The British colonization didn’t only produce the feudal class but also provided them with immense political power in the subcontinent. In 1793, according to Permanent Resettlement Act the lands were declared as the personal property of feudal lords. The British authorities distributed lands among their obedient and loyal ones as gifts. In Sindh, whoever took their side rather than revolting against them were bestowed with even states (Jageers in Sindhi language). Hence, Talpurs, Syeds, Sodhas and Baloch tribal sardars due to being the supporters of pro-British ideology became masters/owners of several states. But the one who stood up against such a British bigoted system was Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi.
Sindh remained a part of Bombay Presidency from 1920 to 1936 and during that span of time owing to the construction of barrages and irrigation system in Sindh, people from other parts of United India were made settled here. In 1932, when the Sukkur Barrage constructed, 2,000,000 acres of Sindh’s land was allotted to the outsiders while before that in 1899 when the Jamrao Canal was being built, 150,000 acres of land were distributed among non-Sindhis in Sindh. That was a life-threatening injustice with the people of Sindh.
Hari Association was founded in 1930 in Tando Jam. Qadir Bux Nizamani, Jamshed Nusserwanjee, Mister Gokhale, Sain G M Syed, Shaikh Abdul Majeed Sindhi, Comrade Abdul Qadir, and Jethamal Parsram were the founding members of the association. Their fundamental demands were: Coining Adh-Batyo system, stopping Sindhi peasants’ displacement from lands and allotting lands of Sukkur Barrage to Sindhi peasants. In 1936, Hyderabad (the second biggest city of Sindh province) became the epicenter of the Hari Association’s movement where later on it was after the merger of some other peasant rights movements became famous ‘Sindh Hari Committee’.
Hyder Bux was a deputy collector and during his governmental service he observed that it’s peasants who actually cultivate lands from their sweat but despite that feudal lords didn’t have any sympathy towards poor peasants. Meanwhile, he also witnessed some horrific incidents of feudal-lords’ apathy on peasants which included leaving dogs on peasants and after murdering them flowing their dead bodies to ponds and rivers.
In 1945, he quit his government job and kicked off the class war for the rights of downtrodden peasants and the labor class of Sindh by joining Sindh Hari Committee. The comrade organized the Hari movement and it was his sheer effort and vision that Sindh Hari Committee went through some crucial amendments in its organizational setup. The new organogram consisted of 1. Council (Assembly), 2. Executive Committee (Cabinet), 3. Deh Committees and 4. Village Committees. Such a tremendous organizational structure portrays the revolutionary vision and long-sightedness of the Comrade that how important is to work with the peasants at the village level and it was the sole reason behind the Hari Committee’s success.
On June 22, 1947 ‘All Sindh Hari Conference’ was held in Jhudho city, Sindh and as a result, Adh-Batyo movement started getting pace. The workers of Hari Committee used to reach on fields by carrying flags. Mai Bakhatwar wife of Wali Muhammad Lashari was also a peasant woman of a village near Talhi Station. After harvesting the wheat crop, it was the phase of providing Batyo to the peasants by the landlord and Mai Bakhatwar was in charge of that reaped crop’s safekeeping as her male family members were out of the village. Landlords Chaudhary brothers came with their gunmen to pick the crop but Mai Bakhatwar resisted and shoot by the Chaudhary brothers.
Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi, Comrade Ghulam Muhammad Laghari, Comrade Mir Muhammad and other peasant leaders reached at Shaheed Mai Bakhatwar’s village and jointly worked with the villagers to send the murderers of Shaheed Mai Bakhatwar namely Saeed Chaudhary and Ismail Khalid behind the bar. Resultantly both the killers were sentenced to jail for the rest of their lives.
For the rights of peasants, Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi decided to go to the Assembly. In 1946’s general elections, for the provincial assembly seat, he fought election against Sultan Ahmed Chandio from Shahdadkot constituency but lost to Chandio due to rigging in the election.
Kotri Barrage was opened in 1950 and a million acres of land of Larr belt were allotted to the outsiders by the government. Sindh Hari Committee revolted against that unfair decision and demanded that only Sindhi peasants have the right on the lands of Sindh so those must be only given to poor Sindhi peasants. As a result of that strong struggle, with 24 acres per peasant, 100,000 acres of agricultural land of Sindh were allotted to Sindh’s peasants. His other giant achievement was to allot more than 5,000,000 acres of land situated along with barrage areas of Guddu Barrage, Sukkur Barrage, Kotri Barrage and Makhi forest to peasants of Sindh.
As a result of Sindh Hari Committee’s struggle, on May 11, 1950 Sindh Tenancy Act was passed by the Sindh Assembly. For compelling the government to pass the act, around 15,000 peasants marched in Karachi and surrounded/encircled the Sindh Assembly Building for nonstop 24 hours. Later on, the amendments in the act were also carried out. First in Ayub Khan’s regime and then during Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto’s government ‘Agriculture/Land Reforms’ were also occurred and it all could only happen due to Sindh Hari Committee’s struggle.
Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi pioneered the slogan ‘Hari Haqdaar’ and with the same motto, he also started an English and a Sindhi language newspaper. The slogan means the peasants have the actual right on the production or ‘Who grows/cultivates, only he will eat. It was his presence owing to that the landlords of Sindh became somehow sympathetic towards poor peasants.
Comrade’s political career remained very challenging. From October 10, 1955, to November 28, 1969, was the period of One Unit and during this tenure, he mostly remained in jails. Ayub Khan’s martial law time was a journey for the comrade from one jail to another. Sukkur, Sahiwal, Camblepur, Karachi, Machh, and Hyderabad, which jail he didn’t go to? Every time on return from jail, he used to restart the struggle very from he had left before going to jail.
He used to write, publish, and distribute pamphlets for the rights of peasants. He wrote some famous pamphlets including the few having titles ‘unfairness to Sindh’, ‘Who has the right on Sindh’s land?’, ‘One Unit and Democracy’, ‘Will Sindhi language survive in Karachi or not?’ and ‘Democracy and Justice of the Chief Justice’. As the government put banned publishing pamphlets so he used to write those behind closed doors. He wrote more than 40 pamphlets and most of them were in English.
He was also detained due to writing some famous Sindhi poems ‘Salam Sindh (Salute Sindh), Jiye Sindh (Long Live Sindh), and Sindh Piyari (Beloved Sindh)’. The poem ‘Jiye Sindh’ was a poem that later on became a slogan and then turned into a revolutionary movement. In the history of Sindh, Comrade Hyder Bux Jatoi will always be remembered because of his pro-peasant struggle and it’s the peoples’ love and respect that they call him Baba – e – Sindh (Father of Sindh).
(The writer is a Pakistan-based columnist and he can be reached at email@example.com)