Introduction / History
The Sansi Bhil inhabit the rural areas of Pakistan's Sindh Province. They are classified as a Bhil ethnic group, and their native language, Sansi, belongs to the Indo-Aryan linguistic family. Most of the Sansi Bhil are bilingual, speaking both Sansi and the language of their particular region, such as Sindhi, Urdu, or Punjabi.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The known history of the Sansi dates back to their defeat in the Moghal wars, which took place between the 1500s and the 1700s. When they lost their lands in these wars, the Sansi began to roam northern India and became known as a wandering community. Due to ongoing conflicts between the Hindus and Muslims, Pakistan was established as a separate Muslim state in 1947. At the partition, the Sansi, along with other Muslims of the Eastern Punjab region, migrated to Pakistan. There, they lived below the poverty line and were forced to beg for food. In order to survive, some adopted habits such as stealing and cattle-lifting, and became part of the "criminal castes."
Working as cattle herders and field hands for wealthy Pakistani landowners, the Sansi scrape out a meager livelihood. Because no land provisions were made for them when Pakistan was created, very few of the Sansi own their own land. Many are slaves, and the landowners that have kept them for generations are reluctant to set them free-an issue that is causing significant dissension within Pakistan.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Many of the lower caste Hindu Sansi are migrant farm workers. They follow the seasonal crops to bring extra income to their suffering families. Wheat and maize are the staple crops, followed by rice, cotton lint, and millet. Skilled and unskilled Sansi laborers also have jobs in factories and mills.
Women have an honorable position in Sansi culture. Adult marriages are the norm, with the bride leaving her family to live with the groom's family until they can set up their own household. For many years the Sansi lived in extended family units. However, the number of nuclear families is now increasing.
Some Sansi villages are very small, containing only one or two extended families. The Sansi villages that are located near other Sindh villages usually remain isolated. The Sansi have very little in the way of wealth, and their traditional plaster houses are cramped and dirty. Today, some are building houses that have more rooms so joint family living will not be so congested.
While many of the Sansi who immigrated from India to Pakistan in 1947 quickly became Muslims, others maintained their Hindu traditions, which include folk beliefs, omens, and fears. For Hindus, all animate and inanimate objects may be the abode of all sorts of spirits. They are extremely fearful of the spirit of a person who dies suddenly and of the evil eye, an intense look that carries a curse with it.
What Are Their Needs?
The Sansi desperately need to be socially educated. Their greatest need is justice-to be treated as valuable people and lifted out of oppression and depression. Only God can bring inner healing to the Sansi and give them the stability and security they have needed for so long.
Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to live and work among the Sansi Bhil.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
Pray that the doors will soon open to missionaries.
Ask the Lord to raise up a vigorous Sansi Bhil church for the glory of His name!
Scripture Prayers for the Sansi (Muslim traditions) in Pakistan.
Bethany World Prayer Center