Saturday, June 14, 2003
M A I N   F E A T U R E

‘Multanis want to preserve their culture’

M.K. Gandhi
M.K. Gandhi, president of Manavta Abhiyan

THE Hindus who migrated from West Pakistan in 1947 and settled down in Delhi and adjoining areas are known as Sirayaki Multanis. The 20-lakh Sirayaki Multanis have realised that due to their displacement their cultural heritage is threatened with extinction. The feeling is not only in India. Over five crore Sirayaki Multanis in Pakistan too have become restive and are demanding the preservation of their language and culture. They have even formed two political parties — the Pakistan Sirayaki Party and the Sirayaki National Party — headed by Taj Mohd Langa and Abdul Majid Kanju, respectively.

M.K. Gandhi, who heads the revival movement under the aegis of the Manavta Abhiyan in Delhi is in touch with Abdul Majid Kanju in order to organise Sirayaki Multanis’ meets in India and Pakistan to conserve the cultural heritage. Gandhi spoke to R.C. Ganjoo exclusively. Excerpts:

What is the main objective of Manavta Abhiyan?

In 1947,the Hindus, who left Pakistan for India under the exchange of population programme, were from the provinces of Bahawalpur, Multan, Faislabad, Miawali, Jhung, Derawal, Deraghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Dera Islamil Khan, Reheemyar Khan, Banu, Sargodha, Khamwal, Liaya, Rajanpur and Bhakad,etc. They were rehabilitated in and around Delhi. Hindus from the Sindh province were largely settled in Mumbai and in Gujarat. The people from these areas are nearly 20 lakh in number, and in the past 55 years they have almost lost and forgotten not only their language but the preachings of the sufis and saints. Sirayaki (Multani) is a very rich language of renowned sufis and saints like Bulle Shah, Baba Farid and Shamzterbez. Their preachings are reflected in abundance in the Guru Granth Sahib.


So, in order to revive and revitalise this rich heritage, I, along with my Sirayaki brethren, formed the Manavta Abhiyan. The message of universal brotherhood, which is relevant even today, needs reorganisation of Sirayaki Multani-speaking people in and around Delhi, to begin with, and, at a later stage, throughout the country.

How were you inspired and why the demand for reservation in political parties?

Political power is the basic tool. There are nearly 20 lakh Sirayaki-speaking people in Delhi. In South Delhi Parliamentary constituency alone, there are 2.5 lakh Multanis. They realised that their representation ought to be there in various political parties. We have made a sincere attempt to bring people from different states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh on one platform to voice their concerns and to help revive the rich cultural heritage.

How are you going to revive your cultural heritage?

Unfortunately for Sirayaki Multanis, there is neither any academic organisation nor any library. I am of the strong view that there should be a library and an academy on the lines of academies in other languages like Sindhi, Punjabi and Urdu. The other important institution is a library where all the relevant literature should be made available for the progeny to know their roots and their culture.

The origin of Sirayaki is in Pakistan. What is the status of those who are living there?

It is true that Sirayaki has its origin in Pakistan but when I talk of preserving our cultural heritage, it is imperative that there be an exchange of cultural activities between Pakistan and India so that the message of brotherhood spreads all over. Here, I would also like to assert that the Sirayakis and the others who have migrated have proved beyond doubt their ability to merge in the activities of India and contribute to its growth in various fields, including education. This was possible because of their heritage of brotherhood, good neighbourly relations and the spirit of team-work. If an attempt is made, I strongly believe, to strengthen the Sirayaki Multanis then it would be a new opening in Indo-Pak relations which, at present, are not very cordial. Further, I would like to add that if there had been a proper atmosphere for cultural exchange and spreading of the message of brotherhood as propagated by sufi saints like Bulle Shah and Baba Farid, democracy would have taken root even in Pakistan.

Do you think that your attempt is in line with the recent pronouncements of Atal Bihari Vajpayee who has for the third time extended the hand of friendship to Pakistan to normalise relations and settle disputes?

I very strongly feel that the mission that I have taken up with the blessing of all my Sirayaki brethren is a step in the direction shown by Vajpayee.

Are you aware of any such movement in Pakistan?

Yes. The Sirayakis in Pakistan are very active. In fact, there are two political parties, the Pakistan Sirayaki Party and Sirayaki National Party and their leaders are Taj Mohd Langa and Abdul Majid Kanju, respectively. According to Abdul Majid Kanju of Rehim Yar Khan, Sirayakis are being treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan.

Do you wish to have interaction with them?

Of course, we would like to meet our brethren living there. We are planning to have a people-to-people meeting on a common platform in India and in Pakistan so that we can revive our cultural heritage.