The time I’ve spent in Sindh, Pakistan over the last year and a half has been life changing. It’s taught me much about the history of South Asia, the cultural heritage of Sindh, our Sindhi brothers and sisters, the dynamics of the Muhajir- Sindhi relationship among a few things. But I believe these to be the more obvious lessons that every second generation removed Sindhi Indian American would also search for when they visit.
There’s been a deeper and much more personal journey involved for me as well: a spiritual one. I came to the land of Sufis to find myself with the hope to find my God as the grand triumph and ultimate destination of my quest.
I’ve learnt that I’m still learning and still looking. On this journey I’ve found beautiful hidden messages that I’ve read in books or inscribed on the walls of temples and Sufi durgahs:
“Ekam sat viprah bahuda vedanti.”
“Satyam amritasya putrah”
To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than bowing your head in prayer a thousand times. -Shaykh Sa’di
I believe not in the outer religion,
I live ever in love.
Say Amen! When love comes to you.
Love is neither with the infidels nor with the faithful.
– Sachal Sarmast
If you are seeking Allah,
Then keep clear of religious formalities.
Those who have seen Allah
Are away from all religions!
Those who do not see Allah here,
How will they see Him beyond?
– Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai
My time in Sindh surrounded by Sindhi Muslims has shown me the other side of Sindh’s story and another side of Sufi Islam. The stories of the Sindhi who provided their Hindu counterparts their homes to hide out in during the violence that broke out, the Muslims that bid a final farewell to their Hindu friends with tears in their eyes, the Sindhis who still hold those memories close to their hearts and feel the loss of the Sindhi Hindus as something Sindh never recovered from.
On November 7, 2011 three Hindus were killed in Shikarpur district of Sindh, Pakistan. As many of you already know, I worked in Shikarpur at the start of my time in Sindh. I still maintain close contact with my co-workers. A member of my family also sits on the board of a Hindu association of Sindh. Here’s what I must say, as it is the other side of the truth that exists.
Immediately following the killings the religious (Hindu in this case) spokesperson jumped on the bandwagon to claim religious bias as a cause of the killing. I turned to my personal network in Shikarpur for answers: there had been an election recently in which the Hindu community had supported the ruling party which won due to the large number of Hindu votes they received. The opposing party didn’t take their loss lightly and instead decided to teach a lesson to the opposite party. The end result of which was the death of the three Sindhi Hindu of whom only one was a doctor. Religious bias was not the reason for their death, politics was. Anyone who follows politics closely shouldnt be shocked to learn of the ways in which politicians use religion as a political strategy. As they say, ” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
What followed next was an absolute uproar within the Sindhi community and an alternate backlash against the government for their inadequate response and towards Sindh warning all Sindhis that this type of violence and is anti Sindhiyat and will not be tolerated by the residents of Sindh. They further emphasized that Sindh is the land of Sufis and believes in living in a tolerant society. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend as I was in Islamabad on official business. A young activist was kind enough to send me pictures.
Following the killings thousands of Pakistanis, both Hindu and Muslim, gathered publically across Pakistan to stand against the death of the three victims and the inaccurate message of intolerance it displayed. There was also a hunger strike that followed.
Sayings in books thousands of years old that we claim as ours aren’t good enough. It is far more necessary to put those words to action and there is no better time than now. Hate only breeds hate. History is meant to learn from not to regurgitate. It’s wrong to paint today’s canvas with yesterday’s paint. When you reach into the paint jar you may end up with dried out, useless paint. This is perhaps why they say one should not live today in the past of yesterday.
No one is saying that the sentiments of the Hindu Sindhis are wrong. Anger for being removed from motherland and from sacred river Sindhu is justified. But another truth follows suit: there’s a time for anger and then there’s a time to let go, to change and to move on.
Tides must turn. Peace must prevail.
Only then will their be prosperity in South Asia again.
Praying for peace
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mohandas Gandhi
To find out more or to support our work in Sindh, Pakistan please visit our website at www.thelifebridge.us