Why are the Speakers and Learners of Sindhi Language Declining?
By Dr. Nandlal Jotwani
Today, the Sindhi linguistic minority in India, like several other linguistic minorities, faces a formidable challenge of preserving its language and maintaining its cultural identity. There is a growing chasm between the traditional Sindhi Cultural perspective and our scattered exposure, diverse discourses in an environment dominated by mainstream languages of the locale we live in, interacting with diverse civil society, in different parts of our country, left with little space to converse in Sindhi, even among ourselves, let alone learn it in educational institutions.
The intergenerational gap is today clearly visible as the writing on the wall, indicative of evolution of a hybrid identity of the Sindhis in India, evolving with the linguistic environment of the locale of our livelihood after our en masse migration from the Sindh province of the undivided India. As it were, the Sindhis have skillfully managed to move forward and progress upward, undaunted by lack of the geographic space. I have often given a clarion call to our great community about the declining number of speakers and learners of Sindhi Language In India. I have often emphasized the intertwined relationship between the language and culture. I have often brought home the fact that the language is the skill of reading, writing, and listening. The clarion call of mine should awaken the conscience of our great community to transmit the Sindhi language gene in new generation, the pressing socio-economic constraints notwithstanding. Of course, a language unlinked with livelihood, which would help us preserve and promote our language, literature and culture.
Sindhis are the Linguistic Minority in India
The term ‘Linguistic Minority’ has not been defined the Constitution. A group and groups of people whose mother languages are different from the principal language(s) of the state/Union Territory constitute the linguistic minority. Sindhi language is not the principal language of any State or the Union Territory in our country. Hence, it qualifies to be called a minority language and its speakers as the linguistic minority in India.
The Sindhi youth today is influenced by various socio-economic indicators and philological factors like ‘language utility vale’ and ‘language availability’ in our knowledge society, which is driven by market, multimedia and mass media that are monopolized by commercial viable and culturally dominant mainstream languages. Most of the Sindhi boys and girls today tend to lack motivation to learn their native language or assert their cultural roots. Hence, we need to integrate our higher level promotional support to the grassroots level mother language learning activities to ensure the sustained promotion and propagation of our language, literature and cultural heritage – tangible and intangible.
The Decline in Learner of Sindhi Language
While I have no figures of students studying the Sindhi language in higher education, I do have data of certain States/Union Territories wherein enrolment of learners of Sindhi language at various level of school education indicate decline. Therefore, I appeal to the dynamic Sindhi linguistic minority to avail itself to various constitutional rights enshrined in the Constitution of India as well as the nationally agreed Scheme of Safeguards for the linguistic minorities. For example, Article 30 (1) of the constitution empowers of minorities, both religious and linguistic, to establish and administer their educational institutions, for which various States/Unions Territories have evolved appropriate guidelines for this purpose. Article 350 A of the Constitution stipulates the it shall be the endeavour of every State and every local authority within the State to provide adequate facilities for instruction to children in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education.
We need to recognize language as national resources and incorporate of culture as strategic element in our national planning. It would be worthwhile to consider formulation of an appropriate Scheme of Scholarship for students of the Minority Languages at Secondary and Higher Education Levels as a significant initiative in the area of protection, preservation and promotion of minority languages, including Sindhi language. It would also be worthwhile to consider extension of the proposed Scheme of Support for Minority Students Clearing the Preliminaries under the Civil Services Examination and the State Public Service Commission, so as to cover the students of the linguistic minority in additional to religious minorities, which will encourage the linguistic minorities to augment their representation in the Civil Services, proportionate to their demographic composition in the country.
It would indeed be worthwhile for the government to consider an appropriate channel on Doordarshan National Network for the sizable Sindhi population to propagate the language, art and culture of the Sindhi linguistic minority, which is scattered all over India. Since various channels are being operated by the Prasar Bharati, the necessity of an appropriate channel for the Sindhi linguistic minority merits due consideration for appropriately overcoming the constraints of resources crunch by the Government of India.
Yes, Together We Can
“We, the Sindhis”, are indeed the proud inheritors of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The river Sindhu-the Indus- gave its name not only to the Province of Sindh but also to the Sub-continent. When Europeans and other lived in caves, our people among the Sindhu river had two-storey houses of brick and stone, with drainage system, public parks, art-works, fountains and granaries. We therefore owe it to our Generation Youth to keep them informed of our illustrious roots, great heritage and glorious culture.
“We, the Sindhis” proudly posses several success stories and accomplishments in various fields of human endeavour and entrepreneurship. We indeed can add yet other feature in our cap by skillfully preserving our cultural identity in spite of aggressive market-driven avenues available in the mainstream languages. We need to launch meaningful, collective, innovative initiatives for the much-needed cultural renaissance among the Sindhis in India, creating vision and the public-private partnership to preserve the Sindhi Identity in those challenging times, when our Sindhi language is virtually on a ‘ventilator’, gasping for life. The language and culture are intertwined. Culture manifests through language while language reflects the culture; the language being the broad indicator of our socio-cultural identity. We must therefore speak in our mother Language and encourage its learning by the Sindhi youth so as to maintain our identity, the Sindhiyat.
Yes, together, we can
Dr. Nandlal Jotwani is the national commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in India, Government of India. This widely-acclaimed column reflects his purely personal views. – Editor
48TH ANNUAL REPORT
Dr. Nandlal Jotwani, Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities presented his report to H. E. the president of India, through Shri Salman Khurshid, Honorable Minister for Minority Affairs, Government of India, on 27. 07. 2012 at Paryavaran Bhawan, New Delhi.
The Commissioner Linguistic Minorities in the Constitutional Authority appointed under Article 350-B of the Constitution of India, which empowers him to investigate all matters pertaining to the Constitutional and the nationally agreed safeguards provided to the linguistic minorities and to report thereon to H. E. the President of India, who is then pleased to cause his Report to be laid in both the Houses of the Parliament.
The scheme of the Safeguards for the linguistic minorities include the provision of instruction through mother tongue at the primary stage of the education, teaching the minority languages at the Secondary stage of education, registration of language preference of the linguistic minority pupils to facilitate inter school adjustments, provision for text-book and teachers in minority languages, translation and publication of rules, regulations and notices, etc. in minority languages where their speakers constitute 15% or more of the district/tehsil population; declaration of minority languages as additional office language in district, where their speakers constitute 60% or more of the district population; receipt of, and reply to representation for redress of grievances in minority languages, use of minority languages in recruitment tests to the State Services, setting up of proper machinery for effective implementation of the safeguards for the linguistic minorities at the State and District levels: issue of publicity material in minority languages detailing the safeguards available to the linguistic minorities, etc…
The 48th Report covers the period from July 2010 to June 2011 and critically reviews the status of implementation of the Scheme of Safeguards for the linguistic minorities in all the States and Union Territories of the country Vis-a`-Vis Action taken Report on the 47th Report received from the State Governments / UT Administrations / Union Ministries. The Report contains recommendation to ensure efficient and effective implementation of the Safeguards provided to the linguistic minorities spread all over the country so as to ensure level playing field, equal opportunities, inclusive growth and development of the country. Honorable Minister for Minority Affairs complimented the distinguished Commissioner on his accomplishment to ensure equal opportunities for the linguistic minorities in order to achieve inclusive growth in the country. The Commissioner thanked the Government of India and the State Governments / Union Territory Administrations for their cooperation in performance of his constitutional duties.
Honorable Minister of State for Minority Affairs, Government of India, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Minority Affairs, and Prominent Government Officials, etc., were also present on the occasion of the presentation of the 48th Report by the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, Government of India.