ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Scholarship on Banni

I am writing with respect to the review of my book Memories and Movements: Borders and Communities in Banni, Kutch, Gujarat by Aparna Kapadia inEPW (“Sindhiness beyond Sindh”, 26 April 2014). Kapadia suggests a “lack of engagement and acknowledgment of previous scholarship that is about the same region and explores nearly identical issues”. Despite the use of the plural, it becomes clear in the next sentence that “previous scholarship” refers to Farhana Ibrahim’s valuable work which makes, according to Kapadia, the “central argument” made in my work – “the simultaneous presence and absence of Sindh in Northern Kutch”. Kapadia’s observation of a “lack of … acknowledgement” is erroneous. My book cites Ibrahim at three divergent contexts – in a discussion of my departure from scholarship on Gujarat in the introduction (p 18) and in the account of the Meghwals (note 2, p 115) and the Jats (p 77) in subsequent chapters.

Banni, however, is not simply “Northern Kutch”. Through examples, my book shows that “Sindh” in Banni is not merely subliminal, but full throated and upfront. In their self-perception, the people of Banni consider themselves to be historically and culturally different from other parts of Kutch. Language use and rhetoric surrounding this ideology constitutes the main argument of Memories and Movements. Through reflections on words people employ to describe themselves and their times, Memories and Movements is an exercise in translation-as-ethnography. Given this focus, Bhasha sources in Sindhi/Kutchi, Marwari/Rajasthani, Gujarati, etc, provide to this argument far more meat than English scholarship. Jetho Lalwani’s Banni-a jaLok Geeta; Jayant Relwani’s monumental work on the relations between Saurashtra, Kutch and Sindh; Kaladhar Mutwa’s own writings, and interestingly his “translations” of Sheikh Ayaz into “Kutchi” as well as Pritam Varyani’s studies play a far more important role in understanding Banni and its people. They precede in quiet ways English scholarship on the region. The bibliography in Memories and Movements makes this amply clear.

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