Friday December 15, 2017

Lack of homeland killing Sindhi language

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According to the 2001 Indian Census, there are over 31 lakh people in India with Sindhi as their mother-tongue. However, a large number of ethnic Sindhis in India do not declare the language to be their mother tongue. So, the unofficial number of Sindhi speakers is almost double the official number.

Despite the huge number of Sindhi speakers, very few Sindhi natives, who are scattered all over the country, are interested in receiving literacy in Sindhi, and prefer to pick up English and local languages for economic and social benefits.

Moreover, there are very few schools imparting education with Sindhi as the medium of instruction. Though Sindhi was recognized as an official language in India in 1967 after years of struggle by Sindhi writers, leaders and social workers, it has now been largely reduced to just a spoken language.

When India underwent partition in 1947, the Hindus from Pakistan’s Panjab and Bangladesh mostly migrated to India’s Punjab region and West Bengal respectively. This gave them the security of a homogeneous language and made the move emotionally and culturally much easier.

However, for the estimated 12 lakh migrants from Sindh, it was a different story. There was no region in India where Sindhi language and culture existed independently. As a result, the migrants scattered, and refugee settlements came up majorly in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the Sindhi people found themselves amid unknown languages and cultures.

The lack of a homogeneous language and culture created a host of problems for the Sindhis, who flitted from one refugee camp to the other in search of a proper livelihood. But their persistence for survival enabled them to make a home within a larger cultural milieu.

Many of the Sindhis were tradesmen who had small establishments and networks between Mumbai and Karachi. So, urban areas like Mumbai, Pune and Nasik were preferred as regions for settlement due to their cosmopolitan touch.

The main concerns for the first generation Sindhi migrants were survival, livelihood and permanent settlement. This, along with the loss of a ‘homeland’ where one’s language and culture are preserved, resulted in the slow, yet steady decline of the ancient Sindhi heritage, culture and language.

The desire of the Sindhis to be accepted by the dominant population of their settlement areas, along with the possibility of gaining easier access to local and regional markets, resulted in their adaptation of the local language and culture, thus essentially transforming their identity.

The first generation Sindhi migrants who received education in their mother tongue didn’t have the time to transfer their knowledge to their children, owing to tumultuous circumstances.

The immediate lack of Sindhi medium schools saw most Sindhis send their children to English medium schools which had a huge market value, as compared to regional languages.

Even when schools were established by well-known Sindhi litterateurs to cater to the Sindhi community with a reservation quota of 50 per cent, such as the Vivekanand Education Society, Kishanchand Chelaram College, HR College, Jai Hind College and Thadomol Shahni Engineering College—all of them in Mumbai.

Sindhi parents preferred an English-medium education for their children to secure a better future. English was treated as the language of the upper class which would lead to success and prosperity.

Most of these institutions had Sindhi as an optional or a second language. Swami Vivekananda did establish Sindhi-medium schools, but they were hardly in demand. Thus, most of the second generation Sindhis developed only an oral knowledge of the language, without the skills to read and write in their mother tongue.

The second generation Sindhis preferred using Hindi and English to communicate. Thus, their children, the third generation Sindhi migrants, were removed from their homeland, their cultural identity and even their language.

The government policy of compulsory regional language education in the State board curriculum was also an added burden to the landless Sindhi migrants and took them even farther away from their mother tongue.

In the absence of a homeland, it is absolutely essential to preserve one’s cultural heritage, which includes the language. The modern nuclear families lack a grandparent figure who can relegate stories about the past in their homeland, and instill the value of the mother tongue in the shaping of one’s identity, which can grow a sense of belongingness to one’s culture. Children, thus grow up distanced from their roots and in this age of globalization, feel their language and culture to be ‘back-dated’.

Moreover, the nasal tone of the Sindhi language was a point of mockery, along with the fact that the Sindhis were migrants from the ‘enemy’ nation Pakistan. Children increasingly distanced themselves from Sindhi language and culture to save themselves the forced embarrassment.

Sindhi language is well on its way to extinction, thanks to parents and children who think that when a language can’t be used for economic and social prosperity, it loses its purpose. They fail to understand that teaching one’s mother tongue to future generations is like passing down the torch of cultural heritage which comes with the ancestral experiences and the feeling of oneness between community members.

The current generation, possibly, has the last chance to salvage Sindhi language. If a third generation Sindhi now wishes to learn the language, most have to learn it as a foreign language—via internet websites and other language courses. It can be enriched through watching TV channels and plays in Sindhi.

Parents and grandparents must take active part in teaching the language along with imparting knowledge of their cultural roots to their children. The recent Sindhi Drama Festival held in Delhi by the Sindhi Academy was a great initiative to bring the Sindhi language and culture to the fore. Doordarshan has also been asked to start a Sindhi news channel.

Minority languages, especially those which do not have a homeland in India, must be given the benefit of policy level changes and educational institutions must be established for their preservation. English and Hindi, being popular languages in India can be learned even outside a classroom setting, but endangered languages need specialized focus. However, if the basic interest of the community members and respect for the language cannot be generated, the procedure would become a failure and Sindhi would join the bandwagon of the many languages on their journey to oblivion. (image source: wikimedia)

  • Shashi Lalvani

    At least Sindhis have an “excuse” to preside over the decline of their language and culture. The fate Sindhi has suffered also awaits other Indian languages, that is the price India pays to remain as one unit. The one language of the Indian subcontinent that may flourish is Bangla (not Bengali of “West ” Bengal. West – a throwback from Lord Curzon’s partition in 1905. Parenthetically Uttar Pradesh – UP was christened after Upper Provinces of the British Raj).

    The independent nation of Bangladesh, it is my hope, would promote Bangla.
    There is also an outside chance that Punjabi may survive – thanks to Sikhs who are people of the Book. Sikh identity is intimately involved with their language.

  • Shashi Lalvani

    At least Sindhis have an “excuse” to preside over the decline of their language and culture. The fate Sindhi has suffered also awaits other Indian languages, that is the price India pays to remain as one unit. The one language of the Indian subcontinent that may flourish is Bangla (not Bengali of “West ” Bengal. West – a throwback from Lord Curzon’s partition in 1905. Parenthetically Uttar Pradesh – UP was christened after Upper Provinces of the British Raj).

    The independent nation of Bangladesh, it is my hope, would promote Bangla.
    There is also an outside chance that Punjabi may survive – thanks to Sikhs who are people of the Book. Sikh identity is intimately involved with their language.

  • Shashi Lalvani

    At least Sindhis have an “excuse” to preside over the decline of their language and culture. The fate Sindhi has suffered also awaits other Indian languages, that is the price India pays to remain as one unit. The one language of the Indian subcontinent that may flourish is Bangla (not Bengali of “West ” Bengal. West – a throwback from Lord Curzon’s partition in 1905. Parenthetically Uttar Pradesh – UP was christened after Upper Provinces of the British Raj).

    The independent nation of Bangladesh, it is my hope, would promote Bangla.
    There is also an outside chance that Punjabi may survive – thanks to Sikhs who are people of the Book. Sikh identity is intimately involved with their language.

  • Shashi Lalvani

    At least Sindhis have an “excuse” to preside over the decline of their language and culture. The fate Sindhi has suffered also awaits other Indian languages, that is the price India pays to remain as one unit. The one language of the Indian subcontinent that may flourish is Bangla (not Bengali of “West ” Bengal. West – a throwback from Lord Curzon’s partition in 1905. Parenthetically Uttar Pradesh – UP was christened after Upper Provinces of the British Raj).

    The independent nation of Bangladesh, it is my hope, would promote Bangla.
    There is also an outside chance that Punjabi may survive – thanks to Sikhs who are people of the Book. Sikh identity is intimately involved with their language.

Next Story

Myanmar Must Take Back Displaced Rohingya Refugees : India

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state

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A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. VOA

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India on Sunday said Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh must be taken back by Myanmar from where they have been displaced.

“Normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine state,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a media meet also attended by her Bangladeshi counterpart Abula Hassan Mahmood Ali.

This followed the fourth India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Committee meeting.

ALSO READ US will Provide $32 Million to Rohingyas As Humanitarian Aid Package

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state, bdnews24.com reported.

She said India was “deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar”.

According to latest figures from the UN office in Bangladesh, over 600,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmar Army cracked down on the Rohingyas after a series of attacks on security personnel in Rakhine.

Bangladesh Minister Ali said India was urged to contribute towards exerting sustained pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, including return of Rohingyas to their homeland. (IANS)

Next Story

Nearly 58% of Rohingya Refugees are Kids Suffering from Severe Malnutrition, Says UN Report

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Bangladesh, October 20, 2017 : Nearly fifty-eight per cent of the about 600,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who suffer from severe malnutrition, a UN report released said.

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) report also said that these children were highly exposed to infectious diseases, Efe news reported.

“In a sense it’s no surprise that they must truly see this place as a hell on earth,” said Simon Ingram, Unicef official and author of the report.

Titled “Outcast and Desperate: Rohingya refugee children face a perilous future” was released at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

After two weeks in Cox’s Bazar, a southern Bangladesh town where nearly 600,000 newly arrived refugees are crammed into a crowd of 200,000 Rohingyas who had fled earlier, Ingram described the situation fraught with “despair, misery and indescribable suffering”.

The report highlights the dangers these Rohingya minors faced during the attacks when they were in Myanmar or when they were fleeing the repression to Bangladesh.

The report also highlighted several drawings of children with uniformed soldiers killing people and helicopters spraying bullets from the sky.

In mid-August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) carried out a coordinated attack on security posts in Myanmar, sparking a violent response from the military which led to thousands of Rohingyas in Rakhine state fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Ingram explained that very little is known about what is happening in Rakhine, since humanitarian agencies have not been able to enter the region since August.

Most of the refugees “are already undernourished, since the repression also included the burning of food stores and the destruction of crops”, he said.

According to the Unicef estimates, one in every five children under the age of five is suffering from acute malnutrition and about 14,500 suffer severe acute malnutrition.

Ingram explained that the main danger of infectious diseases have been mitigated with the vaccination campaign against cholera, measles and polio, but much remains to be done to tackle these risks.

He added the situation worsened with the lack of clean drinking water as these children consumed only contaminated water which is another main source of infection.

With regard to child protection, the expert welcomed the fact that the number of unaccompanied children had decreased to 800, with the identification tasks carried out by the various humanitarian agencies on the ground.

Regarding sexual abuse or forced or early marriages, Ingram explained that for now they have only punctual evidence, but that it is a real risk in any situation such as in Cox’s Bazar.

What does occur relatively frequently, he said, is child labour.

In the area of protection, the essential issue is the status of these people.

Not only do they have to be recognized as refugees, but also that newborns in the countryside or along the way, he said, should be able to obtain some kind of birth certificate.

Unicef and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are negotiating with the Bangladeshi authorities the possibility of issuing birth certificates for newborn Rohingyas, but the talks are still in process.

The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority that Myanmar does not recognize as citizens and are therefore stateless. (IANS)

 

Next Story

Stop Lecturing And Demonizing India over its Plan to Deport 40,000 Stateless Rohingya Muslims: Minister

The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming centuries-old roots

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Rohingya refugee watch children attend madrass in a temporary shelter on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Wednesday, Aug.16,2017. VOA
  • Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have slammed India’s deportation plan as “outrageous”
  • The government says the Rohingya Muslims are illegal immigrants and should deported because they pose a potential security threat
  • There is no other country in the world which hosts so many refugees, so don’t demonize us, don’t give us lecture
Rights groups should stop lecturing and demonizing India over its plan to deport 40,000 stateless Rohingya and recognize that the country has treated millions of refugees from across the world humanely, a senior official said this week.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-wing government says the Rohingya Muslims who have fled to India because of persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are illegal immigrants and should deported because they pose a potential security threat.

“India is the most humane nation in the world,” said junior interior minister Kiren Rijiju, defending an order to states to identify and deport the Rohingya — including 16,500 registered with the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR).

“There is no other country in the world which hosts so many refugees, so don’t demonize us, don’t give us lecture,” Rijiju said.

Hundreds of thousands have fled Myanmar, where they are marginalized and sometimes subjected to communal violence, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh — and some then crossing a porous border into Hindu-majority India.

FILE - Children of Rohingya refugees attend a temporary school run by a nongovernmental organization at a camp for Rohingyas in New Delhi, India, Aug. 16, 2017.
FILE – Children of Rohingya refugees attend a temporary school run by a nongovernmental organization at a camp for Rohingyas in New Delhi, India, Aug. 16, 2017. VOA

On Monday, Myanmar security forces intensified operations against Rohingya insurgents, following three days of clashes with militants in the worst violence involving the Muslim minority in five years.

Indian minister Rijiju said registration with the UNHCR was irrelevant.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out states’ responsibilities toward refugees. Nor does it have a domestic law to protect refugees.

ALSO READ: Refugees in India Looming For Basic Rights: Here Is Why India Needs Refugee Law! 

The Rohingya will be sent back from India in a humane way, following due legal processes, Rijiju added.

“We are not going to shoot them, nor are we planning to throw them in the ocean,” he said Monday.

Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have slammed India’s deportation plan as “outrageous.”

Asia’s third-largest economy is bound by customary international law — the principle of non-refoulement — where it cannot forcibly return refugees to a place where they face danger, they say. (VOA)