First digitisation project for historical documents of Indian diaspora concludes in Oman

World Tuesday 28/May/2024 15:12 PM
First digitisation project for historical documents of Indian diaspora concludes in Oman

Muscat : The Indian embassy in Muscat in association with the National Archives of India (NAI) successfully conducted a unique and pioneering initiative to archive historical documents of the Indian diaspora in Oman.

'The Oman Collection - Archival Heritage of the Indian Community in Oman' - a special digitisation and oral history project was conducted at the Embassy of India premises in Muscat from May 19 to 27.

It saw an enthusiastic participation of 32 prominent Indian families hailing from Gujarat, whose presence in Oman spans several generations and dates back 250 years, the Indian embassy in Muscat said in a statement.

This marks the first overseas project of the NAI for digitising and archiving diaspora documents, marking an important step in preserving the history and heritage of the Indian community abroad.

Currently, Oman is home to nearly 700,000 Indians. Both countries share a rich tapestry of historical and cultural connections that go back 5000 years.

In recent times, several merchant families mainly from Mandvi, Surat, and other parts of Gujarat have been resident in Sur, Muttrah, and Muscat since the late 18th century CE.

They are an integral part of the Omani society. Moreover, many of them have become Omani citizens now, but also maintain strong ties with the motherland India.

During the collection, over 7000 documents in English, Arabic, Gujarati, and Hindi languages from the private collections of the old Indian merchant families were scanned and digitized under this project.

The oldest digitized document dates back to 1838, while a large majority date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The wide variety of documents that were digitized included, personal diaries, account books, ledgers, telegrams, trade invoices, passports, citations, letters and correspondences, photographs, and many more, that highlighted the lives and contributions of the Indian community in the Sultanate of Oman.

"These documents collectively constitute a vivid narration of the history of the Indian community in Oman, including their cultural practices, social activities, trade, and commerce, as well as their contributions to and integration into the Omani society, and the preservation of Indian traditions abroad," the embassy stated.

These digitised documents will be archived and uploaded on 'Abhilekh Patal', the digital portal of the NAI, making these documents available to researchers and the wider public.

Additionally, the project also involved the recording of oral histories of the older members of the Indian community, the first such oral history project by the National Archives of India.

These included personal anecdotes, migration experiences, and the evolution of the Indian community in Oman over the decades and will enrich the archival records.

Arun Singhal, Director General of the National Archives of India (NAI) noted the unique significance of this project and emphasised that this marks a historic milestone for the NAI.

"This is the first time that we have collected and digitized the private archives of diaspora documents from abroad. This marks a historic milestone for the NAI and a significant step towards preserving the rich heritage and narratives of the diverse overseas Indian community," he said.

Amit Narang, Ambassador of India to Oman said that this project aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision to strengthen connections with the Indian diaspora worldwide.

"By documenting and preserving the history of the Indian community in Oman, we are rekindling a vital part of our shared heritage and fostering a deeper engagement with our diaspora," he added.

Sheikh Anil Khimji, head of the Indian community in Oman, also expressed his appreciation for the project.

He thanked PM Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for their vision.

"We thank Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar for their vision of engaging and connecting with the Indian diaspora. The archiving of the historical documents of the Indian diaspora by the Embassy of India will go a long way in preserving their history and in doing so also showcase the time-tested bonds of friendship between India and the Sultanate of Oman," Khimji said.

The initiative was supported by the National Records and Archives Authority (NRAA) of Oman, which provided essential logistical and other support, ensuring the smooth execution of the project, the embassy stated.

Along with preserving historical records, the digitization project also seeks to foster a more focused engagement with the Indian diaspora community in Oman, and in doing so will promote a better appreciation of the longstanding India-Oman friendship.

Moreover, the project will facilitate better research about the Indian diaspora's development and contributions and will serve as a valuable resource for future generations.