Uttam Sahit Award
Recipient for year 2006
Hats Off to Kirat Babani
The flames of First World War were just weakening and the fight for independence in India was simmering slowly and gradually, when a nonedescript village Moro Lakho of Dist. Nawabshah, Sindh, witnessed birth of a boy on January 3, 1922, in the house of Choithram Babani, who would
become a celebrated Sindhi writer, named Kirat Babani. Interestingly, Kirat took his initial education from a local Maulvi. Suddenly a catastrophe fell upon young Kirat, when at the age of four he lost his father. Though he was not capable of grasping the severity of his father's demise, he cried just because others were also doing so. His mother tried to console him at that time.
The turn of the events compelled his family to shift its base from that village to another village, Saboo Rahoo and ultimately they settled down in the city of Nawabshah. He was admitted to Wills High School, Soni Bazar, for his prmiary education and his hard work saw him donning the mantle of class–monitor, continuously from standard V upto XI. He was fortunate enough to get Mr. Rochiram Thawani as class teacher, in standard VIII, who has always remained a guiding force in his life, till today. It was Rochiram Thawani, who pumped patriotism into the veins of Kirat Babani at that tender age, which led him to become a leader of like minded students. Kirat began wearing khadi clothes. He took active interest in school games, like cricket, volleyball, P.T., scouting etc. and also dabbled in school drama under the guidance of his science teacher, Assandas Bijlani. He played the part of an old man in a drama, titled 'Podhe jo Parno', where his enthusiastic rendering of a song on the stage saw his dhoti (loincloth) coming down. The scene provided ample opportunties for audience to laugh at this wardrobe malfunction even at that time some 70 years back.
The spark of patriotism grew bigger and bigger into young Kirat Babani, as he constituted 'Forward Students Union' in the association of few like minded students. He was studying in Matric, when Mahatma Gandhi issued a call for Britishers to 'Quit India' in 1942. This move prompted India's British Govt. to put all prominent Congress leaders behind bars. Kirat Babani also led a grand rally of students through the roads of Nawabshah, which ended at Gol Bazar where he delivered a spirited address to his fellow students. Local police came into action, few politician leaders were rounded up and though Kirat Babani evaded his arrest for ten days but eventually he was picked up by the police and put at Nawabshah sub-jail, where he had to remain for ten months.
Even after remaining behind the bars for two months, couldn't subdue his penchant for independence. Again, he began his activities against the govt. following call of Mahatma Gandhi for 'Do or Die'. He had a single point agenda and that was "Bririshers Quit India’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad". His comrades in arms at that time, were Gulab Bhagwanani and Sujan Rawtani etc. Their activities again prompted local police to arrest Dr. Hassaram Rawatani, Rochiram Thawani, Krishin Gurnani, Partomal, Gulab Bhagwanani, Harchand and Kirat himself. A week after that, Kirat was sent to Hyderabad Central Jail, where other political leaders were also lodged. All these leaders were given ‘C’ class initially, but later on when they protested against it, they were provided with ‘B’ class facilities. Kirat Babani had to remain at Hyderabad Jail, for additional two months. The then Sindh Chief Minister, Allah Bux Soomro had introduced special ‘Q’ class for political detainees, which saw bringing of all political prisoners from every nook and corner of Sindh to Sukkur Central Jail. There Kirat Babani got the opportunity to meet the noted communist leader, Sobho Gyanchandani who had immense influence on his personae. Sobho handed over a book, titled 'Introduction to Socialism' to Kirat Babani. The book introduced Kirat to another world altogether and kindled a fresh interest in him to know more about socialism. In all, Kirat Babani had to remain behind the bars for eleven months in the year of 1942, which resulted in the loss of his one year of education. Then Kirat began preparing for his matriculation examination in company of Sujan and Gulab. His teacher, RochiramThawani also accompanied them to Karachi. When results were announced, Kirat Babani stood seventh amongst some five thousand students from whole of the Sindh. After completion of his Matriculation, he took admission in D.J. College, Karachi, where he met Gulab Bhagwanani and Loku Hemarajani. In those days, a newspaper 'Azad' was launched by the supporters of Allah Bux Soomro, where Kirat could get a part time job against measly monthly salary of Rs. fifty only. Meanwhile Sobho Gyanchandani had also come back from Shanti Niketan, Calcutta, which provided a fresh spirit into ‘Karachi Students Union’. Gobind Malhi had also come in contact with Kirat Babani during those days.
1945 saw holding of a meeting of ‘All Sindh Students’ at Larkana, where Kirat could not garner enough votes to become its General Secretary, as he was blamed for being a Communist activist. Both, Kirat and Dayo Nathani secured 97 votes each, and it was decided to have a sort of lottery to break this impasse. The lottery threw out the name of Kirat Babani and he was chosen as the Union General Secretary. Same year, Kirat represented the Sindh delegation at the meet of 'All India Students’ Federation' at New Delhi. Later on, when Aruna Asif Ali visted Sindh, she was also assisted by Kirat Babani for a week during her Sindh tour. Sobho Gyanchandani had initiated 'Adabi Class' at Karachi, where writers belonging to leftist leanings would meet, once a week. The other prominent leaders of that 'Adabi Class' were Shaikh Ayaz, Gobind Malhi, Narayan Shyam, Anand Golani, Sugan Ahuja, Shaikh Raaz, Gobind Punjabi, Krishin Khatwani, Ram Amarlal Panjwani, Lachhman Rajpal, Gul Asnani and Bhagwan Lalwani etc. Kirat's first story 'Jilebyun jo Chor' was also published in 'Nai Dunya' during those days. The magazine was edited by Gobind Malhi.
The independence of India came with the division of our motherland into two countries, which saw large scale migrations of people from one part to another. The division of country also saw world's worst riots, killings and mayhem witnessed anywhere, though Sindh was somewhat free from it. But the entry of Indian Muslims into Sindh saw a fresh wave of violence unleashed by them to create a sense of insecurity among Sindhi Hindus. On 6th January, 1948, Mohajirs initiated concerted attacks on Hindu neighbourhoods into Karachi.
Kirat Babani was once again put behind the bars for eleven months. After that, he was freed on the condition that he would leave Karachi within twenty four hours. He proceeded to a noted peasant leader, Hyder Bux Jatoi of Hyderabad and was immediately given a job at 'Hari Haqdar' printing press. Hyder Bux Jatoi was pressurised for harbouring an atheist communist, which compelled former to advise later for a visit to India at least for few months. Kirat Babani had to proceed on a voyage on the deck of a ship from Karachi to Bombay in 1949. He reached Bombay on 8th May, 1949 and had just seventeen rupees and eight annas inside his pocket. He took refuge in the home of Mohan Punjabi at Bombay for two days. Later on he took admission into Ismail Yousuf College, Jogeshwari, for B.A., so that he could get admission into college hostel. Dr. Choithram Gidwani had chipped in for his college fees. After completion of his B.A., he had also passed his LLB.
Suddenly Indian Govt. issued a circular on 9th March 1950, which changed the script of Sindhi language from Persio- Arabic to Devnagari. To add insult to injury, newly placed Indian Constitution also did not have place for Sindhi language. Sindhi writers had to sit up and take notice of both theses injustices heaped on the Sindhis of India. A committee, named ‘Sindhi Boli and Lipi Committee’ was constituted whose president was Lekhraj Aziz, Dharamdas Kshatrya as treasurer and Kirat Babani as its secretary. The committe sought legal help from noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who immediately shot a letter to then education minister, Abul Kalam Azad and challenged the legality of the government order. Indian government realised its mistake and rectified it with another circular issued on 10th January, 1951, which regularised Persian-Arabic and Devnagari, both scripts for Sindhi language and choice of any option was left with the parents of the pupil.
'Adabi Class' gave way to 'Naon Sahat Mandal', which was later on renamed as 'Sindhi Sahat Mandal'. Mangharam Malkani was chosen as its president and Gobind Malhi as secretary, Kirat Babani had to abandon Communist Party and join agitation to save Sindhi language and Sindhiat. 'Sindhi Sahat Mandal' provided appropriate platform to budding Sindhi litterateurs, which saw many Sindhi creations taking shape, enriching Sindhi literature immensely. Initially Bhojraj Nagrani had agitated for the recognition of Sindhi language into Indian Constitution. A 'Boli Sabha' was constituted for the purpose whose president was Prin. Lalsing Ajwani and Gobind Malhi as its secretary. Under the able leadership of Hashoo Kewalramani, ‘Sindhi Samaj' Delhi also worked hard in this respect. Various Sindhi sammelans were held after 1951.
Meanwhile Kirat was married to Savita and the agitation for 'Sindhiat' continued unabated. A 'Sindhi Boli Convention' was held in December 1957, at New Delhi. Kirat Babani always stood in the forefront for recognition of Sindhi language. At last, after a long process of agitations and particularly the efforts of Dada Jairamdas Daulatram, whom the then Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi was giving lot of respect bore fruit and Indira Gandhi acquiesced to their request and the Sindhi language was included into the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of India on 10th April, 1967.
'Akhil Bharat Sindhi Sahat Sammelan' was held at K.C. College, Bombay in December 1972, where Kirat Babani was elected as president of ‘Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli Ain Sahat Sabha’, unanimously. Kirat Babani's famous book 'Lenin Dunya jee Azeem Inquilabi Shakhsyat' was published in 1980, for which Kirat Babani bagged that year's Soviet land Nehru Award for Sindhi language.
The sons of Kirat Babani celebrated 75th birthday of their father on 3rd January, 1997 with great pomp and glory. After continuously working for eighteen years as the president of "Akhil Bharat Sindhi Boli and Sahat Sabha", Kirat Babani decided to step down from the post of presidency, owing to his falling health. He announced it at 'Sindhi Sahit Sammelan' held in June in the same year of 1997 at Jaipur, and proposed the name of Mr. Sunder Agnani. The then general body unanimously elected Sunder Agnani, in place of Kirat Babani as Sabha's president.
In all, some fifteen books have been penned by Kirat Babani, till today. He has been publishing 'Sindh Rises' and 'Sindh Sujag' since 1991. He has been bestowed with various awards and rewards. His achievements are the achievements of Sindhi community and whatever recognition he gets is the recognition and respect unto Sindhi community. In true sense, he is the pride of Sindhi community. It is learnt, that he has added another feather to his cap by bagging this year's Sahitya Akademi Award. Hats off to Kirat Babani!
-Dr. Manoharlal B. Matlani