Being Sindhis in India: Rita Kothari’s The Burden of Refuge

The Partition of India in 1947 was one of the darkest hours in the history of the sub-continent. As communal forces gained strength and boundaries were re-drawn according to religion, tens of thousands of people found themselves on the wrong side of the borders. People had to leave behind their homes, families, friends, means of livelihood, and an entire way of life as they trudged towards the other side of the border, only to be called refugees in their own country.

Rita Kothari’s The Burden of Refuge chronicles the partition experience of the Sindhis, especially those who settled in the Indian state of Gujarat.


 Historically, credited to be the cradle of Indian civilisation, the entire state of Sindh went to Pakistan in 1947. Though there was no communal carnage as in the states of Punjab and Bengal, the division did create plentiful problems for the Sindhi Hindus living in the state. Forced to flee, they took refuge in the states on the Indian side of the border, only to be at odds with the local populace who did not like the Sindhis (who are known for their business acumen) offering them competition in the market nor did they like sharing the resources with these ‘Refugees’. Further, their were cultural differences b/w the two people. Much influenced by the Sufi-strain of Islam, the Sindhis practised a much less rigid strain of Hinduism which made them have far less taboos regarding eating, drinking, and worshiping.

Faced with prejudices, the writer maintains that the Sindhis in Gujarat have developed a complex about their identity so much so that the post-partition generations have started denying their roots, refusing to learn the language, and trying desperately to be one with the mainstream. On the other hand, the Muslim Sindhis in Pakistan regret the migration of the Hindus with whom they shared cultural affinities even as they blister against the domination of the Pakistani Punjabis with whom they might share the same religion but with whom they have cultural differences.

The book makes for some sad reading as it discusses the impact of politics on personal lives and ponders on issues of displacement and alienation. It is also a valuable addition to Partition literature which usually focusses on the Punjab or Bengal experience.


First Line: From incomprehension and ignorance to dislike, there have been many ways of imagining what Richard Burton calls “an unhappy valley.”

Title: The Burden of Refuge: Partition Experiences of the Sindhis of Gujarat

Author: Rita Kothari

Publication Details: Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2009

First Published: 2007

Pages: 206

Other books read of the same author: None


The book might be available in libraries. I borrowed it from DPL, opposite Old Delhi Railway Station.


Submitted for various challenges.

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