The recently demolished 19th century heritage house of Hyder Bux Jatoi, revered as ‘Baba-e-Sindh’ [‘Father of Sindh’] for his struggles for the rights of Sindh and peasants, will now be replaced by a building. However, his memories and struggles live on.
Jatoi, who resigned from the post as deputy collector in the British government in 1943 to lead the peasants’ rights movement, was remembered at his 44th death anniversary in Hyderabad on Wednesday. The speakers on the occasion paid tribute to his struggles, reiterating their resolve to carry forward his offensive against the ruling class and feudal lords.
“He was an unrivalled leader, a phenomenon that we are yet to fully comprehend,” commented Rasool Bux Palejo, a leftist political leader. “Only few people know what Jatoi really was.”
The 1951 Sindh Tenancy Act, the movement against Ayub Khan’s one-unit system, the slogan of Jeay Sindh [long live Sindh], the translation of the Holy Quran in Sindhi are all part of Jatoi’s legacy, who was also a revolutionary poet. He spent a cumulative period of over a decade at different times in prison as he often had fallouts with the establishment. “He was a humanist who felt the anguish of the people and devoted his life to alleviate their sufferings,” observed Palejo.
Other speakers at the anniversary also mentioned the life-long endeavours of Jatoi. The Sindh United Party’s leader Syed Zain Shah said Jatoi’s nationalist leadership was a precursor to the subsequent nationalist movements in Sindh.
The Sindhi Hari Tehreek’s (SHT) [Sindhi peasant movement] also passed resolutions on the occasion, demanding an inquiry into the assets of Sindh’s senators, MNAs and MPAs. They also called for the removal of encroachments and illegal possessions of state-owned agricultural land and its fair distribution among landless peasants. The resolutions also asked for the recovery of missing persons from Sindh and Balochistan, the protection of minorities and an end to feudal control over agricultural resources.
The building and the feud
Palejo laid the foundation stone on the 200 square-yard plot where Jatoi’s Hyder Manzil once stood at a corner location of Hyder Chowk. The house was the SHT secretariat, sporadically though, since the 1940s and remained so until it was demolished. It also served as the headquarters for several political movements.
Jatoi’s property is owned by his grandchildren. According to Azhar Jatoi, one of his grandsons and SHT chief, his cousins from four of his uncles were adamant on selling the house. “They want to earn money through the building; either by selling it or by constructing a new building in its place,” he alleged.
Azhar organised a separate anniversary for his grandfather on Wednesday. Recalling the historic and political history of the house, he claims that he did everything to prevent the Manzil from tearing down. He added, however, that he could not stop his cousins, who together owned an 80 per cent share on the property, from going ahead with their plan.
“The demolition of the building is not only an irreparable loss for our family but for all of Sindh and for everything my grandfather stood for,” he lamented.
“We have not sold this house,” clarified Akbar Jatoi, another grandsons. “We are constructing a new building in its place since the old one was in ruin.” He announced that one of the floors in the new building will be reserved for a Baba-e-Sindh Academy, which is planned to be a library and a museum.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2014.