Volume - 3 : Issue - 3

Published : Jul. - Sep. 2004

Group : Language


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Sindhi through Treacherous Path

to the Constitution

A historical account of the post-partition travails of the  Sindhi language finally culminating in recognition.

At the time of drafting the Constitution of India in 1950, all the major 14 languages of India were included in the VIII schedule of the Constitution, but surprisingly, the Sindhi language was left behind and deprived of its rightful place in the Constitution of the country (India), for which Sindhis had to forsake literally everything. Sindhis had lost not only their holdings, i.e. houses, shops, agricultural land, but even their motherland Sindhi in the wake of the catastrophic Partition of India. Though many Sindhi stalwarts, like Acharya J. B. Kripalani and Jairamdas Daulatram participated in the drafting of the Constitution, being members of first ever Constituent Assembly of India, in their unwarranted zeal of religious harted, led the lobby for the introduction of Devnagari script for Sindhi language. They just conveniently forgot to get Sindhi language included into the VIII schedule of the Constitution, even though they were offered the same by the Non-Sindhi members of the Congress Party.

Multiple injustices of non-inclusion of Sindhi language in the VIII Schedule, as well as arbitrary imposition of Devnagari script for Sindhi language, created unrest throughout the Sindhis of India. Sindhi writers like: Gobind Malhi, Bihari Chhabria, Dharamdas Khashtaria and others worked extensively to get Sindhi language its rightful place, Thakurdas Agnani, himself as well as his newspaper ‘Sansar Samachar’ played a major role in highlighting this injustice inflicted upon Sindhis of India.

A meeting of Sindhi lovers was held at Sind Model School, Grant Road, Bombay, which unanimously decided to constitute ‘Sindhi Boli Ain Lipi committee’, with Lekhraj Aziz as its President, Dharamdas Khashtaria as Treasurer, and Kirat Babani as its Secretary. A part from that an Advisory Committee was also formed with Kalyan Advani, Chetan Mariwala, Thakurdas Agnani, Gobind Malhi, Popati Hiranandani, Bhojraj Nagrani, Teekam Wadhwani, Gobindram Keswani, Sugan Ahuja, Gobind Punjabi, Moti Prakash, Krishin Rahi, Mohan Kalpana and few other young litterateurs as its members.

Legal help was sought from noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who shot out a letter to Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, the then Education Minister, protesting against the 1950 order of change of script for Sindhi language from Persio-Arabic to Devnagari. He demanded immediate revocation of the order, lest legal action be taken against the Education Department of Central Government of India. The letter had the desired effect on the government, which issued another Circular on January 10, 1951, modifying its earlier order  and including Persio-Arabic script along with Devnagri for Sindhi language.

As far as, recognition of Sindhi language under VIII Schedule was concerned, Mr. B. H. Nagrani initiated an attempt by firing a salvo at the government for undoing the denial of rightful place to the Sindhi language. His petition listed various grounds for the same; such as, Sindhi language being rich in vocabulary possessed a developed grammer of its own, it was more in line with Sanskrit as compared to other Indian languages and it was prudent politically too as its speakers lived on both sides of the border.

A convention was held in 1954, at the very Convocation Hall of Bombay University (the same venue where it was earlier decided to change the Sindhi script  to Devnagari), to constitute ‘Sindhi Boli Sabha’ in order to press for the implementation of Persio-Arabic script for Sindhi language, as well as to launch a campaign for inclusion of Sindhi language in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of India. Lalsing Ajwani and Gobind Malhi were nominated as President and Secretary respectively, while members were nominated from pro as well as anti Devnagari lobbies. Two letters, one each to the then Prime Minister, Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and Chairman, States’ Reconstruction Commission, Mr. B. G. Kher were sent to highlight the literary problems of Sindhis. A delegation, comprising Lasting Ajwani, Ram Panjwani, Bhojraj Nagrani, Gobind Malhi and others approached ‘Kher Commission’ for inclusion of Sindhi language under VIII Schedule of the Constitution. A beutifully drafted memorandum prepared by Lalsing Ajwani for the purpose, duly signed by Gobind Malhi was also sent to Shri Jawaharlal Nehru and other members of the Parliment. Shri Nehru did not accede to the request and a curt shot reply, “It is not feasible” was shot back to the Sindhis. However, he ordered for the inclusion of Sindhi language in all the programmes of Sahitya Akademi. He himself was the first President 0f the Sahitya Akedemi, whereas Krishin Kripalani was its Secretary. A Sindhi Advisory Board of Sahitya Akedemi was constituted under Lalsing Ajwani. Gobind Malhi was also included among six members of the Board.

A new outfit, titled ‘Sindhu Samaj’ was founded in New Delhi, with Hashu Kewalramani as its first President and Tirath Basant, Haroomal Sadarangani, Jeewan Gursahani, Shyam Bhagia, Kheeo Sainani and others as its members. ‘Sindhu Samaj’  worked on a war footing and launched an agitation for the same. It shot a letter to the Speaker of Lok Sabha, with around 1-lakh signatures. Hashu Kewalramani along with delegation of prominent Sindhis personally handed over the letter to the Speaker.

‘Sindhi Sahit Mandal’, Bombay, held two sammelans consecutively in 1951 and 1952, highlighting the need of inclusion of Sindhi language under VIII Schedule of the constitution. The movement spread like wildfire throughout India. Everywhere meetings were held and resolutions passed for inclusion of Sindhi laguage. A new enthusiasm and fervour for Sindhi language was witnessed all around.

Various cultural organizations came into existence, many books were written, and numerous newspapers and magazines were launched. What started as a trickle had turned into a flood of Sindhiat.

A historical event took place in 1957 at New Delhi. Hashu Kewalramani, Haroomal Sadarangani and Kheeo Sainani had called for an ‘All India Sindhi Boli Convention’ in December 1957, at Sapru Hall, New Delhi. The Convention was presided by the then Vice President of India, Shri Radha Krishnan. Proponents of Arabic, as well as Devnagari script joined hands to press for inclusion of Sindhi language into the Constitution of India. Dr. Radha Kishnan too praised Sindhis for their rich cultural heritage, character, preservance, patriotism and hard work. A resolution for inclusion of Sindhi language was also passed in the Convention. The Convention organized a grand cultural programme, which was held in the evening, where Bhudo Advani presented his play ‘Gamtu Doctor’. Acharya Brahmandas rendered shlokas of legendary poet, Sami, in a classical way and enthralled the audience, including the chief guest, Dr. Radha Krishnan, with his lilting songs and held them spell bound. Mr. Abdul Sattar Prizada, a minister from Pakistan also attended the meet. He too sang a Kafi and pumped a new spirit of Sindhiat into the audience.

On that very day, in the courtyard of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mr. K. M. Munshi, the Vice Chancellor, who knew Ram Panjwani very well asked him as to why he was there? Ram Panjwani, informed him about the main cause of the convention. Mr. Munshi shot back with disbelief and said, “ I cannot understand you Sindhis, when we asked Acharya Kripalani and Jairamdas Daulatram, while formulating the Constitution, whether Sindhi be included into VIII Schedule they said, there was no need to do so, as Sindhis would merge with locals everywhere, and now you are holding a convention for the same purpose”.

Bombay was a central place for Sindhis, as it housed the largest number of the community, and had proximity to the biggest settlement of Sindhis in India, that is Ulhasnagar. It was an appropriate place to hold a grand Sammelan at Bombay, to press for the rights of Sindhis. ‘Akhil Bharat Sindhi Sahit Sammelan’ was held in 1958, at the spacious lawns of University of Bombay, at Fort, Bombay. Around 400-500 delegates attended the meet. Mr. Humayun Kabir inaugurated the sammelan, while its inaugural session was presided by Jairamdas Daulatram. The main attraction of the sammelan was exhibition of Sindhis’ rich cultural heritage. The job was entrusted to Chandresen Vaswani, who was assisted by Ms. Vishni Malkani and Ms. Thakuri Jagtiani. Both worked hard and collected rare articles of handicraft, handwork, embroidery, Sindhi apparels, utensils, ornaments, old books, manuscripts, Sindhi musical instruments, paintings, magazines, newspapers etc., to educate the new generation of their glorious past.

A multi-lingual poetic meet was also held along with the sammelan, at a spacious plot of the K. C. College, Bombay. Urdu poets Sahir Ludhianvi and Kaifi Azmi too, attended the meet. Proponents of Devnagari script, Parsram Tahilramani and Choithram Vallecha announced that a resolution in support of Devnagari script would be adopted at the sammelan. The supporters of Persio-Arabic script, Mr. Kirat Babani and others, irritated at the attitude of Devnagari supporters, cautioned them to desist from such a move, as it would split the lovers of Sindhi language vertically with the result that the just cause of Sindhi language would suffer extensively.

On the subsquent day, during the literary session of the sammelan, held at Rama Watumull Hall, K. C. College, when some Devnagari supporters tried to bulldoze such a resolution; the young brigade, supported by Nari Gursahani, Dayaram Gharibdas and others, opposed them vehemently. Jairamdas Daulatram, who was presiding over the session, sensed the fragility of the situation, and proclaimed that the question of the script of Sindhi language would not be raised in the sammelan. Instead a separate resolution to work for rightful place of Sindhi language, among the comity of other Indian languages, was passed.

Another ‘Akhil Bhrat Sindhi Sahit Sammelan’, at Nagpur in 1959, succeeded the Bombay Sammelan. It proved to be a huge success as around 800 delegates attended the meet. A Gandhian, Bhagwan Din inaugurated it, while Naraindas Malkani presided over the same. The cultural responsibilities of the sammelan were looked after by Gobind Malhi’s ‘Kalakar Mandal’, comprising noted Sindhi nightingale, Ms. Bhagwanti Navani and her co-artistes.

Another such sammelan was held in 1960, at Gandhi Dham, where draft for the constitution of ‘Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli Ain Sahit Sabha’ was already in place. It was held under presidentship of Ram Panjwani. As the Sammelan had larger number of Pro-Arabic participants, it was easier to pass a resolution, favouring solitary Persio-Arabic script for Sindhi language. When Pro-Devnagari lobby raised a hue and cry, Ram Panjwani buckled under the pressure and agreed to the dual use of both scripts for the language Noted lawyer, Ram Jethmalani intervened to douse the inflamed passions and called for a meet at Jai Hind College, Bombay, where Pro-Devnagari people were assured that the above said Gandhi Dham resolution would not be pressed, but anyhow the resolution remained intact and was not recalled in any way.

Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a stalwart of the then Jana Sangh (present BJP) presented a private bill to the effect. When Lok Sabha took up the bill for discussion, Jairamdas Daulatram contacted Shri Vajpayee to take back his bill, as the Congress would not have supported any bill from opposition (it would have amounted to no-confidence in the government). Mr. Vajpayee agreed with his contention and readialy took back his bill.

On 16th june 1966, Smt. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, attended a meeting of Delhi Sindhi Panchayat. Ram Panjwani sang for seven minutes, honouring the visiting dignitary, and thereafter, Jairamdas Daulatram presented the Case of Sindhis very effectively and requested for inclusion of Sindhi language in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution. Smt. Indira Gandhi was sympathetic to the cause of Sindhis and in her address to the meet; she assured that their sacrifices would not go in vain, She also requested Ram Panjwani and some other delegates to see her at the forthcoming All India Congress Committee Meet to be held at Bombay, after two days.

At Bombay, a delegation of Sindhis, comprising Bhojraj Nagrani, Ram Panjwani, Ram Jethmalani, Gobind Malhi and others had an audience with Smt. Indira Gandhi at the Shanmukhananda Hall. The moment Ram Jethmalani presented his memorandum Smt. Indira Gandhi told the Congress President Shri Kamraj that no injustice  should be meted out  to the Sindhis. The latter agreed with Mrs. Gandhi and said, “Yes”. She informed the delegation of Sindhis present in the waiting room, that it had been decided to include the Sindhi language into VIII Schedule of the Constitution.

Again in 1967, Mr. U. N. Trivedi, a Jana Sangh member, presented a private bill for recognition of Sindhi language, which was listed for discussion in the agenda of the Lok Sabha. Kirat Babani and Bhojraj Nagrani camped in Delhi, to lobby for the support of the bill with different members of the Parliament. They had stayed at the residence of Mr. Lachhmandas Pamnani, the owner of M/s. J. B. Mangharam Biscuits. They also met Jairamdas Daulatram, who advised them to see Mr. Gulzarilal Nanda, the then Home Minister, and send a copy of letter detailing grounds for inclusion of Sindhi language into the Constitution, to all the members of the Parliament. Both didn’t lose anytime and instantly drafted such a letter and got it printed from the printing press of Harikant Jethawani and Hem Nagwani. Kirat Babani got all the addresses of the members from the Parliament office. Bhojraj Nagrani signed all the letters, which were duly enveloped and consigned to the General Post Office.

As far as, the second advice of Jairamdas Daulatram was concerned, both met the then Home Minister, Mr. Gulzarilal Nanda at his office, who was forthright in his assertion. He minced no words and unambigously told them, that under no circumstances, the Congress government would support a bill presented by any opposition member. If Mr. U. N. Trivedi is ready to retract his bill, the Minister of State for Home, would be pleased to introduce it on behalf of the government, and then there would be no delay to pass it. Plain talk of Gulzarilal Nanda left Bhojraj Nagrani, Kirat Babani and others, with no choice, but to go to Mr. Trivedi and request him to take back his bill, in the interest of Sindhi language.

As planned, the bill for inclusion of Sindhi language was presented by the Congress, which all the members seconded whole-heartedly. The historic day was 10th April 1967, which saw the fulfillment of the long standing dream of Sindhis. The Sindhi language was at last included into the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of the Republic of India.