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Fri, 08.15.1947

The Siddi community of India, and Pakistan

*On this date in 1947, India held its first election after its independence from Britain.  African American Registry is using this month and date from 628 AD to affirm the Siddi people. 

They are a Black African ethnic group of India and Pakistan who are descended from the Bantu peoples of the East African region.  The first Siddis arrived in India in the 7thCentury at the Bharuch port. Several others followed with the first Arab Islamic invasions of the subcontinent in 712 AD. They are also believed to have been soldiers with Muhammad bin Qasim's Arab army and were called Zanjis.  Later the Siddi population grew as slaves brought by the Portuguese and the British. Most of them became Muslim and a small minority became Hindu.  

Siddi’s are also known as Sidi, Siddhi, Sheedi, or Habshi, and early on they were merchants, sailors, indentured servants, slaves, and mercenaries. Some Siddis escaped slavery to establish communities in forested areas, and some also established the small Siddi principalities of Janjira State on Janjira Island and Jafarabad State in Kathiawar as early as the twelfth century. A former alternative name of Janjira was Habshan (i.e., land of the Habshis). In the DelhiSultanate period prior to the rise of the Mughals in India, Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut was a prominent Siddi slave-turned-nobleman who was a close confidant of Razia Sultana (1205–1240 CE).  

There are conflicting theories on the origin of the name Siddi. One theory is that the word derives from sahibi, an Arabic term of respect in North Africa, similar to the word sahib in modern India and Pakistan. A second theory is that the term Siddi is derived from the title borne by the captains of the Arab vessels that first brought Siddi settlers to India. These captains were known as Sayyid.  Similarly, another term for Siddis, habshi, is held to be derived from the common name for the captains of the Abyssinian ships that also first delivered Siddi slaves to the subcontinent. Siddis are also sometimes referred to as Afro-Indians.  

The 21stcentury Siddi community is estimated at around 50,000 to 60,000, with communities in Karnataka, Gujarat and Hyderabad in India and Makran and Karachi in Pakistan. 


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