In the latest attempt by a South Asian nation to minimize the legacy of centuries of British colonial rule, the government of Pakistan made a slight change in the spelling of its southeastern province -- from “Sind” to “Sindh.”
On Tuesday, the provincial assembly in Karachi (the capital of the country and the province) unanimously approved the name change, even though local residents and lawmakers had been writing it as “Sindh” anyway for several decades.
It was, in fact, the first bill to enjoy unanimous backing in the assembly in five years, the Dawn newspaper of Pakistan reported.
Arif Mustafa Jatoi, a local opposition politician who introduced the bill in the provincial assembly, told the Guardian newspaper of Britain that the old “colonial spelling” remained in the constitution and had propagated through to countless other laws and documents going back to 1973 when “Sind” was written into the independent constitution of Pakistan.
"We had to change it, because all provinces are sovereign and we pass our own laws," he said.
Another lawmaker, assembly member Sharjeel Memon, admitted that change was minor but necessary. "If you write it as 'Sind,' you actually can't pronounce it properly without the last letter being 'H'," he said. "This law is a clear message that this is the exact spelling of the province."
In ancient times, the area presently known as Sindh was called “Sindhu” in Sanskrit (or “Indus” by the ancient Iranians). In subsequent centuries, the name changed depending on the identity of the conquering armies -- the Greeks who arrived with Alexander the Great charged the name of “Sindhu” to “Indos.” The Romans knew it as “Indus” (the name used to describe the great Indus Valley civilization that flourished thousands of years ago). Indeed, the very name of India is derived from “Indus.”
Under British rule and in the first years of independence, between 1936 and 1955, the province was called “Sind” (the name that has lasted into the early 21st century on most local documents).
A blogger for Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper named Arsalan Faruqui sarcastically commented that “Sindh” will likely be a much better place than “Sind” (which has long been scarred by violence, organized crime and political corruption).
“The people of the province eagerly awaited the verdict for this diabolical, life-threatening issue,” Faruqui wrote. “Now that it has been resolved, and clarity has been brought forth; this step will certainly bring prosperity, rule of law, health care and education to [Sindh].”
He added: “Having named everything possible after [former Prime Minister] Benazir Bhutto, the highly competent members of the Sind(h) assembly achieved what no other government could. This time-consuming correction will bring the province of Sind(h) at par with thriving economies like South Korea, China or maybe even Japan!”
Faruqui further speculated that Sindh, in stark contrast to Sind, will be targeted by deep-pocketed foreign investors and tourists, the locals will become more trusting of the authorities and each other, unemployment will be eliminated, criminals will become religious overnight and sectarian violence will disappear.
“The honorable Sind(h) assembly members have truly proven themselves as sons of the soil by addressing such a crucial issue, and within no time had it passed through the Houses of Parliament to make sure no error like this diabolical one could ever be repeated,” he declared.
“Their level of intellect deserves appreciation; after all, their will to resolve ‘core’ issues being faced by the province is exemplary, no doubt. Sind(h) will soon be seeing a rejuvenated populace making its mark in the world and bringing laurels for the province. Government officers will be working day and night diligently and with all honesty and dedication just because now they are Sindhis and not Sindis. God save Pakistan and its Sind(h)is.”
Seriously, India has already taken similar steps to erase the influence of British colonialism. For example, in recent years, the southern city of Madras became Chennai; Bombay became Mumbai; Calcutta became Kolkata; and even in Pakistan the once-famous and valiant sounding North-West Frontier Province became the less-appealing and rather unpronounceable Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In some of these cases, the name used during the colonial era was replaced outright; in other cases, the English spelling was adjusted for the sake of a more accurate pronunciation.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.