Sindhi Nation & Its Identity
Along the banks of Sindhu and Saraswati Rivers, well before 8000 BCE, our Sindhi ancestors founded the ancient order of Sanatanah and from this root of Sanatanah, sprang Sanatana Dharma-the ageless religion of the Indian civilization.
Among the ideals that took shape in those early times, to become the foundation of Sanatana Dharma, were : recognition of spiritual nature of man wherever he is from ; acceptance of every culture as an expression of Eternal values; and man's obligation to respect and protect environment, and all creatures, tame and wild.
This belief in fundamental human rights and obligations was the very basis of the thought and philosophy of our Sindhi ancestors.
Over long centuries in Vedic, post-Vedic, and modern age, many profound changes have occurred in political landscape of Sindh. Even in social and philosophical matters, some differences arose in the Sindhi outlook. However, Sindhi society always retained its belief that "Whatever God you accept, He is that God, and Dharma (Righteousness) is His Will." The emphasis was therefore on purity of conduct or Karma and not on differences of Caste, creed or ritual. Thus Sindhi society never rejected goodness in other cultures. For instance :
Sindhi Hindus rejected Vedic Society's strangle-hold of caste system, knowing that caste system was never a basic tenet of Hinduism, but merely a custom, evolved to meet a temporary situation.
Sindhis accepted Gautama Budha's (and in the modern age, Guru Nanak's ) message, and their new, fresh ideas, which Sindhi society is always conditioned to accept - for never was a Sindhi dogma-ridden.
This aspect of Sindh's ancient heritage remained alive till the eve of India's partition. Religious fanaticism was as foreign to Sindhi Muslims as it was to Sindhi Hindus, and the two communities remained together in Sindh without tensions, without bitterness and with mutual respect. Muslim spiritual seekers went with Hindu Yogis on pilgrimage to Hindu Holy places. Muslims joined in song and dance, and listened to Bhagat Kanwar Ram in ecstasy. Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, who was the greatest poet of Sindh in modern times said :
"Yogis respond to an ancient , timeless call – a call given well before Islam……..Their hearts are with Rama and for them joy is the same as sorrow and they offer Aarti with tears of Blood……Go, be a Yogi; forget your attachments, follow the Guru and proceed to Hinglaj."
Sachal Sarmast was another immortal Sindhi poet, a Muslim, named Abdul Wahab, but listening to his poetry of love and brotherhood of Hindus and Muslims under one single, benevolent God, you would not know if he was a Hindu or a Muslim.
Sindhi Muslims accepted our ancient heritage of Mohan jo Daro and the Sindhu-Saraswati civilization as their own. Nor was it too uncommon to see Sindhi Hindus at a Muslim Dargah, and Sindhi Muslims at Hindu holy places.
With the partition of India, Muslims began pouring into Sindh from Bihar, U.P. Punjab and elsewhere, bent on loot and massacre of Sindhi Hindus who had to flee to find sanctuary in India or elsewhere. Sindhi Muslims were vastly sympathetic to Hindus, and many tried valiantly to protect them but with limited success.
Most Sindhi Hindus found refuge in India, though many have spread all over the world. Thanks to their initiative and enterprises Sindhi Hindus outside Pakistan have now reached a stage when their wealth, education, influence and opportunities are rising. They are today the most educated community in the world, on per-capita basis.
Every Sindhi Hindu in India, now, is literate, and among younger generation of Sindhis male and female there is a virtual explosion , with more Computer engineers, Master of Business Administration, post-graduate scholars, researchers, lawyers, doctors and such- like, than any other community, per capita. But, the far greater exploitation is in economic and financial prosperity of Sindhis. Everywhere, Sindhis in India, are doing great in business, industry and diverse professions. We have now multi-millionaires in dollar terms by hundreds among Sindhi Hindus and their number is rising. But the question is : Who is rising ? Sindhis as individuals, or Sindhi community itself? The reality is that in midst of the progress and propriety, the community as a cultural entity, is disappearing; Sindhi culture is fading away; our children will know nothing of it. Sindhi language is vanishing. Even knowledge, that Sindh was our homeland, and sustained us for centuries, will lose all its impact on our youngsters. A Sindhi, then attached to no ancient homeland, nourished by no unique culture, served by no special languages, may come to be absorbed – by marriage, domicile or change – here, there, everywhere; but as a community, in time, Sindhis will have no identity, belong nowhere, have no cultural bonds, and not even memory of their roots, unless immediate corrective steps are taken.
In so far as other communities are concerned, the fact is that their people wish to reach out to touch their roots, to discover how and where their ancestors resided, what their dreams, hopes and aspirations were. All over the world, people are seeking an identity with their ancient ancestry, to be a part of its cultural continuity. It would be strange that Sindhis belonging to world's most ancient civilization, should contemplate moving into sunset of nothingness, to get more roots of their culture, and be individually assimilated into new and diverse cultures! There is no reason to support this cultural holocaust of Sindhis.
Whatever our past mistakes, our greatest mistake for future would be to forget our SINDHYAT – and we must realized that Sindhyat cannot be protected by piecemeal patchwork but by clear recognition of Sindhi society as a Nation, keeping in view our most ancient civilization, our distinct heritage, our unique culture, our Sufi tradition and our age-old belief in human rights and dignity for all, everywhere. No one can deny to Sindhis this right of Nationhood.
Yes, this right of Nationhood belongs to the Sindhi Hindus who were compelled to flee from Pakistan. For every Sindhi who is outside Sindh, there are far more Sindhis who remain in Sindh. Mostly they are Muslim Sindhis, though there are a few Hindus too. Unfortunately, a Sindhi in Pakistan – be he a Hindu or a Muslim – has hardly any political or cultural rights or freedom. His economic opportunities are severally limited. He faces discrimination at all levels; his language, Sindhi, is under continuous suppression – and he is considered a second class citizen. Every effort is also being made to turn Sindhis into a minority in their own homeland. Virtually, even Sindh's borders have shrunk. In the Karachi division, the Sindhi speaking people are now in the minority of 7%. Census figures of Sindhi population in the rest of Sindh are being fraudulently undercounted so as to show decreasing strength of the Sindhis. Sindh today is like a colony of Pakistan. Pakistan does not even attempt to hide the fact that its ideology is alien if not hostile to the spiritual and secular foundation of Sindhi philosophy which accepts the co-existence of all religious – Muslims, Hindus, Jains, Christians, Parsis and Buddhists – with equal respect.
A vision of Nationhood for Sindhi Hindus alone would be illusory - an empty shell without substance. We must realize that a Sindhi is a Sindhi no matter where he resides – in Sindh, in India in Pakistan, USA, or elsewhere. In Pakistan where a Sindhi is plundered and brutalized, he would not be able to raise his voice for Sindhyat and Nationhood. This imposes a challenge and responsibility for both Sindhi Hindus and Sindhi Muslims who are outside Pakistan in an atmosphere of freedom and prosperity, to help in the emancipation of Sindhis. A united front is called for. Words and speeches are always welcome but what is really required is planned, unified action; and, I, for one, look forward, during my own lifetime, to the day when the national anthem of an emancipated Sindh will be heard proclaiming its faith in the rich harmony of Sindh's age-old heritage of equal respect for all faiths and its message of peace, prosperity and good will amongst all people of the world. Meanwhile, we must all, everywhere, strive to proclaim and protect Sindhyat and Sindhi Nationhood, without which Sindhis cannot reach their full potential – neither individually nor as a community.
"Whatever God you accept, He is that God, and Dharma (Righteousness) is His Will."