REVIVAL OF TEACHING SINDHI LANGAUGE
AT FORMAL AND NON FORMAL LEVEL
by Dr.Baldev Matlani
The culture and civililization of beloved Sindh is millenniums old. The land of saints and darvishs, has been termed as 'Bagh-e-Eden' (Garden of Eden) in 'Torah'. When Greeks conquered Sindh in 325 B.C., they called it 'Musicas'; Rig Veda described it as 'Sindhu'; Hazrat Ali has named it a land of knowledge and said, “It is the land from where the sun of knowledge rises upon the world”.
Language is a must for human beings and society. No other being other than the human is graced with the ability to speak. Experts opine, that a person learns to speak from the very moment he takes birth. His first encounter with the outer world is the learning of a multitude of words which culminates in speaking, within a short span of time. It is nothing but sheer magic!
Language, being a social phenomenon enables society to record every hue and colour of culture. Language defines specific mannerisms and the likes and dislikes of its speakers. Combination of thoughts and actions bring cultural unity. These characteristics differentiate a speaker of one language from another at the cultural level. Common language inspires a sense of oneness and national consciousness. Therefore, if a culture is regarded as a reflection of its society, then language can be easily termed as the light of that society. The study of the culture of Sindh is not limited to architecture, calligraphy, weaving of Ajraks, Sheets, Kashi and Wood-Engraving, but is completely dependent on Sindhi language. To propagate culture, Sindhi language is certainly a potent source. The study of Sindhi culture requires the study of Shah Latif, Sachal Saeen, Sami, Rohal, Bedil, Bekas and modern literature.
Broadly, languages are divided into three forms. First is the spoken form, by which a brother speaks and his sister understands; or when anyone conversant with it speaks the other comprehends. There are approximately 16,000 spoken languages throughout India, which are used by various groups to converse with each other. Second is the common language, which can be written along with conversation. The third and last is the literary form which can be spoken, written and which contains the treasure trove of its literature.
With the grace of God, our mother-tongue falls in this last group of highly evolved languages, which has occupied a place of pride not only in Sindh and India, but is widely studied at various libraries throughout the world. Let alone the well known British libraries and American Centres, I have seen for myself various books on Sindh and Sindhi language available with even non-descript libraries of Los Angeles, California. For many centuries, Sindhis have been rich, not only financially but even in various forms of education and literature. Some 2500 years back, when Iran annexed Sindh, Sindhis used to visit Persia and deliver lectures in Persian language to the Iranians. Presently, a Sindhi Dr. Surraiya Makhdoom teaches English to the British in Birmingham, UK!
Normally, a person can learn a language at his home or at some community centre, which is termed as 'Non-Formal Education'. But the process of formal education began with the efforts of the British government of Sindh. The British conquered Sindh, in 1843, and its government issued a circular in 1851 A.D., making it mandatory for English bureaucracy to take formal education in Sindhi language. Capt. George Stack and Dr. Earnest Trumpp did their bit and prepared various grammars for Sindhi language. Dr. Ellis, the then Educational Commissioner of Sindh with the help of Sindhi scholars prepared a 52 letter Persio-Arabic alphabet of Sindhi, in order to create a common and uniform Sindhi script.
The efforts of the British took the education of Sindhi language from temples and mosques to government schools. Whoever passed the final examination of Sindhi (Std. VIII) was provided with the job of Primary School Teacher. The first college of Sindh named 'Sindh Arts College', affiliated to University of Bombay, came into existence in 1886 A.D., at Karachi. It was later re-named as D. J. Science College. Learned scholars and researchers, like Bherumal Mehrchand Advani were appointed as teachers at the college. It spurred a new interest in Sindhi language and literature. A British researcher, Mr. H. T. Sorley was able to obtain his Ph. D. from London University, on his thesis 'Shah Abdul Latif - His Life & Works', in 1928A.D..
After Partition, Sindhi Hindus were mainly pre-occupied with making both ends meet. Even in those days, some educationists spearheaded a movement and established Sindhi schools and colleges wherever Sindhi population was in substantial numbers. Those institutions were not only responsible for the education of Sindhi language but even taught various other subjects through Sindhi medium. Most such schools of Maharashtra and Gujarat provided education up to Std. X in Sindhi medium and some of them still continue to do so. The Government of India issued a G. R. in 1949 A.D. recognizing Devnagari as the sole script for Sindhi language, in India. A hue and cry ensued compelling the government to issue another G. R. making Persio-Arabic script, also one of the recognized scripts of Sindhi language. It was left up to the student to choose one of them. The recognition of two scripts divided Sindhi people vertically. But inspite of this, for the greater interest of Sindhi language both lobbies put up joint efforts to promote Sindhi. Sadly, the inclusion of Sindhi into the VIII Schedule of Constitution of India, on April 10, 1967, led to complacency with the Sindhi intelligentsia. And gradually, the Sindhi lovers' enthusiasm began to taper, leading to the closure of various Sindhi medium institutions. It was complimented by the dwindling number of students seeking education in Sindhi language or through Sindhi medium of instruction. It has mainly been due to the usage of Hindi with their wards by Sindhi parents at their homes. Even, Sindhi litterateurs were not bereft of such ugly practices.
With the advent of 21st century, many overseas Sindhis came forward to help the larger usage of Sindhi language. Many such conferences/sammelans were held and it became a fad to speak for Sindhi language and its larger usage. But, real lovers of the language were very few and the rest just put up a show but never practiced what they preached. Even in their homes, they did not speak in Sindhi with their children, leading to complete ignorance of Sindhi language among them.
With the passage of time, beginning from South and then spreading up to East and presently even in U.P. and M.P., the formal education of Sindhi language has come to an end. Even Maharashtra and Gujarat are not free of this malaise. There was a time, when there were many Sindhi medium schools in Bombay, but presently no such school in Mumbai teaches Sindhi at the Primary level. Even at Std. IX & X level there is only one school, i.e. Vivekananda School, Chembur, which provides teaching of Sindhi language; that too, of half subject comprising 50 marks. Even at Jr. College level, the facility of second language Sindhi is provided only at Jai Hind College, Vivekananda College, R. D. National College and Kamala Jr. College, Khar, Bombay.
Presently, there is no school, like Sadhu Vaswani Mission School, Poona, which has made it conditional for Sindhi students at the time of admission to take up Sindhi as a subject. Our community is literally indebted to Rev. Dada Jashan Vaswani, who has been able to serve the interest of Sindhi language in earnestness. Ulhasnagar, which used to boast of a large number of Sindhi medium schools in India and which is termed as Mecca of Sindhis, has also not been unaffected. When people have stopped speaking in Sindhi with their wards at home, how can one expect those children to get admission in Sindhi medium schools and learn Sindhi language. Ignorance of Sindhi language leads one away from Sindhyat. Previously one could confidently speak in Sindhi to every shopkeeper of Ulhasnagar, but sadly it is not so anymore.
India is a bouquet of people, belonging to various, communities, castes and creeds, races and religions who speak different languages. Sindhi is also a recognized language of India and its promotion is aided by the government, but sadly Sindhis themselves don't contribute to this cause.
Presently, many Sindhis are not even aware of the sacrifices made by Sindhis during the freedom struggle. An example of this is a publication of a 175 page book by the Gazette Department, Government of Maharashtra, enumerating the services rendered by Sindhis during the 'Non-Co-Operation Movement' of the freedom struggle. A Sindhi, named Acharya Kripalani had been the President of Indian National Congress during those tumultuous days. Unfortunately, at the time of Partition of India, no Sindhi leader spoke about getting any piece of land to settle those displaced Hindu Sindhis, a la Punjab and Bengal. Wasn't it a cruel joke on Sindhis, that when the whole of India was celebrating independence, Hindu Sindhis were forced to leave their homes empty handed.
I have been describing all these instances just to emphasize that we Sindhis should not be callous towards our language, else we may have to face dangerous consequences. Though, everything has not been lost uptil now. There are still nine Sindhi medium schools, four established by Municipal authorities; Jhulelal, Shanti Prakash, S.E.S. Girls School, Sadhubela Girls School and New Era School, at Ulhasnagar. All these schools impart education in the Sindhi medium up to X Std. For higher education, there are Chandibai H. M. College and R. K. T. College at Ulhasnagar and Govt. Post Graduate College, Ajmer catering to T. Y. B. A. with Sindhi as major subject. The same college in Ajmer along with Department of Sindhi, University of Mumbai provides for education in Sindhi for M. A. & Ph. D., while Mumbai University also conducts Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses in Sindhi.
On a formal level, National Council for Promotion of Sindhi Language (NCPSL) provides for Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses in Sindhi at various places in India. Such part time courses taught in Devnagari script do not serve the real purpose of education of Sindhi language. It appears more rhetoric, than with any substance although some organizations are sincerely working towards the imparting of education and propagation of Sindhi language. One such person is Prem Tolani of 'Sindhi Shiksha Ain Sahitya Sangat', who has gone to the remotest corners of India. He brings Sindhis together and arranges for crash courses to teach the language. There are many such persons like Prem Tolani, which NCPSL should strive and bring together and register; to enable them to impart education of Sindhi language to many more Sindhis.
But, we cannot achieve such lofty goals, if we do not converse with our children in Sindhi at our own homes. This way, our children will not only learn one more language, but will also become aware of the finer aspects of Sindhi culture and civilization; just like, respect for elders, contentment, patience etc. Once we have passed on the heritage of the spoken language, we can easily surmount the hurdles of reading and writing. Hence, not only will the education of Sindhi language get a fillip but this step would also bring unity among Sindhis, compelling other communities to pay us our due respect.
Because, respect is commanded not demanded!