12 January 1964 - 12 January 2014
Zanzibar’s Khojas, they came in dhows to Zanzibar
since the mid nineteenth century (even earlier) and with the passage of time
lost all the traces of their contacts in . They were simple, peace
loving and God fearing people. There was immense brotherhood among them and
they cared for each other. Economically they were contented and mostly worked
in Government offices where administration was excellent. Those who had
business maintained only minimum margin of profit that resulted in high
purchasing power and generally a good standard of living. They did not have the
slightest inkling of such a revolution and were visibly shaken by it. India
The past has flown fast and times have changed completely. The social, economic and political changes have had tremendous effect on our lives. It is exactly 50 years since that fateful day in
The moderate policy of the government of the day (in line with its mainland counterpart, their merger resulting in
at times at loggerheads) gives them confidence of staking their fortune in and cultivate
loyalty towards it. The rest (now with grown up generation), wherever they are
settled (some prosperous, some languishing in poverty), still find themselves
attached to Zanzibar
culturally. They speak Swahili among themselves. The photo albums fattened by
the old black and white photographs are some of their precious possession
with sentimental attachment. Those with means do go to Zanzibar once in a while. Others find it
painful to pay a visit there, for it is no more the good old Zanzibar that they were associated with. Its Stone Town is haunting. The mosques, mehfils and jamaatkhana are desolate and
bereft of the huge gathering that once filled the entire place. Your house
glares longingly, you pass through those streets and gullies where you played
and frequented in the past and some ghostly feeling creeps up, and in the still
of the moment everything around there seems sad and bleak. Zanzibar
Some diasporans subjected to displacement still harbour grievances against the authority for the unfairness meted out to them. Their modest houses were confiscated. On the contrary today outsiders are welcomed and encouraged to put up mansions, hotels, and luxurious resorts under the guise of promoting tourism. They thrive and have their ways and means.
The present day
is more of a tourist resort.
Forodhani has undergone renovation, courtesy HH the Aga Khan, but its naturalness
deformed. Its eateries mostly cater to the taste of tourists who flock there in
the evenings. Zanzibar
is swayed by the needs of tourists. Imagine nowadays they even sell curio stuff
at Forodhani! Also every alternate shop on Zanzibar Portuguese Street deals in curios. The
street has lost its old charm. It seems there are certain individuals behind
the chain of business. Even their mode of salesmanship betrays the normal
Zanzibari etiquette. The era of quality stuff, minimal margin and cordiality is
forsaken to pave way for modern commercialism. The post-revolution phase has
also given boost to Darajani/Ngambo trading mainly in garments and electronics.
The business is again the monopoly of certain bigwigs who thrive through their
overseas and mainland connections.
The indigenous Zanzibaris are God fearing, innocent and honest people. It is pity that the prevailing inflation snatches every penny of theirs.
In all honesty Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP) should have won the 1963 elections. Their share of votes was almost 55%. If the constituency representation had been apportioned in accordance with its denseness ASP would have emerged clear victor. Mind that the rapport between locals and us was remarkably good.
Our diaspora ( pre Revolution inhabitants and not those integrated of recent, also prior to the East African Railway settlers on the mainland) had a congenial environment with the adoption of the Afro Arab culture in its true sense.
To quote Professor Abdul Sheriff, in reply to Times of India’s Dilip Padgaonkar’s question, “What do you make of the Indian Government’s efforts to reach out to the Indian diaspora in
?’ he put it
“Feel for us. But please leave us alone;
is our home, our past, our future.” Zanzibar
“Feel for us. But please leave us alone;