Save Indus river – with out it Sindh is lost

Following is the portion of Idrees Rajput’s article published in Sindhi Daily Kawish, dated June 26, 2009

scindhThe prosperity of Sindh is closely linked with Indus and it is apparently due to this reason, that Sindh is so sensitive, if anyone interferes with the Indus River. Indus water in the body of Sindh is considered as vital as blood is for a human body. So long the Indus was not interferes with, Sindh remained in healthy growth. Unfortunately two thick leeches (Indus links) were stuck very recently to the body of Indus when Sindh was not aware of them. Again the deterioration in the health of Sindh depends upon the sucking programme of these leeches. There is every danger that, if they suck too much, Sindh is liable to be turned in to a desert specially when these links are beyond the boundary of sindh, beyond its control of operation and even observation, very recently when we were short of water, the Taunsa-Panjand link was opened and the water was transferred from the Indus to the Tributary Zone and the water was transferred from the Indus to the Tributary Zone without regard to our historic rights of even basic allocations just to meet certain higher level of uses of the Punjab canals. It is mainly due to this reason that Sindh considers any misdirected or without effective control, operation of Indus links, so hazardous for its very survival.

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  1. AJRAK HISTORICAL HERITAGE OF SINDH.

    written by Asif Raza Morio.

    DUE TO NATIONAL INSENSIBILITY AND STATE CARELESSNESS,
    BEAUTIFUL COLORS OF AJRAK HAVE BEEN VANISHING.

    Fabulously fertilized land of Sindh has been remained abode of splendid culture, tradition and histories since time immemorial, thus uncountable legendry narrations are concealed into souls of the people living in this locale that we called Sindhi.
    From historical point of view national identities are considered with past glories and the earlier period of Sindh has thousand evidence of its prominence that can practically be seen in ruined cities of Indus valley civilizations their remains are still zealous confessor of affluent heritage of this area. Moreover written scripts of earliest literature also reveal the pompousness of the geography, environment, agriculture, tradition, livelihood, hospitality and bravery of this land and nation.

    Being urbane and socially learned people their mode of living and choice of dress remained attractive and admirable. Among choice of dress in Ajrak (a particular type of flowery cloth sheet) occupied an mandatory position in their costumes that can rightly be said among few emblematic identities of Sindhi culture through annals of times and its usage as revealed by archaeological remains and historical scripts is rooted centuries back.
    Bust of king priest (founded from five thousand years old city of Moen-jo-daro, located near Larkana district of Sindh) is most valuable piece of ancient history. A particular coverlet or sheet is worn by him that can be said first form of Ajrak because from color, design, style and over all out ward appearance point of view it resembles with Ajrak.
    In earliest Arabian scripts Ajrak has been callsed as Azrak which means blue, holy book of Muslim Quran says it Al-jirq. Egyptians wrapped their mummies into the cotton cloth imported from Sindh which they called Sindhin. 500 BC: at the time of crown ceremony of Persian king Dara (first) an Ajrak and Sindhi cloak has been present to him.
    Ajrak has basically four colors, red, blue, white and black. Its earth is blue or red, margins and bits are black whereas flowering symbols are white. Important character of Ajrak is that it can be worn in all seasons. Sindhi people picture their hospitality, love and affection by presenting Ajrak to their guests, elders and lovers. Nowadays shirts, ties, skirts, women cloths, cushion, table covers, curtains etc: has also been prepared with Ajrak’s prints.
    STAGES OF PREPARATIONS OF THE AJRAK.
    There are fifteen to twenty five different stages of Ajraks preparation, all that toil is painstaking and arduous art where great adroitness and expertise trial is needed. During first five stages of Ajrak creation the cloth has been stamped for hundred times in each process. In this way after passing fourteen other journeys Ajrak became matured.
    In superior quality of Ajrak leader cloth has been used which has been kept in big frying pan after in Alkali (carbonate of potash), boiling it for particular time it is dried under scorching sun light and then fully washed into big pond or tank of water. Later than, that it is left dipped into oil for five or six days. Repeating that all processes have four or five times cloth is washed in lemon mixed water. Meanwhile color of cloth changed into mild yellow and finally it is stamped and dried into sharp light again. All this process of Ajrak making is called “churrai” by locals.
    Ajrak of lower quality has been dipped into oil and soap before upper process start, but few Ajrak makers applied different methods of preparation. They dried white cloth in to medicinal herbs or dipping into dung of camel and Alkali carried to pool of water where it is repeatedly washed and dried under sun. In final stage of preparation it is dipped into potash and powder. Among two kinds of Ajrak one is dyed in flowing water whilst other is colored into still water.
    All these stages of Ajrak making are completed into twenty or twenty five days. In this way every year more than five thousand Ajraks have been prepared and sent towards different cities of Pakistan and abroad.
    COLORS AND THINGS USED IN PREPARATION OF AJRAK.
    Acacia tree’s gum (sweat meat) peracus, dung of camel, sweet wood, flour of rice, Alum, soda, oil, indigo, Alcester, alcazar etc: has been used in its preparation. Naturally hot sunlight and particular watery place like any pool, pond, tank or lake are important for setting colors, dying and washing.
    During and some time before English era Sindhees prepare oil, colors and spices used in Ajrak making by them selves from local medicinal herbs whereas nowadays red colored chemical Alcester has been imported from India, Germany and France. An other substance Indigo is also imported from Germany whereas, during 17th century AD, Sewhan city of Sindh was greatest centre of its production. History tells that in October 1613, AD, English trader Nicolas Washington has been sent here by East India Company to purchase indigo.
    PRESENT CONDITION AJRAK INDUSTRY.
    Major portion of Ajrak industry has been destroyed, remaining is at the state of fits and to faint its unique individuality any time. During and after three decades after partition Sindh boasted more than 30 factories, uncountable units and warehouses of Ajrak production and now we have two or three factories and few hundred units left, in very deplorable condition. Their owners are bargaining with real state agents to put up for sale those out. In this state of strangeness, poverty, disfavor and negligence the creators of this splendid creation are leaving their hopes and fading their dreams like forfeited Ajrak. In the grief its dwindling individualism Ajrak’s inspiring and motivating colors are becoming light, dull and dim day by day.
    Remaining centers of Ajrak making are mostly located into cities of southern Sindh as Thatta, Nasrpur, Tando Mohd khan, Shahmeer, Saeed pur, Mulakatiar, Seekhat, Matyari, Hala, Bhit shah, Matli etc:. Whereas among many cities of northern Sindh only Sukkur is left as limited producer, other cities like Kakar and Manjhand has no more factory or unit where uncountable factories have been boosted in the near past.
    Thatta remained greatest centre of Ajrak production but now more than eighty percent production of this city has been wrecked. Cigarette cabins, vegetable shops, public call offices hotels and bar-b-q etc: can now be seen on famous shops of Ajrak. Best among ajrak makers are working as waiter, hawkers, book binders and selling milk, newspapers, tomatoes, cigarettes etc:
    Second big Ajrak maker Matyari city has also same state of affairs, at the time of partition, more than fifteen factories of Ajrak making were active but now not any one is left. Only few hundred weavers are still attaching individually with their inherited work. Poverty, dearth of opportunities and shortage of production has onwards them from ancestral occupation and engaged them selves towards other moving parts of livelihood.
    In Tando Mohd Khan we have around fifty little units of Ajrak production, where more than three hundred labors are concerned in caring celebrated colors of Ajrak and demandingly trying to save our common heritage at their possible ability.
    CAUSES OF THE DESTRUCTION OF AJRAK INDUSTRY.
    We all Pakistanis nationals by ourselves are destroying our cultural heritages respectively with our own hands, whereas China Cap, English costumes, Palestinian scarf, paint shirt and several rejected things of other nations are applying as fashion. State and its missionaries as well never played any encouraging character in strengthen or enhance such industries or even to introduce our prideful heritages in national or international market.
    In this deplorable state of affairs encouragement for Ajrak making and protection is not found in state policies, national and cultural affairs or among financers. Government departments, national hawkers, theologians, social and cultural organizations, NGOs are surprisingly dumbfound.
    Consequently, Ajrak makers caused dejection and damping the spirits, though they are caring and protecting our common heritage but no one is caring their children, health or saving them from poverty. Neither their present is secure nor did future, therefore industry of Ajrak is shrinking it self day by day.
    Nations of the world have always been progressive to their heritages, they been busy in introducing fresh feature, characteristics and aspects among their old customs and traditions. By this way they not only took care but lead their past glories toward best of the best ranks.
    But we, among other nations of the world are different, we never been positive and progressive towards our history or its attributes. We have been always welcome towards restituted alien fashions and customs infiltrated among us out side from border or sea any time.
    In these circumstances like other national heritages processing genuineness and exceptionality of Ajrak making is worsening day by day from good to bad and now sloping itself towards horrific and poorer. Government of Pakistan with the help of Asian development bank granted one twenty million rupees for construction of Ajrak complex, Sindh Ajrak multi-purpose society also sponsored this project. But due to our particular national careless character and states limitation and fabricated tenderism, the dream of Ajrak complex could not came reality, the land purchased for its building has been occupied by rank and file and the money blown away like cigarette fume.
    Sindh small industry also constructed a residential colony of sixty five quarters for Ajrak makers but infiltration of bureaucracy and political factors facilitated more than seventy percent dwellers irrelevant to this industry. More over according to tender documents almost all the things related to Ajrak making should be on the horizon as pond of water, boring system etc: but with the great deal of regret and grief, no any progressive action taken as it was scheduled in tender script. Labors are still going miles away for their work, there should have been accountability.
    Poverty and illiteracy of Sindhi labor is also responsible for the demolition of this industry, he neither is aware of modern market values nor they posses potency to buy accessories and cotton cloth which is growing expensive day by day, because it has been tying with price of cotton. Therefore he is compelled to sell his laborious art very low-priced to purchasers. Most of among them has mortgage their lives, health, time and art in the hands of opportunists. Because during summer and rainy seasons when Ajrak making is closed these people spend their livelihood on loan , interest or credit from these wicked financers, nowadays seventy five percent Ajrak makers and small unit owners throughout Sindh are creditors of moneyed class.
    Methods of loaning prepared by contractors is very hard purely on profit base, taking advantage of poor labors neediness financers blackmail them in every possible way and mortgage even themselves forever. In such situation labor community always been clutched into the claws of affluent and despite convulsive motion they can never escape from their grasp.
    Internationally recommended eight hour time is not enforced here for Ajrak makers, buried under heavy loans labors has been forced to work day and night in unhygienic conditions. Violation of health laws worsely affected the health of labors, accordingly when they lost proper state of physique and remained unable to work, contractors cast them off disgustedly.
    Limitedness of manual art and cottage industry due to modern industrial technology is also important reason behind Ajrak’s industry demise. Technical appliances has replaced human hands and reduced manual labor, therefore today we can hardly find original cotton Ajrak because forfeited Ajrak made by factories is economical, trouble-free and uncomplicated for maker, seller and purchaser than manual.
    Disfavoring polices of state and its machineries also destroyed production of Ajrak, because strings and loan procedures are very unfeasible that even middle class man can not think about it. Mostly loans are given on personal surety, property mortgage or on already established business and all these nets have been prepared by economists to facilitate their capitalist brethren.
    FEW PROPOSALS FOR AJRAK PROGRESS.
    • Workshops and seminars should have been conducted for brilliance of Ajrak and the coverage given in all forms of media.
    • Loans with easy markup and strings should be extended to Ajrak makers and residential colonies be established for them.
    • Degree of PhD: should be approved on Ajrak and on such other national heritages.
    • Utility stores of the spices and things used in Ajrak industry should be provided on fair prices.
    • Stalls should be established on exhibitions and fairs throughout country and abroad, where as permanent shops should have been installed at all museums and historical places of the country for common visitors and tourists.
    • Tax should be shortened on preparation, export and business of Ajrak.
    • Substantive and meaningful participation of culture department is requires to expose its traditional character reasonable
    • portion from budget should be invested.
    • Giving stage of industry Ajrak should be introduced into international market, foreign guests and delegates should have been honored to present Ajrak at the time of reception and departure.
    • We as a nation need to be educated and qualified concerned with our history as we are alarmed with our belief and values,
    • So that we stop continue to threaten the survival of our indigenous culture and value to incorporate our histories.

    published in Jewel Time Magazine.

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