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Lost heritage: Revisiting the roots of Saraiki, the language of Multan

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By Keshav Chhabra

Hindustan vandeej giya, assan vi rovoon tey tussan vi rovoo!

(Hindustan has been divided. We cry; so do you.)

The familiarity in those strange words springs out effortlessly for the ex-residents of an undivided Hindustan. As if ‘something there is that doesn’t love a wall’. [1] The wall which has divided many and hasn’t given the world much to celebrate has out-strengthened the bond of love. The partition of Hindustan resulting into the formation of two countries, Pakistan and India, has, since then, been commemorated as a tragedy. The decision had baffled many, as portrayed brilliantly by Manto, ‘for whom, the Partition was an overwhelming tragedy’. The imprint of the event can be reflected in literature works in languages including English, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Sindhi and many others.

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But a language spoken by more than 20 million people continues to be ignored. The first sentence wasn’t in Punjabi, or Dogri, but in Saraiki (previously known as Multani), one of the most ancient in the world, but ‘un-developed’. Siraiki speaking people, though majorly in Pakistan, can also be found in Middle-East, Afghanistan and India (as a result of migration in 1947). In an attempt to understand the roots of the language, NewsGram team interviewed Dr. J.C. Batra, President of Siraiki International.

Dr. Batra has been a Barrister-at-law, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India. His mother tongue is Multani/Siraiki and he continues his efforts to promote Siraiki language throughout the world.

Multan is one of the most ancient cities of the world, dating back 6,000 years. And Dr. Batra believes that Multani is one of the most ancient languages in the world. He says, “Multan’s name was derived from Mool Sthaan (roughly translated as basic/root place). Multani is the mother of Sanskrit. But the language was undeveloped, before Pāṇini formulated rules of Sanskrit morphology. Not only Pāṇini, Charak, Patanjali, Kautilya Chanakya, Dronacharya are some of the great historic figures who spoke Multani.”

Previously, the language was known as Multani. It is only after the social and political leaders undertook the initiative to promote the language, it was renamed Saraiki/Siraiki in the 1960s. The language has three writing systems, having Persian script, Devanagari Script and Shahmukhi. One of the most ancient scripts, the Laṇḍā script is also used to write Saraiki.

Talking about the usage of Saraiki in the British India, Dr. Batra said, “George A. Grierson, an Irish linguist scholar, conducted the Linguist Survey of India (1898-1928) spent half a volume writing about Laṇḍā, also including Multani and other languages.” Born near Multan in the undivided India, Dr. Batra migrated to India in the present day Kunjpura, a village in Karnal (Haryana). He said he was baffled by the partition of the country and had always wanted to go to his birth-place.

“I did apply for a visa and I went there. When I was conversing there in Multani, a little kid asked his father- Dad, you say he has come from India. But he is speaking Saraiki. I was curious about what Saraiki was? His father told me that Saraiki was the new name for Multani.

“Saraiki has been the victim of the new culture. Our colonizers employed language as a tool of colonization and they have succeeded. One finds all the sign-boards and other public writings in English or Hindi, whether you go to Chandani Chowk or Katda or Kunjpura.

“The vocabulary, the thinking has changed. The terms we use have undergone a huge change. We don’t think in our mother-tongue anymore. We think in the language of the colonizers.”

Though Dr. Batra was justified in what he was saying, the driving force behind this huge project was still a mystery. He said, “Like me, there are many people who are keen to search their roots. This will certainly help in the revival of the language, the culture and bringing the two countries together. We want the revival of our roots so that we don’t get enslaved.”

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When asked what can be done to promote Saraiki, Dr. Batra was hopeful about the future and mentioned many practical and feasible ways to bring Saraiki and other ethnic languages in our usage.

“The language needs to be developed and brought in use. Books about Saraiki in English or Hindi will help to bring this change. The language should be taught at different levels. Another brilliant way can be to bring the language to use in economic purposes (or rozi-roti, as he calls it). The process is slow, but steady.”

There are many universities in Pakistan which continue to promote academic studies in Saraiki including Islamia University (Bahawalpur), Bahauddin Zakariya University (Multan). Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad and Al-Khair University (Bhimbir) offer M.Phil. & Ph.D in Saraiki. Apart from that, there is no shortage of Saraiki literature. From Khwaja Ghulam Farid to Mohsin Naqvi, there have been many Saraiki poets. “Around one thousand books and six hundred magazines are published in Saraiki language every year,” says Dr. Batra.

Dr. Batra runs a blog in order to promote the language. He has represented Siraiki International at various conferences in and outside India, and continues to do so. Himself a fluent speaker and influential author of Saraiki, he has written various poems in the language and he was generous enough to recite one for us.

You can watch the video here:

 

http://youtu.be/n_fdw5PhCGw

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Star ICC Asks Anonymous Accuser Of Sexual Assault Charges To Step Forward

The accuser said that while she was at the company, there were "clear instructions" given to make the sales team fulfil the targets.

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#MeToo: Star India internal panel writes to anonymous accuser to come forward

The Internal Complaints Committee of Star India on Sexual Harassment (Star ICC) has written to the anonymous accuser — who had alleged “sexual exploitation” of women employees — asking her to reach out to the committee or its external member on allegations made by her in tweets.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Star ICC, formed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 said it had reached out to the accuser through two emails on the ID provided by her through her tweets. The committee’s external member is Veena Gowda, a Mumbai-based woman rights lawyer.

The accuser, who tweeted through handle @ApurvaS17 — saying she would remain anonymous — had made sexual harassment allegations against the company’s officials in an open letter.

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Star believes that the allegations made in the tweet without the complainant coming forward and giving any further detail, is a malicious attempt.

Asked to comment on the allegations, a Star India spokesperson said in a statement that despite no response by the anonymous accuser to the messages sent, the Star ICC had “suo moto conducted a preliminary inquiry and found no basis or factual accuracy” in respect of the allegations.

“We strongly urge any genuine complainant to approach the Star ICC. At Star, we stand with women in drawing the line on any behaviour that violates human dignity or the ability for women to pursue their dreams with respect and freedom. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment,” read the statement in response to an email query by IANS.

It also said that the anonymous tweet shared on October 13 raised an allegation that “runs completely counter to everything we believe in and the norms and values that we deeply embrace.”

The statement further said: “Star believes that the allegations made in the tweet without the complainant coming forward and giving any further detail, is a malicious attempt to malign and defame the reputation of the company and the CEO.” It said that Star reserves its right to initiate appropriate legal proceedings in this regard.

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The Star ICC had “suo moto conducted a preliminary inquiry and found no basis or factual accuracy.

The accuser in her tweets had said that the #MeToo movement had encouraged her to come forward and that she had quit her job at Star India in the Airtime Sales section after 26 months and nine days and was now a homemaker, “taking care of my baby and hubby in a beautiful country, far away from Mumbai.”

The accuser said that while she was at the company, there were “clear instructions” given to make the sales team fulfil the targets in case they want to continue with their employment contract, “for which even if you have to take the clients to a hotel room and sleep with them for days.”

She said there were many instances when she and three of her female colleagues (interns) had clear instructions to reach a hotel after office hours for a private party hosted for influential friends.

Also Read: India’s Junior Foreign Minister M.J. Akbar Quits Following #MeToo Harassment Allegation By Women

She says the influential friends were “mostly bureaucrats and sometimes politicians and foreign nationals” who were “all ready to violate you, force you to dance against your wishes, drink with them, make drink(s) for them, exchange your numbers and even quietly accompany them to their respective rooms if they want you to”.

Veteran writer-director Vinta Nanda, who earlier this month accused actor Alok Nath of sexually violating her 19 years ago, wrote on Twitter: “I’m neither shocked nor surprised. I salute your courage to have come out and spoken out. The rot runs deep.” (IANS)