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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Notes From My Memory, Part VIII, By Mir Thebo: G. M. Laghari, Syed's Birth Day in Jail, Living With Enemies, Palijo's Ideology, Life in Jail

Dear readers, please forgive me for delay in this installment. I am grateful to you for your interest in the notes from my memory. This is something that I always wanted to do but the problem is that I don’t have any written notes, nor do I have any reference material available to me. I am also aware of flaws in my writing style and also that I forget many events and personalities. First, I thought no one would really be interested in it. But I am thankful to some friends who have encouraged me and have really pushed me to jot down these notes. I will appreciate if you would please bear with me and would also send me your comments and input. There may also be some people who might be sharpening their daggers to attack me once I finish writing these notes. But that is what the life is all about!

Here, I would like to recall the words of a Chinese writer who was also mentioned by Will Durant in his epic book 'Story of Civilization': Tai T’ung (thirteenth century Chinese philosopher) had said “Were I to await perfection, my book would not be finished …”. So, let me continue in that spirit.
Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Laghari

Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Laghari, a forgotten peasant leader: There are many distinguished people in Sindh who have been forgotten. Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Laghari is one of them. He worked tirelessly for the rights of the peasantry and the downtrodden people at a time when such work could not gain public attention or sympathy and was not appreciated by the media. Actually we didn’t have any media at that time as we have it today. There were only few ragtag newspapers and they didn’t have that great readership. Even those newspapers ignored any work by the true leaders of the peasants and the working class. Most of the common Sindhis were illiterate, ignorant and afraid of feudal lords and police. They avoided listening to the comrades, who were persecuted like Jesus and his followers were persecuted in Roman period.

I have forgot the name of the peasant leader on whom a feudal lord had once unleashed dogs to keep him off and away from his lands and his peasants. Such were the times! There were no transport facilities in the most parts of Sindh those days. The comrades had to walk on foot for miles to reach the remote villages. The names of some of the comrades that come to my mind at this moment who were very active during those days (1950s – 1960s) include: Comrade Barkat Ali Azad, a leftist, Congress sympathizer from Jacobabad, Comrade Jamaluddin Bukhari from Larkana, who was the champion of earlier Indian communist movement and whose Hindu wife Kanta was always grumbling, Maulvi Nazir Hussain Hyderi, a peasant leader also from Larkana, who always used to taunt mullahs in public in very harsh and abusive language, Comrade Baqir Sanai from Sann who used to criticize the Communist Party and G. M. Syed because of Satabo Shah, a relative of G. M. Syed, who treated peasants very ruthlessly, Comrade Luqman from Chambar, Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi and party workers used to go every year to his village on his death anniversary and a great brave peasant woman Mai Bakhtawar from Tharparkar who gave her life defending her share of the crop at the ‘Dero’. There are many other unknown heroes who fought bravely with the tyrant old system.
Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, former PM of Pakistan

During his lifetime, Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Laghari was not an unknown person. He was a famous hari leader. He worked very hard not only in Tharparkar District but also in every corner of Sindh wherever injustice had been done to peasants. He gave tough time to the landlords, settlers and police. He was next to Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi in the Hari (peasants) movement. The peasant leaders and workers at that time were mostly leftists and nationalists; sometimes they fought with the party on the national question. Likewise Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Laghari also was with the party but he differed on national question. Same was the position of Comrade H. B. Jatoi. The party always used to say for those leaders to its rank and file that comrade, ‘ye aage nahin chal sakega (in future he can not be our comrade). The Communist Party sometimes used Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Laghari to put pressure on Comrade H. B. Jatoi.
Famous progressive Bengali leader, Maulana Abdul Hamid Bhashani

Hari leaders and workers at times broke with the Party, and Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Laghari also did the same but his contribution is so great in the peasant and the national and democratic movement of Sindh. He went to jail many times for longer periods for fighting for the rights of the peasants & downtrodden people. He also used to contest elections from his constituency & always gave tough time to feudal lords from the area. He also worked with leaders like Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy and Maulana Abdul Hamid Bhashani. For his livelihood he had a printing press with the name of Sachai Press in Mirpurkhas, Sindh. He used to bring out a periodical with the name of “Sachai” (Truth) too.

Living with ideological enemies: It is very difficult to live with an ideological enemy in one compound especially when there is just no way to avoid or escape him. And what do you do if that ‘ideological enemy’ is Rasool Bux Palijo who is always eager to pinch you with sharp and dreadful remarks? When we were in jail together (1968), as I mentioned in my previous note, R. B. Palijo came with the idea on 17th January to celebrate G. M. Syed’s Birth Day! I thought it was his ploy to criticize and condemn us (CP) on the national question. Palijo arranged a birthday cake and some refreshments for the day. We all sat together including two muhajir comrades and paid rich tributes to Saaeen G. M. Syed.

When my turn came to speak, I compared Syed with other historical personalities like Dr. Sun Yat Sen, (Chinese nationalist leader, who played a great role in 1911 Chinese nationalist revolution, which overthrew the Qing dynasty in China), Jawahar Lal Nehru and Khan Ghaffar Khan. When Palijo’s turn came, he brutally attacked my comparison of Syed with those leaders and said, 'Syed is far above than these leaders. Mir has tried to minimize G. M. Syed’s stature and his role.' In rhetorical manner, he continued: ‘G. M. Syed is equivalent to Marx, Lenin and Mao’. He said: ‘these people don’t know how great G. M. Syed is'. I was flabbergasted by Palijo’s remarks. We knew how Palijo used Syed's personality for his own narrow political interests. He himself knew very well the place of Syed. But, alas, that has been Palijo’s style all along.
Rasool Bux Palijo

R. B. Palijo’s political ideology: For political purposes, Palijo used Mao Tse-Tung whose little red book was compulsory for every Chinese to carry during the cultural revolution (1966 to 1976) otherwise one will be labeled as counter revolutionary or an agent of the enemy. Thousands of people were persecuted especially the writers, intellectuals and middle class people. They were ruthlessly taken from their homes in the cities and were uprooted and sent to far-flung rural areas. They were humiliated under the guidance of the so-called vigilant party committees and people were forced to confess that they were anti-party and reactionary to bring them to shame in the public. Same thing was practiced in the Soviet Union during the Stalin period. They called it ‘The Great Purge’ to purify the party and the society.

Mikhail Gorbachev
Palijo found it easy to convince his workers through this sacred red book that all are enemies except his party people and that he can expel any leader or worker in the name of the great cause or the party. The same practice was common in our party too. It was actually a common practice in 3rd. world countries. Therefore almost all parties were divided in many groups and during that period Euro Communism emerged. The Western European parties denounced the Soviet system of one party rule and the dictatorship of the proletariat and the concept of democratic socialism and multi-party system emerged. New ideas emerged in 1980s in the Soviet Union too. They were called Glasnost and Perestroika (openness and restructuring) and M. Gorbachev declared a famous quote for the liberals that 'Man is above the Ideology, the ideology is not above the man'. Those who are still Marxists and glorify the former USSR, consider Gorbachev the traitor and the one who brought down the grand empire of the UNION OF THE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC.

Palijo brought Mao's thoughts to his workers and Sindhi peasants and mixed it with Sindhi nationalism and formulated the idea of a Chinese model revolution in Sindh and repeatedly told his innocent workers the famous quote of Mao that "all political power comes from the barrel of the gun". But Mao's revolution was typical Chinese revolution. Mao didn't copy the Russian model and he was against Russia. Both the communist powers even went to a war in 1969 over some piece of land along one of the longest international borders between the two countries although they both believed in the ideology that in future states will wither away and only universal communism will prevail. More funny thing is that it was America, the big capitalist enemy, who stopped Russians from attacking Chinese nuclear installations and Russians backed off (US journalist Harrison Salisbury reported that Soviet sources implied a possible first strike against the Lop Nur basin nuclear test site; and military documents of the time indicate that the USSR had more nuclear-attack plans against China than against the US. The United States warned the USSR against launching a nuclear strike against China. WIKI). Mao didn’t use even Marx very much. He brought the revolution in his own way as he convinced Chinese people how to fulfill difficult task through this old Chinese saying, 'The foolish old man who moves the mountain'.
Mao ZeDong (Mao Tse-tung)
Something about the inmates: The situation inside the jail is pathetic and hopeless for hundreds of inmates, especially for the ones who are booked for criminal offenses. All are not equal inside the prison; poor prisoners suffer much more than the influential ones. The authorities humiliate them and put them to hard work even in the scorching heat. Sometimes they collapse from the sunstroke and are taken to the hospitals. There are four categories of prisoners:

1. The most hardened or habitual criminals who have been to jail several times or the ones who are booked for murder. They are put into Karo Chakar (Black ward). Some of them damn care how much punishment they get.

2. The ones who have been to jail for the first time. They are kept in Achho Chakar (white ward).

3. Under Trial prisoners.

4. Death warrant prisoners: the prisoners who have been handed over death punishment.
Interestingly some hardened criminals feel comfortable inside the jail. They have been in the jail for more time then they have lived outside the jail. They have nowhere else to go and with time, they establish good relations with jail authorities. Sometimes, some inmates fight with authorities while some are informers who spy on other fellow prisoners. Some inmates bribe the jail staff, then they are allowed to cook their food separate in the barracks otherwise it is illegal to cook inside the barracks. The food in the jail is HORRIBLE! It gives stomach trouble to fresh inmates like us. According to the law and the jail manuals, the government is to provide appropriate ration to the jails but it never reaches the inmates. Corruption is very high among the jail staff. We have also tasted that food. Not this time but during martial law period, when authorities were very strict not to give any facility to political prisoners. We had to wear jail clothes and eat jail food. No outside meals were allowed nor any contact with the outside world.

In the jail, morning starts with the ringing of a bell. Head Barrack Maqadum (A fellow prisoner assigned by the jail staff to be a watch man who keeps an eye on other prisoners) shouts loudly ‘get up all prisoners! Wake up!’ Soon, unwillingly, all prisoners sit down in pairs with their heads down. A sepoy will count them to match the figures from the last evening’s counting. Then prisoners wash up and go one by one, to the toilets, which are very dirty.  After that, they get piece of bread and tea. Bread gives the feeling of chewing sand in one’s mouth. The tea is more like sweet gutter water. But influential inmates make their own tea and cook some food though it is against the jail rules. Then everybody goes to work except ‘Dadas’ and moneyed people. Some go to factory; some do gardening; some to laundry and few to work at jail staff’s homes. Educated prisoners are called Munshis. They teach prisoners, do office work at jail office or at jail hospital.

Next installment: In next episode you will read the remaining account of the hidden world of the criminal prisoners. You may feel sorry for them though they are criminals with long jail sentences. You will also know about a visit to the gallows where prisoners are hanged till death, and to the death ward where prisoners are waiting for their death sentences to be carried. This is the place where Baloch leader Noroz Khan died in the jail and his son and other Balochs were hanged for fighting for their national rights during Ayub Khan's military operation in early 60s.

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