Marxist leader Sobho Gianchandani dies at 95

Published: December 9, 2014
Sobho Gianchandani

Sobho Gianchandani

KARACHI: Veteran politician and Marxist leader Comrade Sobho Gianchandani passed away on Monday in Larkana after suffering from a heart attack. Gianchandani was 95.

“He was weak,” said the medical superintendent of Chandka Teaching Hospital, Larkana, Dr Saifullah Abbasi. “He felt a sudden pain in his chest early in the morning and died even before he reached the hospital.” Gianchandani leaves behind three daughters and a son. A large number of Sindhi writers, intellectual and politicians have reached Larkana where his final rites will take place today.

Gianchandani was the first non-Muslim recipient of the Kamal-e-Fun Award, given by the Pakistan Academy of Letters to writers in the field of literature. He spent most of his life either in jail or struggling for the rights of the masses.

A student of Rabindranath Tagore in India, Gianchandani was given the name ‘The Man from Moen Jo Daro’. He was a writer, a revolutionary, a lawyer and an intellectual. Working for the Communist Party of Pakistan, the comrade raised his voice against powerful regimes.

Until his last breath, Gianchandani remained committed to the Marxist ideology. “There is no alternative to communism,” he used to say. “That is why I am still pursuing the philosophy.” On numerous occasions, he mentioned the immense pressure he faced due to three factors. “The fact that I am a communist, a Hindu and Sindhi always haunts me,” he said.

A Man from Moen Jo Daro

Comrade Gianchandani was born on May 3, 1920, in a small village of Bindi adjacent to Moen Jo Daro. He received his primary education from his village and later went to Larkana and Karachi for his secondary education.

He was huge fan of folk music and he had dreamed of becoming a musician. After completing his Intermediate from DJ Science College, he sent a telegram to the man running Shantiniketan in Calcutta to seek admission.

It was to Gianchandani’s utter surprise that the principal was none other than Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. “You are the first student who has sent me a telegram for admission. I really appreciate it,” Tagore told Gianchandani when he arrived at Shantiniketan in 1939. Tagore asked him for his complete home address and Gianchandani replied that he was from Larkana. “It means you are from Moen Jo Daro. It will be better for me if I call you ‘a man from Moen Jo Daro,” Tagore said.

It was during his college days that he had the opportunity to meet Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad and Subhas Chandra Bose.

In and out of jail

Gianchandani started his political career in 1942 when he got admission in the LLB programme at SC Shahani Law College in Karachi. He established the Sindh Students Organisation with his friends and later joined the communist party.

During the Quit India movement when many leaders of sub-continent were arrested, the police tried to arrest him several times and finally succeeded in apprehending him at Mitharam Hostel. The British government sent him to Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur jails over two years.

“Sobho was arrested more than 20 times after Pakistan came into being because of his affiliation with the communist party,” recalled one of his old fans, Comrade Jam Saqi.

Whenever the court would release him, the state authorities would put him under house arrest. “Bhutto tried to convince him to join the PPP but the comrade refused, which irritated Bhutto and he later ordered the police to arrest him,” said Sindhi writer Mohammad Ali Pathan.

This practice continued till 1973 when Bhutto withdrew all cases against him and ordered the government not to arrest him again, said Saqi.

Pro bono

As a lawyer, Gianchandani used to plead the cases of peasants without charging any fee. He has also written four books of short stories and novels. He spoke Sindhi, English, Urdu, Bengali, Hindi, Persian and Arabic.

After the law and order situation worsened in his native village, Gianchandani settled in Larkana. “He had sold all his village property including the land and the house,” claimed Abdul Haq Pirzado, a local journalist, who added that Gianchandani donated hundreds of books to the Shahnawaz Library in Larkana, a few years ago.

As the man breathed his last on Monday, his fans recall his famous statement every time someone asked him about his health. “Aram haraam aa [resting is a sin].”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2014.

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