Those who were young in 1960s and early 1970s were either part of it or were witness to a great romantic period in every field including politics, literature, art, movies, music, culture, etc. Those were the years when one indulged in discussions on the sense of alienation, existentialism, writings of Sartre, Camus, Dostoyevsky, Andre Gide, Franz Kafka and also talked about the dissidents like famous Russian physicist Andrei Sakharov and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. One would endlessly talk about Joseph Stalin's daughter, Svetlana’s revelations about her father, the iron man of the Soviet Union and about Boris Pasternak who wrote the novel Dr. Zhivago. One could reminisce how Pasternak was not allowed to go abroad to receive the Noble Prize for Literature. Khrushchev had told him that: ‘if you go abroad, you will never come back to Russia’. Pasternak had responded: ‘leaving the motherland will be equal to death for me. I am tied to Russia by birth, by life and work’. His mistress and beloved Olga was sent to prison just to punish his soul.
It was during that period that the talk of the town were the polemics of Euro communism, Latin America’s national liberation movements, the foco theories of revolution through guerrilla warfare, Frantz Fanon’s book “wretched of the earth” about Algerian liberation and third world’s colonized people, the suppression and their psyche, the Trotskyite revolutionaries (whom we Leninist hated much as they minimized the role of Lenin) and about the gulags labor camps. It was said that millions of innocent people died in the camps.
|Victims of Mai Lai Massacre|
Discussions during that period also focused on the civil rights movement and the anti war movement against Vietnam War. Anti war songs became popular like "Don’t be a hero, don’t be a fool in your life, come back and make me Ur wife". Very horrific pictures of war were published in Time and Life magazines like one picture cutting the stomach with big knife of a an alive Vietnamese and the massacre at Mai Lai (those army personnel were tried and court marshaled by military tribunal and were punished with rigorous imprisonment and long jail terms) and pictures of self immolation of Buddhist monks in Saigon (Hochi Minh City) in the protest against war. It was amazing to see that the monks were so disciplined that while burning they won’t cry with pain. They would accept death with calm and dignity. The fascinating stories about Vietnamese prostitutes were also published how they supported the Viet Cong and gave them money earned by prostitution.
|Hippie culture in 1960s|
Rise of Hippie culture and use of drugs in the west and in America were rampant during that period. So the two trends, revolutionary and pessimistic, were running side by side, but the revolutionary trend was in full swing throughout the world, especially among youth everywhere. They were resisting the tyranny, injustices and wars.
In May 1968, Paris saw the great uprising and it seemed as a new revolution was in the offing there by the workers and students. As revolutionaries do in the initial stage, they put barricades in Paris. Sartre and others supported them but president Charles de Gaulle, who was very popular at that time, acted against the movement. At one point, he was so confused that he secretly slipped away from the presidential palace and went to the military head quarters and made plans to ‘retake’ Paris. With many efforts by the French bourgeoisie, the movement eventually subsided. The movement didn’t succeed also because the French Communist party and its biggest workers union, CGT, didn't support the un-organized uprising. Communist parties never support utopian goals. They had reservation about Che's guerilla warfare tactics also and Moscow was a factor in the failure of PLO too. Moscow didn’t want to get into the troubled waters because of these extremist movements. Moscow was already exhausted by the Caribbean missile crisis. But the uprising in Paris achieved something: they got rid of conservative political forces. Their slogans were very much attractive like “Man is neither Rousseau's noble savage, nor the Church’s or La Rochefoucauld’s depraved sinner. He is violent when oppressed, gentle when free". And “We don’t want to be the watchdogs or servants of capitalism”.
|Thousands of students and workers took to the streets in 1968 in Paris|
Formation of Sindh National Students Federation:
International situation and the 4th March 1967 event in Hyderabad gave us boost in Sindh. Initially, we in the left movement were the only organizing force in Sindh. So many students approached us from interior of Sindh. They mostly were from lower income groups. Some of them were from landlord families also. Sindh University students were not that much attracted to our work because after 4th March, the nationalist feelings were much higher while we professed that we were communists first and that we analyzed the situation from the Marxist point of view. Secondly because they were scared of the intelligence people and thirdly because the students didn’t like whole-time politics. Some students didn’t like our appearance in shabby clothes and thought we didn’t look clean as the students ‘were supposed to look like’. We used rubber ‘Hochi Minh chapal because the first lesson we learned was to ‘de-class our self’ because we were the representatives of the proletariat (working class). Jam Saqi was more declassed than me in that. Students with love used to call him “Registani Uth” (camel from desert).
|Jam Saqi, former student leader & activist, who suffered torture & years of imprisonment for his politics|
Another reason for our disapproval among SU students was that we didn’t attend the classes and we didn’t look like students. I can give you one small example that will explain the situation: during my election campaign for the position of General Secretary of the Sindh University Students Union, my brother, Mukhtiar Thebo (he was student of M. A. and was always well-dressed) asked one girl student to vote for me. She said: "ok, introduce him to me. Let me see him. I have not seen your brother Mir". When the girl saw me, she said abruptly to my brother: ‘this young man doesn’t even know how to dress properly. If you be the candidate, I’ll be canvassing for you Mukhtiar but not MIR’. At that time no girls were with us. Only some sisters of comrades were with us. Some intellectual students from Urdu and Sindhi backgrounds were with us. They included Nadeem Akhter, Hidayat Hussain, Ahmed Khan Malkani, Saleem Qazi and Aslam Qazi, both brothers of Ali Qazi, Uzair Soomro, grand son of Allah Bux Soomro, Hilal pasha etc. We decided to form a student organization on Sindh basis. The first convention of Sindh National Students Federation was held in Hyderabad at Indus Hotel in 1968. It was well-represented convention. Many delegates came from all over Sindh but a very unfortunate incident occurred as Rasool Bux Palijo and his new political friends disrupted the function. Before that another bad incident had occurred with Mr. Palijo at the hands of Urdu comrades in the meeting of National Awami Party, Sindh. What happened in that meeting with Mr. Palijo, see in my next note.