Cutchi Memons migrated from Cutch at the beginning of the 19th century and settled down as traders mainly in port towns. Some even went to other places in Africa and the Middle East. Their honesty, hard work and charitable nature resulted in enormous prosperity in business. They became so well known in main trading centers of coastal India that the words “Cutchi Memon” meant “businessman”. The local people were so impressed by their generous nature that almost every Cutchi Memon was called “Sait” as a mark of respect. [“Sait” in the Gujarati language and the Cutchi dialect mean a male of great power and control]
By the close of the 19th century, Jamats were formed in most of the places where Cutchi Memons had settled. The start of the 20th century marked a change in the life of our Cutchi Memon elders who started thinking about the unity of the community on a larger scale. This feeling of unity with a general awakening under the leadership of philanthropists Sait Haji Yusuf Haji Ismail Ahmedabadi and Sait Yusuf Sobani as well as a leading journalist, Sait Usman Hasan Japanwala made people think of holding an All India Cutchi Memon Conference. Mr. Japanwala who was Editor and Publisher of a Gujarati periodical named “Memon Mitra” published an article in 1908 requesting the community leaders to take a lead in organizing an All India Cutchi Memon Conference. However, the movement was unsuccessful due to the unfavorable circumstances and lack of initiate on the part of the leaders
The second attempt for such a conference was made by Sir Ibrahim Haroon and Khan Bahadur Mohammed Hashim Moledina of Poona (Pune) but the fate was the same as the earlier effort.
Mr. Mohammed Ebrahim Wadiwala, the President of the Cutchi Memon Jamat, made the next attempt in 1952. In 1954, the Cutchi Memon Jamat of Bombay passed a resolution and appointed a Conference Committee for the purpose of arranging and organizing a Conference of Cutchi Memon Jamats in India. The main object of the conference was to chalk out a program for the economic, educational and social progress of the community, and for all Jamats in India to work together towards achieving these objectives. Mr. Wadiwala was so much interested in holding the Conference that he himself visited various cities to discuss with Jamat officials there. Almost all the Jamats appreciated the idea and promised cooperation. It was the community’s bad luck that the project was shelved after Mr. Wadiwala resigned as President.
However, Mr. G. M. Banatwala, the Editor of the Urdu periodical, “Memon Review”, followed up Mr. Wadiwala’s dream. In the periodical’s issue dated May 15, 1957, Mr. Banatwala appealed to the Managing Committee of the Cutchi Memon Jamat of Bombay to take steps for implementing the 1954 resolution. This led to the formation of a Conference Committee under the Chairmanship of the then President, Mr. A.A. Oomer. Though the arrangements were finalized for holding the Conference in December 1957, the project once again failed to see the light of day.
Mr. A.R. Sulaiman Sait, the then President of the Cutchi Memon Jamat of Alleppey in Kerala, India, and some other members of various Cutchi Memon Jamats in India were also anxious to see that the All India Cutchi Memon Conference was held the earliest. Whenever these leaders visited Bombay, they discussed the idea with the leaders and active members of the Cutchi Memon Jamat of Bombay.
The efforts made by various personalities from 1908 to 1960 kept the idea of holding a conference alive in the minds of successive generations of Cutchi Memons. Finally, in April 1971, the dream turned into reality. The credit for this goes to the Managing Committee of the Cutchi Memon Jamat of Bombay under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Haroon S. Kably. Arrangements were made to hold an All India Cutchi Memon Conference on April 26 and 27, 1971 during weeklong celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Constitution of the Cutchi Memon Jamat of Bombay. About a hundred delegates representing several Cutchi Memon Jamats in India participated in the Conference. A resolution was passed for the formation of the All India Cutchi Memon Federation.
The Cutchi Memon Jamat of Bombay, responsible for completing formalities for the formation of the proposed Federation, worked hard and completed the project within a period of less than two years. The formalities being complete, Mr. H.R. Gokhale, Minister of Law and Company Affairs in the Government of India inaugurated the All India Cutchi Memon Federation on March 4, 1973. The following were the All India Cutchi Memon Federation’s office-bearers: Mr. Haroon S. Kably as its Founder-President, Mr. Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait and Mr. Azeez Sait as Vice Presidents, and Mr., Abdul Qadeer Moosa Dadani as its Secretary-General.
In 1993, a World Cutchi Memon Conference was arranged by the All India Cutchi Memon Federation to be held in Bombay on January 15th, 16th and 17th. Alas, because of communal strife in India that followed Hindu-Muslim riots and the bomb blasts in Bombay, the Conference was postponed! It was held later at Udhagamandalam (Ooty), after the communal strife was normalized, on April 19, 1993.
The above material was taken from the “Souvenir” published at the time of the World Cutchi Memon Conference. Mr. Haroon S. Kably, President, All India Cutchi Memon Federation wrote a Foreword….”It is with all humility that I present this Souvenir…With the principle in mind I learned years ago that “a parachute never opens until you jump”, I started preparing for the World Conference. By Allah Subhanahu Talla’s kind grace, I succeeded. The World Conference has been our dream for quite sometime. It has been called, not only to link Cutchi Memons allover the world but also to see that we not loose touch with our roots, not only for ourselves but for the coming generations as well. We want to give the community a global platform. I need tour cooperation, support and prayers in achieving these objectives”.
Several leaders around the world sent in messages of good wishes to be published in the above Souvenir. Governor of Maharashtra state in India, Mr. C. Subramaniam wrote on December 13, 1992…”I am happy to know that the All India Cutchi Memon Federation will be holding a World Conference of Cutchi Memons from 15th to 17th January 1973. On this occasion, I extend my greetings to the delegates and wish the Conference all success”.
Governor Sarup Singh of Gujarat state in India wrote on March 23, 1993…”I am happy to learn that All India Cutchi Memon Federation is organizing a World Conference of Cutchi Memons in Ootacamund, Nilgiris, on April 20, 1993 and a souvenir is also being brought out to mark the occasion. People of Gujarat living in and outside the State have earned well-deserved reputation, for goodness of their nature, positive attitude to life, business acumen, and philanthropic and humanitarian activities. The participation by the delegates from within and outside the country in the conference, I am sure, will help the delegates in sharing the rich experience and skills of each other for further strengthening the humanitarian activities as well as the traditional values and cultural heritage of Cutchi Memons who are an integral part of India’s unique and chequered civilization. I send my warm greetings on the occasion and wish the conference all success”.
Hon. Azeez Sait, Minister for Transport and Wakfs in the Government of the State of Karnataka, and a Cutchi Memon, wished the Conference well on September 5, 1992. So did Fakhruddin T. Khorakiwala, the Sheriff of Bombay followed by Ebrahim Sulaiman Sait, Member of the Indian Parliament and a Cutchi Memon himself. Arif G. Kadwani, Founder-Presdient. Cutchi Memon Jamat of North America wrote on September 27, 1992 as he wished the Conference all success…”As we watch the world around us taking progressive strides, we cannot help appreciating the fact that our world of Cutchi Memons is no more confined to narrow, rigid and restricted views of life. Education coupled with a general comprehensive upliftment of social values has placed greater demands on us as members of a unique community structure. These demands include social fraternizing, community bonding, and a sense of sharing pride in being Cutchi Memons. While there are Cutchi Memon Jamats or Associations all over India and Pakistan (and now the United States of America), the uniting factor is the All India Cutchi Memon Federation. Its World Conference will not only enable a meeting of minds relating to the past, present and future of Cutchi Memons but also an enriched scheme of augmenting education and health plans, monetary assistance, cultural and nationalistic beliefs and feelings, etc”.
Messages were also received from Abdul Gany Joonas, President, Cutchee Maiman Society, Mauritius; Daud Abdullah, Chairman, Memon Jamat Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania); Salamatullah, Chairman, Haj Committee, Bombay; Ahmed B. Zakaria, Founder Chairman. Islamic Cultural Centre (India); Hashim Abdullah Memon, Chairman, Cutchi Memon Markazi Jamat, Karachi, Pakistan; Muhammad Yousuf Patel, President, The Cutchi Memon Jamat Saddar of Karachi, Pakistan; Muhammad Ilyas Usman (Dadu), President, Cutchi Memon Jamat, Ghari Khata, Karachi, Pakistan; Usman Abdul Rehman, President, Cutchi Memon Jamat Kalri of Karachi, Pakistan; Adam Ibrahim Anjarwala, Chief Patron, All Pakistan Cutchi Memon Centre of Karachi, Pakistan; Haji Saleh Mohd. Gheewala, President, Cutchi Memon Friends Society of Karachi, Pakistan; and Abdul Ghani Saeed, Director, Centre of Executive Excellence of Karachi, Pakistan.
The office bearers at that time were:
Mr. Haroon S Kably (President)Following were co-opted as Members of the Managing Council:
Mr. Ebrahim Sulaiman Sait (Vice President)
Mr. H.Y. Cassim Sait (Vice President)
Dr. Ebrahim Gaya (Secretary General)
Mr. Ebrahim Ismail Aibani (Jt. Hon. Secretary)
Mr. Abdul Latheef Sait (Jt. Hon. Secretary)
Mr. A.S. Phudinawala (Jt. Hon. Treasurer)
Mr. J. Essof Sait (Jt. Hon. Treasurer)
Mr.A.S. Akbani (Cutch Office in Charge)
Prof. G. S. Hamlani (Bombay Office in Charge)
Dr. M.A. Memon of Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Mr. A. Kareem Allarakha of Ajmer, Rajasthan
Mr. H. Essa Ayub Sait of Bhopal Madhya Pradesh
Mr. A. Sattar A. Kader of Bhusawal
Mr. Rahim Adam Sait of Cochin, Kerala
Mr. Azeez Sait of Mysore, Karnataka
Mr. Anees Ahmed of Nagpur, Maharashtra
Mr. M.S. Memon of Palanpur, Gujarat
Mr. A. Latif Ali Mohamad of Sagar, Madhya Pradesh
Mr. J.M. Ismail Sait of Trivandrum, Kerala
Information courtesy: Arif G. Kadwani, Cutchi Memon Jamat of North America