• Thursday, June 13, 2024

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India digitises 250 years of diaspora archives in Oman

The Embassy of India in Oman confirmed that these documents, some dating back to 1838, were collected from private collections.

Documenting the oral history and historical records of old Indian merchant families residing in Oman, the project scanned and digitised over 7,000 documents in English, Arabic, Gujarati, and Hindi languages. (Photo: X/@IN_Archives)

By: Vivek Mishra

Indian diaspora heritage of over 250 years has been digitally archived in Oman in a pioneering project by the National Archives of India.

Documenting the oral history and historical records of old Indian merchant families residing in Oman, the project scanned and digitised over 7,000 documents in English, Arabic, Gujarati, and Hindi languages.

The Embassy of India in Oman confirmed that these documents, some dating back to 1838, were collected from private collections.

Conducted in collaboration with the Indian Embassy in Muscat, the project titled ‘The Oman Collection – Archival Heritage of the Indian Community in Oman’ also recorded oral histories of the elderly Indian community members, a first for the National Archives of India. Carried out at the Embassy of India premises in Muscat from May 19 to 27, the project saw the active involvement of 32 prominent Indian families from Gujarat, whose lineage in Oman extends over generations.

“The oldest digitised document dates back to 1838, while a large majority date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” noted the Embassy of India in Oman.

The digitised documents encompass a wide array, including personal diaries, account books, telegrams, trade invoices, passports, photographs, and more, shedding light on the Indian community’s contributions to Omani society and its integration into the cultural fabric. This initiative marks the first overseas project by the National Archives of India for archiving diaspora documents.

Oman, with a sizable Indian population of nearly 700,000, shares a rich historical and cultural bond with India, dating back 5000 years. Notably, many merchant families from Gujarat have been residing in Oman since the late 18th century, becoming integral parts of Omani society while maintaining strong ties with India.

“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, many having become Omani citizens, but also maintain strong ties with their motherland India,” added the Embassy of India.

The digitised documents will be made accessible on the ‘Abhilekh Patal’ digital portal of the National Archives of India, facilitating research and public access.

“This is the first time that we have collected and digitised 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,” stated Arun Singhal, Director General of the National Archives of India.

“This project aligns with prime minister Narendra Modi Ji’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,” emphasised Ambassador Amit Narang.

“The archiving of the historical documents of the Indian diaspora by 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,” expressed Sheikh Anil Khimji, head of the Indian community in Oman, thanking Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar.

The project received essential support from the National Records and Archives Authority of Oman, ensuring its smooth execution.

(PTI)

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