Destitute flood survivors celebrate their independence from feudals

Inmates of a flood camp in Sukkur celebrate independence day.

Sarfaraz Memon August 15, 2011

SUKKUR: Gul Hassan Tanwri’s home was destroyed by the floods last year. Since then he has been living in a relief camp at the Airport Road. But, he is happy.

“This 14th August was the first day of independence for us from the slavery of sardars, waderas and jagirdars,” he said. “Although we are homeless, but we breathe free.”  Tanwri sees a ray of hope for the better future of his children. “Our elders lived and died in darkness under the clutches of landlords,” he said. “But now after coming here, we are hopeful for the better future of our children.”

Gul Hassan is originally from Mehrab Khoso village, near Thul. The relief camp where he lives with his family houses 230 flood-affected families from Jacobabad, Kashmore, Shikarpur and Shahdadkot. The inmates, belonging to different districts and clans, live here like a big family.

On Sunday the inmates arranged a ceremony for the Independence Day of Pakistan. Men, women and children gathered in a big tent while holding placards and national flags. They chanted slogans, “Pakistan Zindabad, Jeay Jeay Pakistan and Sohni Dharti Zindabad”. The children, in tattered clothes, held the national flag proudly and chimed in with the adults.

Another inmate, Ali Gohar Shaikh, a resident of village Mohammad Hayat Brohi, from Khanpur taluka in district Shikarpur, told The Express Tribune that when the floods swept away everything the owned, they just moved out and took shelter at the relief camp in Sukkur. In the first couple of months, he said, the government, non-governmental organizations and the people took very good care of us. “But since May nobody is looking after us,” said Shaikh. “We do labour to earn our livelihoods for our families.”

Shaikh said that he used to work on the agricultural fields of a local landlord, who just wanted him to keep toiling hard and make money. “These landlords are so selfish,” he expressed. “They have nothing to do with the welfare of the peasant.”

We have been living at this camp for a year now, and the landlord knows very well that we are without any means of earning. He asks us to pay back his loan with interest instead of helping us out, he said. “Therefore we have decided not to go back to the life of slavery.” Shaikh demanded that the government provide them with permanent shelter in Sukkur city or its outskirts.

A resident of district Jacobabad, Ganj Bux Jaffery, expressed his love for Pakistan while holding the national flag in his hand. “We love Pakistan and are proud to be Pakistanis.” But he was unhappy with the current ruling party. “The Pakistan Peoples Party’s manifesto is Roti, Kapra aur Makaan,” elderly Jaffery said. “But it gave nothing to us. We don’t even have Watan cards.”

Despite his problems, Jaffery was also optimistic, like others, about his circumstances.  He was glad that the floods rid him of cruel landlords. “They think of us as machines instead of human beings,” he declared.

A young woman, Shazia, came from Haji Sahib Dino village, in Jacobabad district. Her husband used to work as a labourer and she sewed clothes to make ends meet. She said she liked living at the camp, without the fear of tribal feuds, robbery or theft. People from all clans and areas live together like brothers and sisters. People respect women here and don’t beat them, she added.  “I just miss one thing,” she said. “A little home where I can live with my family,” with a smile on her face.

Another inmate, Khidmat Ali Naseerani, said that they have formed a 15-member management committee to look after the matters of the camp. The committee meets every day to resolve disputes and give the people a sense of community. People gather, exchange opinions and seek advice for their problems.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.


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