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Panchayat in Hyderabad and Karachi




There is no authentic record available to show when and how the Panchayat in Hyderabad came to be established, nor is it known who were the men behind the formation and running of the Panchayat there. However, since the entire body of educated Amil migrants from Khudabad got congregated in one place as a community which had to live under one set of social conditions, it was only natural for them to set up their own institution for their various needs.

Even though the migrants converged from diverse parts of the country having different beliefs and belonging to different castes and creeds, they all forgot their original castes and creeds and merged into a new entity calling themselves Amils. That is the reason why Amils are not known by any caste or creed.

Khudabadi Amil Panchayat in Hyderabad had no written constitution or rules. Nevertheless as a soli community, it had its rules of social conduct, usages and culture. It graded the cultural heritage of the community by fixing sanctions and punishments for breaches or violation of rules of conduct like any other community Panchayat today all over the country does. It was able to settle family disputes inter-se and promoted the spirit of brotherhood amongst members. It was also able to secure due privileges etc. from the authorities. In short the Panchayat brought to the community the distinction of being the most educated and advanced one in Sind by the time of migration. Even Mahatma Gandhi had once acknowledged the greatness of the community.

As a community, Amils in Sind had their own distinct religious, social, cultural, moral and spiritual customs which they followed through the institution which was known as Panchayat (named Khudabadi Amil Panchayat in Hyderabad and Hyderbadi Amil Panchayat in Karachi). Amil Panchayats both in Hyderabad and Karachi played an important role in ensuring that their members followed the customs, rules of conduct with discipline.

On replacing Muslim rulers, Britishers shifted Sind capital from Hyderabad to Karachi. Being a port city nearest to England, imports and exports from north India passed through Karachi which turned out to be an important trading centre. Many major trading firms and banks like Forbes, Forbes & Campbell, Rallis, Lloyds Bank, Chartered Bank, National Bank opened offices in Karachi, thereby offering employment opportunities along with government jobs to the educated locals. At the same time Hyderabad which had been a centre of Govt. jobs during Muslim rule had ceased to have any more openings for job seeker. At the same time the trading activities in Hyderabad also dwindled with the shifting of the capital. Amils being educated professionals like advocates, doctors, engineers saw economic opportunities, thus more Amil families gradually shifted to Karachi. Many Bhaibands on the other hand went to many places all over the world to start businesses there leaving their families in Hyderabad, With the shift in Amil population to Karachi on a permanent basis, the Community started having their own social, religious and economic institutions like Panchayat, Gurdwara, Clubs, Banks, etc.

The panchayat which in Hyderabad was called Khudabadi Amil Panchayat was named as Hyderabadi Amil Panchayat in Karachi. Similarly Khudabadi Amil Bank in Hyderabad was known as Hyderabadi Amil Bank in Karachi. The Khudabadi Amil Panchayat in Hyderabad had no written constitution or rules. Nevertheless it had its rules of social conduct, usages and culture as a solid community. It graded the cultural heritage of the community by fixing sanctions and punishments for breaches or violation of rules of conduct like any other community Panchayat. It was able to settle family disputes inter-se and promoted the spirit of brotherhood amongst members. It was also able to secure due privileges etc. from the authorities. In short the Panchayat brought to the community the distinction of being the most educated and advanced one in Sind. Even Mahatma Gandhi had once acknowledged it.

The Panchayat in Karachi did not have a written constitution nor was it registered as a body. However, the heads of the families in the city were its members paying small fee periodically. The annual general body meetings were held regularly at which elections for the posts of President, Secretary and members of managing committee were held for the ensuing year. The members attending the meetings would verbally propose and second the names of the candidates. Usually there were contests and the elections were held by ballot.

The elected presidents for the last few years prior to partition, included some of the very prominent personalities in the community such as Shri Tikamdas Wadhumal Mansukhani a leading bar-at-law, Shri Durgdas B. Advani architect and for some time Deputy Mayor of Karachi, Shri Hassasing H Advani also a prominent architect and Shri Pahlajsing B. Advani, Principal of the S.C. Shahani Law College (all Late now) Shri Pahlajsing, a well known authority on Muslim personal law was the last president prior to migration. Shri Tarasing commenced his job in right earnest and asked Mr D. T. Punwany to assist him. They used to meet every evening for about a couple of hours to draft the rules/ constitution, consulting Shri Pahlajsing off and on whenever necessary on ticklish points. The style of functioning of the proposed Panchayat was retained as far as possible on the lines of Karachi Panchayat of which both of them had remained on the managing committee for three or four years. The draft got ready and was submitted to Shri Pahlajsing, who studied it well and approved it.

Hyderabadi Amil Panchayat in Karachi had it own premises in Gadikhata. The large premises consisted of a hall partitioned into two equal sections one housing a Gurdwara and the other a community hall. The hall was large enough to hold marriages, betrothal ceremonies, markas, other private functions and general body meetings of the Panchayat. At the rear side was a dispensary run by the Panchayat for its members. For a long time Dr. Awat T. Shahani was the Panchayat's medical officer. In the last two or three years prior to migration Dr. Awat left and his place was taken by Dr. Sheru Malkani (brother-in-law of late Smt. Vishni H Malkani). In the narrow compound was housed a horse drawn victoria like coach which was used as a hearse. The city's crematorium was a bit away outside the city. During war time (1939-45) the city experienced an acute shortage of food grains and other essential commodities. To help members get their rations the Panchayat opened and ran in a corner of the hall a government approved ration shop which was managed by the last Secretary in Karachi late Shri Wadhumal H. Alimchandani.

Whenever there occurred a death in the community the Panchayat secretary was promptly informed. A Panchayat worker would carry a hand bell and make the public announcement of the sad event throughout Gaadikhata by ringing of a bell at vantage points giving details of the event, time of the funeral and the date and time of Marka. The funeral procession from the residence of the deceased would reach the Panchayat Gurdwara for obeisancial prayer and the cortege kept at the doorstep of the Mandir for a short while. Thereafter it was carried in the Panchayat hearse to the crematorium. The Marka ceremony was invariably held in the Panchayat's hall with the Secretary as the chief mourner. In fact those attending the marka ceremony would offer condolences to the secretary and four "Kandhis" (pall bearers). Every Amil high or low thus made his/her final journey pan through the Panchayat premises.

Authored by Shri Doulat T. Punwaney, the only surviving member of the first Committee and Edited by Asha Idnani and Menka Shivdasani.


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