The Sindh Diaspora: India and the United Kingdom

Research project
World History

In 2017 the Sindhi Hindu brothers Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja from the Shikarpur region of Sindh topped The Sunday Times' Rich List of the UK's wealthiest residents. Sindhi Hindus form the world's most widespread if not the most numerous South Asian diaspora. They have a long history of travel for trade and banking, for which evidence is available from the sixteenth century (although historians suggest that they were a highly mobile community even before this).

They established more permanent roots outside of Sindh after the 1947 partition of India. When the British divided their Indian empire in 1947, unlike Punjab, Bengal, and Assam, they did not partition Sindh (today a part of the Muslim-majority country of Pakistan), despite the minority campaign for a partition of the region. Sindh's 'partition' in 1947 was thus a deterritorialised and demographic one, producing over a million 'non-Muslim' refugees who resettled in India and abroad, including the United Kingdom.

Sindhis have played a significant role in the UK's economic, political, legal and social histories, however the origins of this diaspora remain relatively unknown in the UK and even in India. Often mistaken for Punjabis and Gujaratis in both countries, they tend to keep a low-profile. They do not follow orthodox Hindu religious or caste practice; their faith is a blend of Sikh, Sufi, and Hindu traditions and they are therefore difficult to 'fix' in 'place'.

However, Sindhis continually reappear on the fringes of discussions about religion, ethnicity, and territory. Their post-partition history needs to be recovered. The main objective of the fellowship is to publish research on Sindh, partition, and the Sindh diaspora in the United Kingdom and India. The research will illuminate a history of British partitions from Sindh, a region that witnessed a movement for autonomy within the empire much before the partition of 1947. It will trace the paths of Sindhi refugees after 1947, particularly to the United Kingdom, where they have made an important but understated economic and social impact.

The fellowship is funded by the ESRC.