At this juncture of history when India and Pakistan are at loggerheads and baying for each other’s blood, imagining Diwali at Amarkot (Sindh) in Pakistan may sound incredible to people. Amarkot, now called Umarkot, is a place in Sindh province of Pakistan near Karachi. Its ruler Rana Prasad sheltered Humayun when the latter fled from the military defeat at the hands of Sher Shah Suri. Akbar was born at Amarkot Fort on October 14, 1542.
Strangely, it is the only dominant place in Pakistan where instead of Urdu and Sindhi, Dhatki (a form of Rajasthani) and Marwari Hindi are spoken by the people, most of them being Hindus!
Since the Rajput rulers sheltered Humayun and Akbar the Great was born here, this place has certain exclusive privileges accorded by the government of Pakistan and its Rajput Hindu rulers have a definite say in Pakistan’s political matters.
One should visit Amarkot Fort — one-third of it is open to the public during Hindu festivals — to see Diwali night. One wonders whether one is in some part of northern India, because the whole city is lit with lamps and even the Muslim population participates in the bursting of firecrackers.
There is a pervading spirit of camaraderie and bonhomie. Even Muslim sweets shops will serve traditional Rajasthani fare like ghevar, gulab jamun, jalebi and balushahi during the occasion of Diwali.
Members of the Umarkot Sindhi Association, run by Sindhi-speaking Muslims of that region, distribute sweets and firecrackers. This practice has been going on for centuries. Even at the height of the intolerant regimes of the Taliban and Zia-ul-Haq, the tradition of celebrating Diwali at Amarkot continued unabated and unhindered.
This should be a glaring lesson to both India and Pakistan. When a small place and its people can forget the traditional bitterness, rivalry and prejudice, why can’t the two countries emulate it and become friends? Or at least they should earnestly try to make peace, for the good of their people.
It would be in the fitness of things to pledge for togetherness and brotherhood on this Diwali.
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