The Mao of Sindh: Remembering Hyder Bux Jatoi 50 years on
Hyder Bux Jatoi, who passed away 50 years ago today, was one of the great people who lived and worked in Sindh during the last century. Jatoi joined the Sindh Hari Committee after resigning from his government service in 1945. He remained the leader of the struggle of the peasants for a quarter of a century, thus making the Hari Committee one of the most powerful social movements in the Indian subcontinent in the 20th century. He kept struggling for the national, democratic, social, cultural and economic rights of the people.
From the period of studentship to his death in 1970, Jatoi continuously fought for the attainment of social justice and against every kind of economic, political and social oppression. Jatoi’s rallying cry was:
“جام محبت پيئي سنڌ، جيئي سنڌ جيئي سنڌ”
(May Sindh drink the cup of love, long live Sindh, long live Sindh!)
Fittingly, today also marks the World Day for Cultural Diversity. One of the goals which UNESCO sought to foster when it first sanctioned this day was to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, something which Jatoi fought for all his life vis-à-vis Sindh and with regards to its peasantry. Today on the World Day for Cultural Diversity, it is imperative to remember our heroes from across the Pakistani spectrum. Jatoi was the latest in a long line of great Sindhis, from Sufi Shah Inayat Shaheed and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai to GM Syed, Sobho Gianchandani, Ibrahim Joyo, Shaikh Ayaz, Rasul Bux Palijo, Nazir Abbasi, Fahmida Riaz, Zarina Baloch, and Benazir Bhutto.
Mao Zedong’s words came back to me while I was working on this piece about Jatoi. Like Mao, Jatoi betrayed his class and left his cushy job to take up the cause of the peasants; like Mao too he was a poet and writer committed to his land, language, people and culture, and lived for 69 years with great dignity. His dignity was drawn from the land he loved. But unlike Mao, he passed away still waiting for the dream of a socialist, sovereign and prosperous Sindh to materialise. With Jatoi’s untimely death, Sindh’s peasants were orphaned.
The people’s poet Habib Jalib acknowledged Jatoi as his leader and giver of political consciousness. He therefore penned a poem about Jatoi, with the simple title Hyder Bux Jatoi Re Bhayya (Hyder Bux Jatoi O Brother), which is being shared here today to mark Jatoi’s 50th death anniversary. While explaining the context of this poem in his autobiography, Jalib narrated that he had worked with Jatoi and had been assigned the duty to accompany him on his election campaign against Ayub Khoro, the iron man of Sindh in the 1954 elections. Jalib went to Larkana along with a group of students from Karachi, where he was based in those days. In the chowk at Larkana, Khoro met the group and challenged them, saying,
“You student folks, what have you come here for?”
Jalib recounts that he responded by screaming,
“We have come to set fire to your chambers and havelis.”
Upon hearing this, the police officers standing next to Khoro arrested them. Khoro later had the house where Jalib was staying set on fire and also had Jatoi’s car incinerated. That was the time when Jalib’s political poetry had begun and this particular poem was read in a meeting in Larkana, and was subsequently recited in all the rallies of the haris. This poem thus needs to be read today not only as a tribute to Hyder Bux Jatoi but as a valuable document of Pakistan’s social and political history.
Hyder Bux Jatoi Re Bhayya (Hyder Bux Jatoi O Brother) by Habib Jalib
“Hyder Bux Jatoi re bhayya Hyder Bux Jatoi
There is no other who sympathises with the hari
Hyder Bux Jatoi re bhayya Hyder Bux Jatoi
One landlord alone, robs the wealth of us in our thousands
He dresses well, roams in a car, his pleasures like brigands
We cry with hunger and his house replete with fairs
We cannot even get a blanket, a shawl he himself wears
Hyder Bux Jatoi re bhayya Hyder Bux Jatoi”
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