BOOK REVIEW : SINDH – STORIES FROM A VANISHED HOMELAND BY SAAZ AGARWAL
“Stories from a vanished homeland by Saaz Agarwal is non fiction work devoted to the plight of Sindhi Hindus as they started their journey to India & thereafter their life in Western India.
Before one goes deep into analyzing the agony that Sindhi Hindus of what they had gone through during partition one needs to understand Sindh & Sindhis in general and the apparent difficulty in documenting their plight .
Writing about Sindh or Sindhis for that matter had always been a enormous challenge primarily for third generation Sindhis as Saaz herself might have certainly gone through
Very little have been documented on the suffuring that Hindus of Sindhi had gone through head to India compared to Punjabis or Bengalis
The present Arabic script being used for the bulk of literature depicting the agony of Hindu Sindhis is beyond the reach of reach of present generation
For the most of the Indians Sindh is merely a distant province which once used to be part India. Sindh is seen more like Afganisthan & Baluchistan than like Punjab or Kashmir
There had been intense reluctance by the migrated Hindus to share the details as majority had reconcile to the fact that it is of no use to talk of an land which is lost forever.
But despite such handicaps Saaz had been successful is depicting the plight of migrating Hindus in states like Maharashtra and to a lesser extent in Gujarat & Rajasthan . The stories aka case studies speak of moment of agony , despair prevalent in the time of Partition and how a very well settled life of urban Hindus in Sindh gets devastated within months of Pakistan coming into existence . Urban Hindus of Karachi & Hyderabad had been the most successful among the sindhis & yet they suffered the most. Loss of Land, loss of business , Loss of Culture that took thousands of years to nurture got divested within months . Life of urban Sindhi Hindus indeed changed beyond recognition.
One of the highlight of the book have been that she highlighted the plight of divided families with men in Foreign Lands with their families stuck-up in Sindh looking for a desperate way to get out safely. Not all were fortunate to have picked their womenfolk safely. Needless to say it was only in the Southern Sindh that Hindus could get out safely as travel from Northan Sindhi where families of majority of Sindhworkis had resided getting out of Sindh was a serious challenge and indeed it turned out to be so.
Saaz does highlights certain myths about the en mass migration of Hindus was entirely peacefull. Although the migration from Karachi to Bombay & Gujarat might have been safe l but such cannot be said of Hindu exodus from Northan & central Sindhi. He story of trans full of bleeding women and Chidren heading towords Ajmer is testimony of the fact that Sindhi Hindus too had to face the brutalities as they head to India for refuge.
Saaz had rightly pointed out that Sindhis did not received the credit of their contribution to Indian Society in terms of social services that they initialed in Mumbai for Building up Collages & Hospital and and to the contrary ironically that the community had been depicted as money hungry and a opportunist. Few in India realize the loss that Sindh Community had to gone through.
This work of Saaz is not only about Hindu migration from Sindh and their hardship is resettling themselves in India . The book does mentions the attitude that Congress leadership and in particular shocking apathy that both Nehru & Sardar Patel had for Sindh & Sindhis . This book talks about script issue, the cultural degradation that Sindhi culture had to face in India as it began to assimilate in Indian unban culture part from Pathetic attitude that Acharaya Kripalani had for his own Sindhi community even at the height of Masjid Manzilgrah crisis which many believe provided the foot hold to Muslim league which eventually led to mass exodus of Hindus from Sindh.
While Saaz does bring to the fore pains of Partition that Hindu Sindhis had to go through but there had been cases where some facts about Sindh & Sindhis had been misrepresented.
The writer considers only a narrow window of 1947 to 1954 for migration whereas Migration from Sindh never really stopped. It does not considers the atrocities on Hindus which never really ceased even in interior Sindh where Sindhi Muslims are in majority. It ignores the situation aftermath Babri Masjid demolition that caused massive atrocities which are compared only to 1947. Hundreds of temple were destroyed, Women raped or kidnapped a shocking plight which is yet to be documented . 1971 migration if 90,000 Hindus from Sindh too have been ignored.
The writers wrongly assumes Sindhi Hindus merely consists of Bhaibandhs (Business Community) & Amils (Salaries class) although their contribution to Sindhi Socity cannot be denied. But the fact remains that Sindhis do have Rajput Sodhas, Sarsawat Brahmins, Maheswaris and as any Hindu ethnic groups its schedules Caste like Bhills, Meghwars, Kolis etc who too are migrating but they too had not been mentioned even once.
The writer have quoted Hamida Khuro daughter of Ayub Khuro whose views cannot be taken as independent views . Ayub Khuro who was Premier (CM) during the period of Hindu Exodus from Sindh was no Hindu sympathizer . Way back after 1945 Election it was Khuro as the leader of Muslim League roared publicly “Let the Hindus of Sindh leave Sindh and go elsewhere. Let them go now since as of now there is relative peace but soon time will come when they will get neither horse nor any carriage” This the his proves that Sindhi Muslims leaders too had planned to force Hindu exodus from Sindh although such facts are publically not acknowledged.
Even in prospective of Muslim Sindhis Khuro had been a controversial figure. Way back in 1954 it was Khuro who championed the cause One Unit (Much to the dismay of Sindhi Muslims ) which made Sindh to lose it separate identity as a Province apart from Sindhi Language been removed from day to day usage and replaced with Urdu. One Unit was eventually removed by 1967 after consistent protest by Sindhi Poets, Writers, Singers & intellectuals. This fact find no place in Saaz book although post Partition Karachi with Majority of Urdu Speaking does find mention.
Most of the stories /case studies seems to be of people getting out safely but in reality there had been bloodshed in Karachi. Hindus were killed, Robbed and forced to Migrate . Needless to say it had been unprovoked. Sindhi Hindus even on deliberating on the resolution of Sindh joining Pakistan did not vote against Pakistan Resolution but despite that they were uprooted. Such important historical facts being ignored and to the contrary stories Mohajir saving Hindu had been found a place in Saaz’s work.!! Moreover Saaz’s story of “all is Well” for Migrating Hindus from Sindh in Gujarat do not hold much water considering their plight in Gujrat ( as researched and correctly depicted in Rita Kothari’s work “Burden of Refuge- Sindhi Hindus of Gujarat”) although one or two stray cases to the contrary cannot be denied but such don’t change the ground reality of Sindhi Hindus in Gujarat for that matter.
Saaz’s work is silent on the very crucial role played by Police & the tactical support that Sindhi Muslim leadership gave to the Mohajirs in their pursuit to force Hindu exodus from Sindh. There are public statement by Sindhi Muslims leadership which lamented the way looted Hindus properties was exclusively shared with Mohajirs. This is no secret that Sindhi Muslims did eyed Hindu Properties in Sindh long before fateful partition shocked Hindus in Sindh
The issue of Script had been the single most important issue that had dogged the Sindhi Community in India. The results of over insistence of Script is today in front of us. Sindhi as language suffered the most due to Arabic Script. Saaz does mentions that how Ram Jethmalani along with a section of Sindhi Writers belonging to Arabic Script lobby challenged the Education Ministry (Under Maulana Abu Kalam Azad) ordinance of accepting Devanagri as the sole script for Writing Sindhi Language. But the writer fails to acknowledge the loss that Sindhi as Language suffered in the 65 yrs due to apathy of ordinary Sindhi . The writer ignores the fact that Hindus unanimously backed the case of Devanagri Script in 1843 when the issue formally came up after British decided to award official Language status to Sindhi in Sindh Provinence.
Indeed the writer seem to make the same mistake that mainstream sindhi writer community made of considering Arabic Script as secular script and Devanagri an communal one although almost every Indian Sindhi Writers acknowledge that Sindhis owes a lot to Sanskrit/Prakrit and is more closely linked to Sanskrit grammatically than any other north Indian vernacular language.
Lastly but not the least this book I devoid of reference of how Hindu leadership was complacent in forecasting the future that Hindus would have in Pakistan. Had they woke up at right time Sindhi Hindus most likely would have got Thar parkar and the city of Hyderabad in India. Had such an development happened the situation of Hindu Sindhis would have been what it is today .