DevNagri for Sindhi Language

( A small monograph, for persons interested in Sindhi )

 Background :
In the later-half of the 19th century, Sindh was a part of the ‘Bombay’ Province in ‘British India’. However, in 1935, Sindh was separated from Bombay province. In the British Era, a vote was taken in a Committee in Sindh, as to what should be the Script for Sindhi language. By a small majority, Arabic Script won over DevNagri. (As it is, for a large duration, Sindh was more or less under Muslim rule from the beginning of the 8 th Century AD , i.e. after Muhammad Bin Qasim defeated King Dahir. So, it was somewhat natural that Arabic be accepted as the Script for Sindhi language) . It is neither relevant nor desirable to bring Religion into this discussion; still it is noteworthy that over the centuries, the Hindu Sindhis as a community, as socio-cultural group, has played an important role in Sindh’s politics, trade, commerce etc., and culture in general. So it is worth remembering that a number of such Sindhis from this socio-cultural group wanted DevNagri as the Script for the Sindhi language, which is an ‘Indo-Aryan’ Language.

• Partition : 1947 :
In 1947, ‘British India’ was partitioned into ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’. However, although Punjab & Bengal were divided between India & Pakistan, no such thing happened with Sindh. In his book, ‘The Sindh Story’, Mr. Malkani makes a strong & passionate case that at least one District or one Tehsil in Sindh should have come into India. Just as Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan had said with anguish that the then-Indian-leadership had abandoned Baluchistan; similarly, Sindhis like Mr Malkani felt that the Indian-leadership had abandoned Sindh. ( The then-leadership may have had its compulsions, priorities, or limitations ; but , that is out of the scope of the present monograph). Be that as it may, one has to reckon with the fact that Entire-Sind- province remained in Pakistan. Consequently, after partition, the Hindus in Sindh had to ‘run away’ to India as refugees, leaving behind everything that they had in Sindh. Salute to this ‘tough’ community that, even after losing everything that they had back in Sindh , they rose like a phoenix, after settling in India.

• Sindhis & the Republic of India :
While the Nation Anthem of India proudly mentions Sindh, by saying ‘Punjab-Sindh-Gujarat-Maratha-Draavid-Utkal-Vang’ ; and while Sindhi is one of the ‘Recognised’ & ‘Scheduled’ languages in the Republic of India, the sad fact remains that , the Sindhis in India are without a state, not even a truncated one like Punjab or Bengal. What of a state or ‘Terrotory’, they do not even have a single town or village which they can call theirs. They have had to make towns like Ulhasnagar near Mumbai, ‘their towns’.

 The New Generation of Sindhis in India , and the Sindhi language :
• Nearly 70 years have passed after the Sindhis of Sindh province arrived as refugees & settled in India. This period means nearly 3 generations. Several Sindhis have married non-Sindhis, and no-more speak Sindhi. Particularly, the youngsters may not be knowing Sindhi language at all, or at best they can speak Sindhi but can not read & write it. As the youngsters ,or even some middle-aged persons, do not know the Arabic Script, they can not read or write Sindhi.
• Some examples : In her book, ‘The making of Exile : Sindhi Hindus & Partition of India’ Nandita Bhavnani clearly mentions the ‘decline of Sindhi language’. Similarly, in the book, ’Sindh : Stories from a Vanished Homeland’, the author Saaz Aggarwal (whose mother is a Sindhi married to a non-Sindhi) , admits that she ‘can not speak Sindhi’.
Our family-friend , a middle-aged educated Sindhi lady married to a Maharashtrian , says that she can not read or write Sindhi due to its Arabic script ; and it is also a matter of anguish for her that she has no such place that she can call her ‘Home-Town’ .
• ‘The Vanishing Language’ : If Sindhi in India remains only as a spoken language ( i.e. ‘BOLI’ bhasha) , there is every likelihood that after some time it will disappear in India. A language can, not only survive but also grow , only if it has literature is on varied subjects; and only if many people read, write & communicate through the written word. And, the matter is all the more serious if the present generation of young Sindhis in India can not even speak their mother-tongue.
• So, there is an immediate & pressing NEED for starting a LARGE-SCALE movement for pushing the use of DevNagri as the Additional Script for the Sindhi Language.

 Case for DevNagri for Sindhi Language:
• Before we turn to the topic of DevNagri Script for Sindhi language, let us have a look at some Linguistic Examples.
• Urdu –
As we know, Urdu has the grammar of Hindi, but it has many Persian & Arabic, and some Turkish words. While Hindi is written in DevNagri, Urdu is written in Arabic Script. Consequently, persons who can not read the Arabic Script, can not read Urdu. However, now-a-days, several Urdu books are published in DevNagri script too, and so, a much larger portion of the population can enjoy reading Urdu Gazals, poetry, short-stories and such .
• Goan Konkani –
Konkani in Goa is written in DevNagri script as well as in Roman script. As a result, Hindu as well as Christian Goans can read & write Konkani in the respective script.
• Kutchhi –
Kutchhi language has similarities with Sindhi, and it uses Gujarati as its script.
• Marathi –
From the period of the Yadav kings of Devgiri, till the end of the Peshwa regime, i.e. for a period of nearly six centuries, in addition to DevNagri (oftern referred to as ‘BalBodh’) Marathi was using another additional Script called ’Modi’. Modi script was used in trade & commerce, govt. taxes & revenue collection, and records & correspondence in the field of political governance . After the end of the Peshwa regime and the advent of British Rule, use of Modi declined & finally disappeared. When people of my age were in school, Modi script was a subject that we learnt. As a large number of people have always been familiar with DevNagri, Marathi as a language has had no difficulties.
• Sanskrit –
People often think that DevNagri has always been the Script for Sanskrit. But that is an incorrect assumption. While DevNagri script has been developed towards the later-part of the 1 st millennium AD; Sanskrit (Or its predecessor ‘Proto-Sanskrit’ , also called by several other names including ‘Vedic-Sanskrit’ ) , has existed for several millennia. Obviously therefore, over the centuries Sanskrit has been written in different scripts. Even in the middle-ages, after the advent of DevNagri, several Sanskrit books have been written in a number of ‘Regional’ scripts all over India. It is said that in the 1 st millennium there has been a Mahabharata copy written in Sindhi.
• Jain Literature –
Jain literature was initially in ArdhgMagdhi. Later, particularly in the 1 st millennium & in the middle-ages, it has been in scripts like Gujarati, Kannada etc. It is still available in Gujarati & DevNagri scripts.
• Ashokan Edicts : While many rock-edicts of Emperor Ashoka have used Brahmi script, those in the North-Western region (Gandhara etc) have used Kharoshti script. Obviously, the populace in those parts must not have been well-versed in the Brashmi script.
• Sindhi –
Apart from Arabic & DevNagri scripts, Sidhi was also written in Lunda / Gurumukhi ; and a script called Khudawadi / Khudabadi was also developed for Sindhi. So, Sindhi has used more than one scripts in the past.
After partition, the Govt. Of India supported use of DevNagri (modified to suit Sindhi pronunciations) ; but, it is said that, it was not popular.
However, thereafter, nearly 70 years have passed, a lot of water has flown under the bridge, the generations have changed, and so a renewed effort ought to be made in India, for the use of DevNagri for the Sindhi language.

 Learning Sindhi –
• Several persons have been interested in learning languages, and amongst others, the basics of Sindhi language ( but not the Arabic script, where it is difficult to proceed beyond a point on the basis of self-learning). Some years ago, a news-item had appeared about a Book on ‘Learning Sindhi from Marathi’. Despite searching, this information has not been seen again. Even Google-search does not locate this book. Also, there seems to be no book on ‘Learning Sindhi from Hindi’ . Perhaps, because of its low print-order, such books may not turn out to be profitable for a publisher, unless the publication is subsidized.
• If books on ‘Learning spoken Sindhi’ are made available in DevNagri, Gujarati etc, then certainly persons interested in learning Sindhi language will benefit, and a much larger number of people will go for it.

 ‘Belling the Cat’ –
Here are a few ideas :
As DevNagri script is not used for the Sindhi language to any large extent, then –
 Important Sindhi organisations , and others, could appeal to the Government of India to start a project for transliterating Sindhi books from Arabic script to DevNagri script.
 In addition, important Sindhi organisations ,and / or any other social and cultural organisations, too could start such a project.
( After all, several Publishers print & sell Urdu books in DevNagri script. Same can be done for Sindhi too ).
 Through websites like ‘’ , ‘Facebook’ and many such other websites, an Awareness Campaign and a Signature Campaign could be started towards this.
 All important & eminent persons, VIPs, and all politica organisations could support this venture.
 A publicity campaign could be run, to make people aware of it.
 Short courses could be started to teach Sindhi.
(There are classes for learning Urdu, even in a Place like Mumbai, and classes for learning Modi script. So, why not for learning at least spoken-Sindhi language ? )

 Finally :
In conclusion, one would like to very humbly highlight the following :
 Heritage – Sindhi is a part of the rich Indian Cultural- & Linguistic- heritage.
 Legacy – Sindh was a part of the several-millennia-old, ancient ‘Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization’. While some sites of this ‘Cradle of Civilization’ are lost to Pakistan, new ones found in India. Similarly, it should be recognized that, while Siondh as a region is lost to India, one of its legacies is though present-day-Sindhis, their culture & language.
 Genology – The genes found in ancient bones recovred in excavations of the Sindhu-Saraswati Culture-sites shows similarity with the genes of the present-day-people from that region. It clearly means that, the Sindhis (amongst others) are descendants of the ancient people of the nearly-ten-millennia-old Sindhu-Sarswati-Culture. It is therefore worthwhile to protect the continuation of the Sindhi-cultural-heritage & their language.
 Linguistic connection – Just as the present-day-Sindhis have a genetic relationship with the ancients from Sindhu-Saraswati civilization, similarly it is quite likely that the Sindhi language contains some remnants of now-lost ‘Paishachi’-Prakrit language. From this point of view too, it is necessary not only to preserve & grow the Sindhi language, but also to study it.
 The Historic Perspective – We also often overlook the historic fact that the foreign-aggression through Sindh was stopped in Sindh itself, and it could not proceed further into India, (and therefore, all further aggressions were from further-North). The Sindhis therefore need to be thanked for this historic role played by them over the centuries. And, these thanks are to be not merely by words but by deeds, namely, preserving the Sindhi language through pushing a much larger use of DevNagri as its script.

 Are we Indians, though our inaction, going allow the Sindhi culture & its language to vanish from India ? ALL Indians , including the Indian-Sindhis themselves, must work towards preserving it.

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– Subhash S. Naik

Santacruz (W), Mumbai.
Ph-Res : (022)-26105365
M- (0)-9869002126.
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