Tuesday, July 23, 2024
HomeNews ReportsLeft with nothing after the brutal partition of India, read how Kumari Jethi T...

Left with nothing after the brutal partition of India, read how Kumari Jethi T Sipahimalani spearheaded the resettlement of the Sindhi community in Mumbai

Mahim's renowned Navjivan Society - officially known as Jethiben Colony - is a treasure chest of moving stories of suffering, resilience, unity, and patriotism of the Sindhi community. One of the many Hindu communities that were forced out from their own land overnight during partition was the Sindhi community, a people from the land of Sindh which derived its name from the Sindhu river.

Mahim, a prominent area that makes for a gateway for the suburbs into South Mumbai, has long been known for housing the Mahim Dargah, Mahim Church, and Mahim Fort. But did you know that at the heart of this bustling Mumbai neighbourhood resides a community that inherits the wounds of partition and reflects the indomitable spirit of starting afresh? A new life, a nav jivan…The Navjivan Society.

Mahim’s renowned Navjivan Society – officially known as Jethiben Colony – is a treasure chest of moving stories of suffering, resilience, unity, and patriotism of the Sindhi community. One of the many Hindu communities that were forced out from their own land overnight during partition was the Sindhi community, a people from the land of Sindh that derived its name from the Sindhu river.

Kumari Jethi Tulsidas Sipahimalani (Source: Best Knowledge of Indus/YouTube)

That the Sindhis were an economically, politically, and even socially developed community is reflected in the life story of Kumari Jethi Tulsidas Sipahimalani, who became a member of the Sindh Legislative Assembly twice unopposed and the first woman to hold the office of Deputy Speaker in 1937 after Sindh received the status of a separate province. Born on 10 February 1906 in Hyderabad (in Sindh), Jethiben received her education from Kundanmal Girls High School and later Indian Girls School in Karachi.

In the 1930s, Jethiben sacrificed her job as Principal in Daya Ashram and the comforts of life to pursue the higher goal of releasing India from the chains of the British Raj. Inspired by the works of Acharya Assudomal Gidwani, Acharya JB Kriplani, and Jairamdas Daulatram, Jethiben joined the Indian Freedom Movement. She spent a significant period from 1932 to 1942 behind bars for her revolutionary activities.

The hammer stroke of partition fell the hardest on the Sindhis who lost the only native land they called home in its entirety without being able to retain any part of it in Independent India.

Residing close to the Navjivan society, Viru Doolani, Bharatiya Sindhi Sabha Vice President for Maharashtra was seven years old when his family migrated to India. “We were such a prosperous community back in Sindh. We were trade masters. My family was in the jewellery business. But overnight, we were reduced to a community that was not wanted in their native land anymore.” He added, “There was so much looting on the trains we boarded. The Muslims from UP and Bihar who had migrated to Sindh held us hostage and looted us. I had heard from my father how some men were thrown out of the train by these attackers. As for the Brahmins in Sindh, they were eliminated.”

A senior resident of Jethiben Colony, Hema Fatnani Gianani, narrates the story of her parents who migrated from Karachi immediately after their wedding. “My parents got married in Karachi and they had to leave immediately after partition was announced. I remember the story that my Dadi had asked for a cow from my Nanaji as a dowry. My Nanaji said to her, ‘Where and how will you take the cow? The country is getting partitioned.’ This is a story that I can’t forget,” she told OpIndia.

Residents of Jethiben Colony on the day of the renaming ceremony of the Sindhi society

Jethiben was amongst the Sindhis who migrated to India post-partition and, despite her well-established position in Sindh of pre-partitioned India, had to start the journey all over again. And so she did. Jethiben dedicated her life to the rehabilitation of the Sindhi community and their integration with India at the same time when Independent India itself was in the process of integration. Her work set the bedrock for the resettlement of Sindhi migrants in Mahim and surrounding areas.

Jethiben paved her way into the then-Bombay Legislative Council as a member from 1952 to 1962 and as Deputy Chairman from 1954 to 1962. Using her powerful position for the upliftment of the community, Jethiben went on to establish four complexes under ‘The Navjivan Co-op Housing Society’ in Mahim, Matunga, Chembur, and Mumbai Central (Lamington Road). She lobbied extensively to provide shelter to nearly 2,000 Sindhis who were uprooted and stranded in military barracks.

“The work done by Jethiben is commendable. For a woman in that era to display such courage and give direction to her people in such extraordinary circumstances and even organize the finances for such a visionary project is inspiring,” said the current Chairman of the Jethiben Colony, Captain MS Virdi (retired), a Navy veteran.

The Gurudwara on the premises of Jethiben Colony

In 1956, Jethiben procured the land for the Navjivan Society. She applied for a loan from The Bombay Co-operative Housing Finance Society Limited in 1958 receiving a construction cost of Rs 20,59,000/-. This allowed the members to avail of flats on a non-profit basis at a payback instalment of Rs 200 a month. By 1978, with all dues cleared, Mahim and Mumbai at large had embraced the essence of Sindh. Jethiben did not marry; she adopted a son, the late Mangharam Sipahimalani, and devoted her life to the development of the Sindhi community in India.

The Jethiben Colony was inaugurated on 25th March 1959 by the then Finance Minister Morarji Desai. On 21 May 1979, Jethiben breathed her last leaving a void that can never be fulfilled. But she left behind an unmatched legacy. Dadi Hardevi Vasvani and Dadi Bhagwanti are some of the prominent names in the colony to this day; they kept the Sindhi heritage alive by teaching the Sindhi language to the next generations, sang Bhajans, and told stories of the yore.

“Dadi Bhagwanti got married in Karachi but lost her husband after a few months. She then dedicated her entire life to the nation and her culture, bought the house in the colony from her own savings,” says Hema ji, who holds the treasure box of memories she has collected from the many residents of the society.

Marking the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, Hema ji gave a rousing speech on the streets of Dadar while attending an event. “We have watched The Kashmir Files and Kerala Story and cried, but our ancestors have gone through all of it decades ago. They had nothing with them. And in a bid to put food on the table, they could not give equal attention to their (Sindhi) culture. Hence now, we want to make up for that loss. Sindhis never demanded minority status, we never begged. We are proud that we are Sindhis, we are Hindus, and we are Hindustanis.”

About 65 years after its inception, new life will be breathed into Kumari Jethi T. Sipahimalani CHS, Mahim, with its redevelopment as it prepares to move forward with the resurgence of New India. “It has been a long journey for the Sindhi community since partition. But it has been a forward-moving journey ever since we stepped into Independent India. This is the time to continue on that path and rebuild a new future,” said Chairman Captain MS Virdi and Secretary Kumar Darira  who are spearheading the redevelopment project for the society.

Meanwhile, many Sindhis are still stranded in Pakistan and are subjected to unspeakable atrocities. They yearn for a life in India. A Sindh that flourished with its Sindhi population is now reduced to rubble from the constant destruction of Hindu temples and Sikh Gurudwaras or whatever is left of them. Minor Hindu and Sikh girls are abducted, converted, raped, and killed in the Sindh province to this day.

Join OpIndia's official WhatsApp channel

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Pragya Bakshi Sharma
Journalist with a journey from print to TV to digital news. Multi-tasker. Unstoppable Type 1 Diabetic running on insulin.

Related Articles

Trending now

Recently Popular

- Advertisement -