment, they get their admission they just peel out their mask of Sindhiness and declare with pride that they hate the Sindhi language.

There are some exceptions to this situation as few institutions, like Vivekanand College – Chembur, Mumbai and its Chief, Shri Jhamatmal Wadhwani take great pains and insist that their students opt for Sindhi subject as second language from lower levels. In the long run, the move will not only help Sindhi teachers to get employment opportunities, but the same may result in the revival of the echo of Sindhi voices, heard once again in the environment. In this regard, the steps taken by Dada Jhamatmal Wadhwani, present Vice-Chairman, NCPSL, are a refreshing change. He has introduced Sindhi classes on national level since February 2003. God willing, such steps will instill new confidence and pump new spirit in the revival of our beloved mother tongue.

(Dr. Manohar Matlani, Head of Department of Sindhi, University of Mumbai, presented this paper at a National Seminar on ‘Problems of Teaching Sindhi Langauge’, on 26th March 2003 at Ajmer, organized by National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Language (NCPSL), Ministry of HRD, New Delhi.)