Volume - 1 : Issue - 2

Published : Dec.2001 - Feb. 2002

Group : Revival

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All Maharashtra Sindhi Panchayat Conference held on the 18th and 19th September 2001 at Pune.

By Sundar Iyer

The city of Pune has set a precedent in the struggle for survival of Sindhi culture by hosting a unique historical conference of All Maharashtra Sindhi Panchayats. A first of its kind in the post-partition era, the conference brought together representatives from the Panchayats across the state of Maharashtra, with the aim of motivating the various important layers of the community to learn to speak, write and read their mother tongue, which has been slowly losing its prominence within the community. With this in mind, the delegates have universally resolved and framed guidelines enabling constructive work on the promotion of the Sindhi language and culture. This conglomeration of members from the various layers of the community was an attempt at seriously understanding the viewpoints and urging them to play an uncompromising role in fortifying the community as a whole.

The first All Maharashtra Sindhi Panchayat Conference was jointly organized by the Bharatiya Sindhu Sabha (Pune) and Sindhi Shiksha and Sahitya Sangat, while the event was sponsored by the Sadhu Vaswani Mission. The conference was organized as a two-day event and was represented by 97 delegates from 53 Panchayats spreading over 22 districts. The historic conference was presided by Rev. Dada Jashan P Vaswani while Shri Ram Jethmalani and Shri Jhammatmal Wadhwani graced the occasion as guests of honour. All delegates were provided with adequate necessities, from lodging to food, while the organizers played the perfect host. Mr. Prem Tolani, the President of the Sindhi Shiksha and Sahitya Sangat and the chairman of the event, says, “We spent nearly four months in putting together the whole event. We first identified all the functional panchayats within the state of Maharashtra. Then, according to set parameters, the organising committee short listed those panchayat representatives who were serious about promoting the true values of Sindhi and Sindhyat.”

The conference underlies the absolute importance of the survival of the Sindhi community so that the country as a whole may always remember the ‘Sindhu Desh’ as well as the rich culture and heritage associated to this region, which certainly is a part of the Indian civilization. Stressing upon its delegates that the very existence of this culturally rich community depends upon its identity as Sindhi speaking people, the conference drew special attention to the importance of language (mother tongue) aptly supported by literature, culture, dance, drama and music. It further laid special emphasis on the need for hearing, understanding, speaking, writing and reading of the Sindhi language for keeping the culture alive.

Shri Kishin Pherwani, secretary of the organising committee says, “We are of the opinion that every Sindhi, wherever he lives should learn the language of the State and should sincerely endeavour towards making the provincial language richer with his learning and contribution. But at the same time, no Sindhi must turn away from learning his mother tongue.” Adding further impetus to his point, he quotes Rev. Sadhu Vaswani, “Let every Sindhi learn Hindi or regional language, but let him not neglect Sindhi. It is the language of Poets and Darveshes. The Sindhi language has been inspired of Sindhi life. To be cut off from the Sindhi language is to be severed from the great tree of life.”

Mr. Prem Tolani asserts, “We know that the success of our mission wouldn’t be restricted to the state of Maharashtra. Considering the hassles involved in organising the event initially on a national level, we thought it appropriate to hole it only in Maharashtra, study the progress of our initiatives and subsequently implementing them in the other parts of the country where the scattered presence of the community exists.” He further states, “Over the past many years, various forums have addressed the issue of promoting Sindhi culture, but the problem doesn’t seem to wipe out. It is because there has been no organisation to monitor the fulfillment of the basic realities at the ground level. Hence we decided to create a movement that would address the problem at its roots. Mere promises from members on changing their attitude wouldn’t help. Watching them fulfil those promises is the need of the hour.”

It is widely known that over the past few decades, the community has seen its litterateurs, artists, educationists, poets, saints and sages endeavour ceaselessly to sustain the identity of the Sindhi community by promoting Sindhi Boli, Sindhi literature and Sindhi art and culture. But in such endeavours, certain layers of the community, such as the different institutions of our Sindhi community, Panchayats, Trade Associations, Managements of educational centres, journalists, religious institutes like Jhulelal temples, ladies wings and a cross section of society have not been involved. The people behind this unique conference strongly recommend the horizontal and vertical involvement from these important layers of the community for the survival of the culture.

It is said that when Sindhi Hindus were compelled to leave their homes during the unfortunate incidents of partition, Sindhi writers, poets, singers, saints and artists who ceaselessly put their efforts to protect and promoted Sindhi language and culture, were in a microscopic minority. Over the years, the Sindhi society, as such never adhered to this movement. With the consequence, there has been a decay in the passage of the Sindhi language and culture. Eminent Jurist Ram Jethmalani while addressing the delegates mentioned, “The constitution of India written by Dr. Ambedkar gives each and every community the right to safeguard its culture and literature.”

The delegates as representatives of the community were made to understand the grave propositions that await the community. They were informed that the language, culture and identity of the community must not disappear with the passage of time, but rather it is the prerogative of every Sindhi individual to endeavour towards promoting the learning of the Sindhi language and culture by motivating the Sindhi community. Thus, in an attempt to accelerate the revival process, the conference held discussions on various issues, urging its delegates to understand the depth of the crises currently prevailing within the community. The delegates expressed their view and opinions over the seven resolutions, which were put forth in the conference to avert the crisis before it takes on extreme proportions. Well known philantrophist and Sindhi leader, Shri Jhammatmal Wadhwani warns, “It is sad to see that with the passage of time the Sindhi language has been disappearing. If Sindhi language and culture do not survive, the community itself will wither away.”

The revolution that this conference aims to initiate would achieve its true essence only when the herein mentioned resolutions are duly followed by the members of the community. It is the obligation of the delegates as much as the responsibility of the members of the community to come forth and express their solidarity at this hour of crises.

Thus, through this conference, this NGO along with such delegates will pursue the various segments of the community to partake in this endeavour, and combine their strengths towards the promotion of the rich culture attached to the Sindhi community. One of the delegates present at this event expressed optimism at the success of the initiatives taken up at this conference because, “Never before have I seen such a fine conglomeration of significant people from the various layers of the community, together under one roof, for two full days, talking and discussing only on how to promote and preserve the culture and language.”

Resolution I
Sindhi managements of Educational Institutions, namely schools, colleges or of any other faculty to start teaching Sindhi language even at the primary level to all Sindhi students who seek admission.

Resolution II

Sindhi Panchayats at various places should conduct the proceedings of the panchayat absolutely in the Sindhi language.

Resolution III
Every educational institute managed by Sindhi management should spare one class room measuring 20 x 40 feet as a cultural centre in the premises of the Insitution, where historic annals, distinguished photographs of Sindhi saints, artists, writers, poets, singers, educationists, etc. may be displayed apart from storing various audio and video cassettes on Sindhi folk music and art.

Resolution IV

Government of India should amend the Constitution and make compulsory the learning of the mother tongue at least at the primary level.

Resolution V

Urging Sindhi business community to deduct a small fraction of the amount while making the payment against their purchases which would be further sent for financing the promotion of Sindhi classes and other Sindhi cultural activities envisaged by the organisation.

Resolution VI

Cultural ministries of the State and Central governments must included a team of Sindhi Artists at various cultural avenues in all national and international events.

Resolution VII

Sindhi families in the community to arrange Sindhi Lok Geet, (Lada), Lok Dance (Jhumar) and lullabies on all social and marriage occasions.

Extract from Dada J P Vaswani’s speect to the delegates

My fellow countrymen and my dear Sindhi brothers and sisters. I am extremely thankful to the Bharatiya Sindhu Sabha and the Sindhi Shiksha Sangat for having invited me to preside this unique conference. I am thankful to Prem Tolani and his companions with whose efforts such a result oriented conference has materialized. I pray to almighty that Prem Tolani and his team should be blessed with the energy and power to accomplish the undertaken tasks successfully.

My Sisters and Brothers, whenever I go abroad, I request the organizers to present me with the opportunity to meet Sindhis, so that I may request my people that despite our scattered presence, all over India and the world, it is only with adherence to our Sindhi language that we shall sustain our Sindhi identity. If we wish to retain our identity we must speak and converse in Sindhi Boli. I am deeply disappointed when I find that Sindhi families have driven out our mother tongue, Sindhi from their homes.

We have observed that several other communities when they meet, they talk in their own mother tongue but we Sindhis when we meet each other, we talk in the language other than our mother tongue. The route of Sindhyat are adhered and strengthened with the usage of the Sindhi language. If these rules weaken, then obviously the Sindhi community would extinguish.

Citing an example, “Once there was an instance when a Sindhi child was travelling in an aeroplane with his mother and there were two other gentlemen sitting in the seats ahead. They were speaking in English. The child asked his mother, “Who are they?” The mother replied, “They could be either Americans or British or maybe even Sindhis.” Unfortunately, this is the plight of our Sindhi community on not speaking the Sindhi language. If we will not speak in Sindhi we are causing a great harm to our community.

It is the responsibility of Sindhi parents to teach Sindhi to their children, so that they can at least converse in Sindhi in the family. You have always been busy gathering gold and silver, but you have neglected your richest treasure. I request and urge all members to preserve the Sindhi language, as it is our treasure. If our language disappears our identity will be extinguished. We must purchase at least two Sindhi novels / books in a year along with Sindhi Newspapers and Magazines.