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In Search Of A Lost Home: Sindhis In India Are Struggling To Save Their Language

Having lost their land of origin, saving their ­language is proving tough for Sindhis in India

In Search Of A Lost Home: Sindhis In India Are Struggling To Save Their Language
Identity Fest | Photograph by Alamy
In Search Of A Lost Home: Sindhis In India Are Struggling To Save Their Language
outlookindia.com
2018-09-08T15:28:09+05:30

On January 24, 1950, the day the Hindi version of the first stanza of a Bengali song composed by Rabindranath Tagore was adopted as India’s national anthem, Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first president, told the Constituent Assembly that it was “subject to such alterations in the words as the government may authorise as occasion arises”. Sixty-eight years later, there’s indeed a debate over one of the words in the anthem—Sindh, a land that no longer belongs to the country. Earlier this year, Ripun Bora, a Congress MP from Assam, moved a private member’s resolution in the Rajya Sabha seeking to replace “Sindh” with “Northeast”. But Jaipur-based Bhagwan Atlani, a 73-year-old Sindhi writer and former chairperson of Rajasthan Sindhi Academy, believes it can’t happen. “Sindh has been there and it will remain there. Let them shout, nothing will change,” he says.

Atlani was three in 1948 when a pogrom forced Hindus in Sindh, a state in newly formed Pakistan, to seek refuge in India. His family had to leave their home in uptown Larkana and board a steamer from Karachi. Like thousands of Sindhi families, they ended up at the Kalyan-Ulhasnagar camp on the outskirts of Bombay (now Mumbai) and had to start their lives from scratch. That’s how the Indian population came to include a community that carries the name of a state across the border as one of its many legacies. Relatively untouched—unlike the Bengalis and the Punjabis—by the violence that accompanied Partition, the Sindhi Hindus now found themselves in a country that didn’t include Sindh. Sindhi speakers in India numbered around 25 lakh in 2001, when the population of India was around 100 crore, according to that year’s census.

“The community chose to downplay their culture, language and identity...

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