Historic Digitization Project Preserves 7,000 Indian Diaspora Documents in Oman

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The Embassy of India in Muscat, in partnership with the National Archives of India (NAI), has undertaken an ambitious project to digitize over 7,000 historical documents belonging to Indian families who have lived in Oman for more than 250 years. This initiative, known as ‘The Oman Collection – Archival Heritage of the Indian Community in Oman,’ is the first of its kind by the NAI to archive documents from the Indian diaspora abroad.

The digitization project, conducted from May 19-27, 2024, involved contributions from 32 prominent Indian families originating from Gujarat. These families have been integral to Oman’s cultural and social fabric since the late 18th century. The process included meticulously scanning documents in various languages such as English, Arabic, Gujarati, and Hindi. Among the scanned materials, the oldest dates back to 1838, while most documents are from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The project also captured oral histories from the elder members of the Indian community in Oman.

The collection comprises a diverse range of documents, including personal diaries, account books, trade invoices, passports, letters, and photographs. Together, these records paint a detailed picture of the Indian community’s life in Oman, illustrating their cultural practices, social engagements, and contributions to the local society.

Arun Singhal, Director General of the National Archives of India, emphasized the importance of this groundbreaking project, stating, “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.”

The initiative also aligns with broader diplomatic objectives, as noted by Amit Narang, Ambassador of India to the Sultanate of Oman. He remarked, “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.”

Sheikh Anil Khimji, leader of the Indian community in Oman, expressed his appreciation for the project: “We thank Prime Minister 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 showcasing the time-tested bonds of friendship between India and the Sultanate of Oman.”

The National Records and Archives Authority (NRAA) of Oman played a crucial role in supporting the project by providing necessary logistical assistance and ensuring its smooth execution. The digitized documents will be accessible on ‘Abhilekh Patal,’ the NAI’s digital portal, thus making this valuable historical resource available for research and public access.

This digitization project highlights the Indian community’s enduring legacy in Oman. By preserving these documents, the project not only safeguards the history of Indian families in Oman but also enhances understanding of their significant contributions to the region. The collection includes an array of personal and official documents that offer insights into the daily lives, commercial activities, and social interactions of the Indian diaspora.

The collaborative effort underscores the close ties between India and Oman. The project is a testament to the longstanding relationship between the two nations and their shared commitment to preserving and celebrating their intertwined histories. By making these documents publicly accessible, the initiative supports both academic research and general interest in the rich heritage of the Indian community in Oman.

The digitization of over 7,000 historical documents by the Embassy of India in Muscat and the NAI represents a pioneering effort to preserve the cultural heritage of the Indian diaspora in Oman. This project, the first of its kind by the NAI outside India, highlights the significant contributions of the Indian community to Oman’s history and culture. The support from the NRAA of Oman and the availability of these documents on the NAI’s digital portal ensure that this invaluable resource will be accessible for future generations. The initiative not only strengthens diplomatic ties but also deepens the engagement with the Indian diaspora, celebrating their legacy and fostering a greater understanding of their role in the region’s history.

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