Kunbher, Khalid, Khana Badosh Qabeela (Nomadic Tribes), Sukkur, My Publication, 2020, 175 p.
Book review by Saba Sindhri (CEIAS-EHESS)
The book Khana Badosh Qabeela (Nomadic Tribes) ny Khalid Kunbher is a primary book in the studies of nomadic tribes in Sindh, published by My Publication, Sukkur, in 2020. Earlier texts on the subject include those by Khursheed Qaemkhani including, Bhatakti Naslen: Sindh ke khana badoshon ka Samaji Manzarnama (Wandering People: The Social Scenario of Nomads of Sindh) published by Rohtas books, Lahore, in 1999 and Jogi Basti (Jogi Settlement) published by Roshni Publication, Kandiaro, in 2015.
The book is a compilation of articles written for different vernacular Sindhi newspapers and later compiled into book form. Kumbher explains how his own inclination towards seeing differently brought him to study nomadic groups who differ from the settled groups in Sindh. He condemns the idea of calling them the Asloka Raha’ku (original inhabitants) of Sindh and attempts to convince by countering that in the times of a united sub-continent, these nomadic groups migrated between different regions of the sub-continent eventually migrating within Sindh after partition. Khursheed Qaemkhani discusses nomadic groups, specifically focusing on Jogis, and Gypsies in general, but he seems more interested in Dalit Studies because he criticizes religious and social traditions of groups and asks them to revolt against the system. In comparison, Khalid Kunbher, author of Khana Badosh Qabeela, traces the presence of different groups in Sindh and highlights many until-now unheard-of communities and their stories. Unlike Qaemkhani, he is not interested in uplifting their social status but rather attempts to explore their different life-styles through their long-standing traditionsThere are two points made in the book which I found particularly remarkable. First, it reflects that the nomadic groups, such as Kanjriyun, Sansi, Koochirra, Sami, Jogi, Bheel and many others, have a flexible-yet-fixed style of living: Flexible in terms that they are not completely orthodox in religion; fixed in the sense that they remain loyal to their traditions of following Shaivism, Shaktism and the worship of nature. Kumbher notes that these groups follow different traditions simultaneously; for example, in the article on the Kokiri community, he recounts how the Kokiri follow Goddess Sherawali, go to Ramapir festival, and revere the Sindhu (the Sindhi name for the Indus River). Next, the author attempts to trace these groups whether they are living in the desert of Sanghar or in the narrow streets of towns in South of Sindh. He visits them and records their narratives about their migration, profession, religion collecting them in written form. In addition, Kumbher attempts to highlight those minority groups which are not even considered as minorities. As a matter of fact, in the constitution, the greatest attention is given to Hindus and Christians, whereas the nomadic groups, or “scheduled castes” as per the constitution, are ignored, although they also officially belong to “minorities.” However, apart from its many good points, the book lacks in critical aspects. It merely provides an introduction with no in-depth analysis of the data. For example, in the case of the narratives, it seems they are collected and transposed into written form without any fact checking. In one case, the author states that Samis follow Lal Shahbaz Qalandar more than their deities and that their belief in their Goddess is weak (p.58). However, in fact, Samis revere the Goddess as they revere other religious figures, perhaps even more. These statements, which are discussed in almost every article, deserve deep anthropological study. Also, the author reaches conclusions after a few sittings with the groups, whereas as a researcher, one knows when working with nomadic groups that long fieldworks are required before analysis and that sometimes clear conclusions can be difficult to achieve.Furthermore, the reflexivity of author shows his fascination in the different behaviors of these groups and in his excitement, he brings many things into focus but forgets to explore them in depth or ignores the “middle” of the story. Also, he overlooked including photographs or images which would have helped to visualize both the people and their stories.Notwithstanding the above points, the book is an introduction to different minor Hindu groups. As there is a dearth of literature published on this subject, it is courageous of the author to take up a pen and write about these lesser-known groups of Sindh. The book provides a path for new researchers and contributes to the nomadic studies of Sindh.