Peoples’ Pamphleteer

Zaffar Junejo on the political writings of the legendary leader of Sindh’s peasants, Comrade Hyder Baksh Jatoi

Peoples’ Pamphleteer
Any scholar of Sindh’s modern history cannot overlook the contributions of GM Syed, Comrade Hyder Baksh Jatoi, Sobho Gianchandani and Rasool Bux Palejo. The first one was the founder of Sindhi nationalism, the second was a peasants’ leaders, the third in the sequence was a communist leader, and the last one was a champion of nationalism as well as an upholder of the class question. All of them were born at different times and opted for different ways and means for realizing their dreams. One aspect was, however, common among them: fearless love for Sindh.

Comrade Hyder Baksh was born on the 1st of October 1901 at Bakhodero, a tiny village adjacent to Moen-jo-Daro in Larkana district. At the age of 10 years, he was admitted in Sindhi Primary School at Pathan village in 1911 where Saeen Rejhomal, one of the schoolteachers who hailed from village Patt in Dadu, interviewed him for admission. Jatoi was studious, and it paid him by getting double promotions. One day, the collector of Larkana District visited the school for a casual inspection and was impressed by Hyder Baksh’s performance. The Collector asked the headmaster to arrange a meeting with Hyder Baksh’s father. In the meeting, the Collector advised Faqir Allahdad Jatoi to let his young boy attain higher education. Soon, the young Hyder Baksh was admitted to the Sindh Madrasatul-Islam School at Larkana where he proved his intelligence. He secured top position in yearly examinations. In fact, he secured first position in the Sindhi Vernacular Final Examination held in 1918. Later, in 1923 he stood first among the candidates of Madrasatul-Islam High School, Larkana, who sat in for the matriculation examination of Bombay University. In 1927, he passed B.A. (Honors) examination from D.J. Sindh College, Karachi, with distinction in Persian literature. While in college he authored, Colleji Kabootar, (College Pigeon) a poem in Sindhi about the cherished life and easygoing days of a college student which became popular among students. Skilled in calligraphy and editing, Hyder Baksh was the editor of D.J. College’s Magazine, Miscellany and won the ‘Saraswati’ annual award.

Constitution of Sindh Hari Commitee

In his college days, he was a regular visitor of Theosophical Society meetings in Karachi as well as in Hyderabad. He was a voracious reader of classical poetry and books on eastern wisdom. As a young man he studied Ingersoll’s Lectures and Essays, along with Anne Besant’s books. In fact, Anne Besant’s book Spirit of Service became his companion book, and Ingersoll’s lectures also shaped his worldview. Another book in those days, which influenced him was Moulana Rumi’s Masnavi. Later, works of Darwin, Hegel, and George Bernard Shaw also attracted him. Hyder Baksh Jatoi told Ibn-e-Hayat Panhwar in the response to a question that the literature created during the Industrial Revolution changed the thinking of the European intellectuals, and when those books reached various parts of the world they also changed the sensitive people there. In 1938, Qadir Bux Nizamani was the one who introduced him to socialist literature. After obtaining a BA degree, Jatoi entered the prestigious colonial service, the Revenue Department, as Head Munishi at Kambar on the 1st of October 1927. In 1928, at the age of 27 years, he married his cousin Samul. He called his bride by the charming name Mumtaz. He had four sons.

Jatoi being a young officer serviced in the same capacity at Ratodero, Johi, and other towns of Sindh. He published a collection of poetry entitled Tohfa-e-Sindh in 1930 while he was Mukhtiarkar at Badin. The contents of the book indicate how his thought was influenced by secular ideologies. In a long poem, ‘Shikwah,’ God was addressed about the miseries and sufferings of a human being. Its publication created a pandemonium in Sindh’s literary, religious and political circles. Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi wrote an article against the poem ‘Shikwah’ in English. He argued that none of the civil servants have the right to address God directly in such a case and the officer has to get permission from his superiors. The religious backlash against Hyder Baksh Jatoi took a serious turn as Pir Ali Muhammad Rashdi, Pir Hismuddin Rashidi, Muhammad Ayub Khuhro and Nazar Ali Pathan instigated the masses that Jatoi was an infidel. They managed to issue decrees from local molvis. The design was to lodge a case against him in a court. It was feared that such a well-publicized case would help instigate some fanatic to kill Hyder Baksh. Miran Muhammad Shah led a delegation to meet with the Governor of Bombay to complain about Hyder Baksh’s heresy and demanded his dismissal from the service. The delegation also met with Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, then an executive advisor, who told the delegation that Mr. Jatoi was an honest officer and he had merely written a poem, and similar poems had been written by others. He also taunted the delegation, “be assured that God will surely defend himself.” In 1931, Mr. Gibson who had a reputation as one of the most arrogant and wicked British officers in the 1930s, sent Jatoi’s book to Mr. Hatim Alvi for comments on the controversial poem. Alvi commented that Jatoi had written a simple poem and if a civilized nation like the British took an action against him, “then who would speak the truth?” In the same year, Mr. Gibson toured Jatoi’s area of service, where the latter told him that some Molvis had created trouble for him. Gibson listened to him and told him that they intended to kill him. Later, Miran Muhammad Shah with the strong support of GM Syed helped Jatoi to settle the ‘infidel’ issue with religious fanatics. Miran Muhammad Shah took him to the place of Raees Jan Muhammad Burghari, where religious leaders had gathered. The leader of the movement was Pir Hasan Jan Sarhandi of Tando Muhamad Khan. Jatoi agreed that the book would not be published again and afterwards the movement against him fizzled out. However, in later years, the landlords and mullahs continued their efforts to prove that Hari Movement and its workers were infidels.

Hari Kahane'n (Hari Stories)

Jatoi in his official tours witnessed poverty and suffering of rural people. While discharging his duties he always helped the peasants, often using the existing provisions of law. Comrade Sohbo Giyamchandani writes, “he came to our village Bindi to collect the land revenue. While he stayed at Autaq, Kotar and Tapedar started to confiscate utensils, ploughs, and oxen of the defaulters. When Jatoi came to know about it, he ordered them to return these articles and animals immediately to the owners.” On the 2nd of May 1931, he got a promotion to Mukhtiarkar at Dokri. He served at Jamesabad, Digiri, and Ghotki, where he got fed up with the Rasai tradition (it was an in-kind bribe) of the colonial administration and decided to get a sidelined position. Agha Ghulam Hussain, Commissioner at that time, helped him to get the position of Deputy Manager, Encumberment.  Afterwards, from 15 July 1937, he served as Personal Assistant to the Manager, Encumbered Estates, and Court of Wards, Hyderabad. Once, he also worked as Enquiry Officer, Co-operative Societies, Sukkur Zone. Later, in 1943 he was appointed Special Recovery Officer, Co-operative Societies in Sindh, where he exempted the loans given to poor peasants and tenants because a considerable number of them were rightly eligible for exemption. Soon he was promoted Deputy Collector and was appointed Assistant Manager Encumbered Estates and Courts of Wards. He resigned from the government service in 1945.

Serving in the midst of bureaucrats, he carefully observed that most public servants were creating problems and hindrances rather than solving the problems faced by the public. He had neither the attitude nor the temperament that was needed to be a successful colonial bureaucrat. As early as in 1931 he tried to resign from the service and to devote his life to literature. He was called by Mr. Maclachianm, the Collector of Larkana District, who personally told him that his resignation was not accepted. He retained close contacts with writers, poets, reformers and political workers. These encounters used to happen at various literary gatherings and in the meetings of Karachi and Hyderabad Theosophical Societies. He continued the membership of the Theosophical Society while he was settled in Hyderabad. He especially liked one of the principle tenets of Theosophy: “All Humans are brothers, and there is no religion above the Truth.” He appreciated its broad humanism and tolerance. He was also in close contact with socialist groups and the Communist Party. A crucial moment came in the life of Hyder Baksh Jatoi when the second phase of the Hur Movement stated after Pir Sibghatullha Shah, commonly known as Pagaro, was hanged. The martial law was already there, and the Hurs started guerrilla-type activities. Amidst the political turmoil, Hyder Baksh Jatoi was appointed as a judge to one of the military courts where he acquitted most of the Hurs who were brought there on serious charges. Hyder Baksh Jatoi’s continuous reflection over his contribution to society, everyday experiences of injustice, reading habit and participation in political and cultural groups prepared him to play a role in politics. When he planned to resign, he considered the pros and cons of leaving the job with his friends. He discussed it in detail with his communist friends Sobho Gyianchandani and Gobind Mali. Their suggestions was divided. Sobho, in the capacity of party secretary, however, ruled that Jatoi should resign. Jatoi also consulted the idea of resignation with Pir Ali Muhammad Rashidi who advised him to continue the job. The consultation was also made with Syed Jamaluddin Bukhari who played a catalyst role in the decision process to resign and join the Sindh Hari Committee.

'Break up One Unit'

Finally, he shared the idea with his beloved wife who agreed on the condition that she would not move to the village, and the children would continue education in Hyderabad. In realization of the plan, regular finance was needed. Therefore, he started purchasing agriculture land in the barrage area, initially 100 acres, then 40 acres were added. Finally, through planning, he owned around 250 acres, most of its installments were to be paid to colonized officers. Afterward, in a short period, he resigned and joined the Sindh Hari Committee in 1945. His decision to join the Sindh Hari Committee was a conscious decision. If he had any intention to get popularity, there were options of joining the Indian National Congress and Muslim League. GM Syed concluded that factors that catalyzed Hyder Baksh Jatoi’s decision to resign were the landlords’ atrocities, and their luxurious and exploitative lifestyles, the indifferent attitude of people to their problems, corruption, self-centered lives, hatred and punishing attitude to young people who were fighting against the colonial British government and society’s narrow mindedness. Additionally, a lifelong reading habit and a passionate heart were also important factors.

After joining the Sindh Hari Committee, he started a drive to organize it. He toured all of Sindh, addressed peasants’ gatherings and advised them not to accept the pressure of Zamindars. He gave confidence to Haris. Soon branches of Sindh Hari Committee were established at village, taluka and district levels in Sindh. He also realized the importance of a periodical dedicated to the issues of peasantry. Therefore, weekly Hari Haqdar was issued from Hyderabad in 1947. It exposed the government’s anti-people policies. The weekly had eight pages, but sometimes additional pages were also added. The editorial and op-ed pages contained policy articles - most of them were commentaries on the recent political developments. However, remaining pages were dedicated to peasants’ tenancy issues, atrocities of landlords, injustice in revenue collections and cruelties of the police department. The weekly ceased its publication when its declaration was canceled in 1954.

Flag of the Sindh Hari Commitee

Jatoi in his official tours witnessed poverty and suffering of rural people. While discharging his duties he always helped the peasants, often using the existing provisions of law

The dedicated work of Hyder Baksh Jatoi made brought him a welcome place in the central leadership of the Sindh Hari Committee, and he was immediately elected as General Secretary of Sindh Hari Committee. In 1947, he was elected President at the Committee’s annual conference in Ratodero. Comrade Hyder Baksh Jatoi’s dedication and spirit of collectivism succeeded to gather a team of altruistic workers who joined the Sindh Hari Committee from various villages and towns of Sindh. Around 1946-47, Comrade Hyder Baksh Jatoi wrote a detailed constitution of the Sindh Hari Committee. The same was approved by the general council in 1950. On the other hand, it was realized that the Haris needed a voice in the Sindh Assembly, therefore, it was decided that the Sindh Hari Committee should take part in the provincial elections. After some deliberations, it was resolved that Hyder Baksh Jatoi would fill the nominations forms from Larkana, Shahdad Kot, Dadu, Sanghar, Nawab Shah and Sukkur Districts. However, his nomination papers were rejected on one pretext or the other; or he and his workers were deported; or even prevented from reaching the concerned returning officer to submit the nomination papers. He contested elections more than two times, but he could not succeed due to the non-availability of funds and the partisan attitude of election staff and officials -   who had under-the-table deals with Zamindars.

The general election experience pushed the Sindh Hari Committee to devise a new strategy to secure the peasants’ tenancy rights. Some policy debates took place on solving tenancy issues even before the 1947 Partition no legislation was carried out. The draft Tenancy Act was sitting on shelves like a dormant document.

Hyder Baksh Jatoi gave a call to the peasants to gather at Karachi where the Sindh Assembly was in session in April 1950. The call was responded to positively, and thousands of peasants gathered and congregated before the Sindh Assembly building. Considering the gravity of the situation, Mr. Yousuf Haroon called Hyder Baksh Jatoi and his associates in the assembly. The peasant leaders met with the official delegation, and it was promised to them that the Tenancy Act would be introduced. Since the Sindh Hari Committee had objections to certain clauses, the Committee proposed an alternative draft. The bill was finally passed by the assembly. It was the first time that peasants’ rights were legally protected under the law in Sindh.

The political situation in Sindh - as well in Pakistan more broadly - took a different turn when all federating units were amalgamated into the infamous One Unit on the 15th of October 1955.

The One Unit scheme was opposed widely, and a serious response came from Hyder Baksh Jatoi. Through his weekly Hari Haqdar, a protest call was announced to oppose One Unit by celebrating ‘Azad Sindh Day’. As a result, Sindh Hari Committee branches, taluka offices and district offices called their meetings, passed resolutions and demonstrated in all of Sindh. The Sindh Hari Committee called a grand meeting on the 11th of November 1954 at Hyderabad which was attended by writers and political workers. In the meeting, two resolutions were passed. One was a condemnation of the One Unit scheme. The second resolution expressed resentment about the conduct of Sindh Assembly members who agreed to the One Unit scheme. The resolution also reminded the members that none of them bothered to take voters into confidence.

Hyder Baksh Jatoi mobilized the masses against the One Unit scheme. Along with this, he continued to secure lands for Haris in Sindh. Soon after the imposition of the One Unit scheme, the officials started to sell land to non-Sindhis: people from other provinces. Hyder Baksh Jatoi took it seriously. He collected facts and along with thousands of Haris met with Mr. Iskander Mirza on the 22nd of February 1958 and appraised him on how injustices with Sindhi Haris were being done. He succeeded in convincing Mr. Iskander Mirza, and an instant order was issued to halt the scheme for one year. In the stay order it was also stated that after one year, preference will be given to Haris. On the other hand, he wrote a series of pamphlets against the One Unit scheme, tax collection, restoration of Sindhi language and inclusion of Karachi as an integral part of Sindh.

One of the important pamphlets penned by Jatoi was entitled “Democracy or Dictatorship in Pakistan” published in parts by Sind Hari Committee in 1955. In the pamphlet Mr. Ghulam Mohammed, the then Governor-General of Pakistan’s act of dissolving the Legislative Assemblies and formulating One Unit on 24th October 1954 was criticized. The message of the pamphlet was to raise awareness of the people on how the One Unit scheme was against the people of Sindh in particular and Pakistan in general. He categorically pinpointed how democratic forces were being pushed behind and how dictatorial thinking was taking over the country. Jatoi noted that such move was against the federation and it opposed the spirit of the Pakistan Resolution of 1940.

Hyder Baksh Jatoi in another pamphlet entitled “Unjust Land Assessment Rates in Sindh Districts” prepared a convincing case based on government-generated data as to how Sindh was paying more in comparison to Punjab’s districts. He proved that land tax rates in Sindh were repressively high in comparison with the districts of Punjab. He warned that Sindh may opt for the slogan “No payment of the Unjust Assessment.” In the same period, he wrote another pamphlet, “Lands in Sindh: Who Should Own Them?”, which advanced the Sindh Hari Committee’s argument that lands of Sindh should be given to the Haris of Sindh, and Zamindari system should be immediately abolished. He also pinpointed how the Haris were being ejected from their lands and how government officials were supporting the landlords. He also rejected the move of the central government to settle people from other provinces in Sindh. Another pamphlet in this series was “Disposal of Evacuee Property”, which focused on how after the 1947 Partition, land was given to the migrants illegally. Hyder Baksh Jatoi, being the author, stated that theoretically evacuee property was collective property: it belonged to the nation and not only to the migrants. In the same pamphlet, he demanded an end to the ejection of Haris who were settled on the allotted lands. He rejected the high land taxation in the southern zone i.e. Sindh, and proved that water taxes and other levies imposed after One Unit were higher in comparison to Punjab. The pamphlet helped the legislatures to formulate an argument regarding the higher taxation. As a result, a delegation of 27 members of the West Pakistan Assembly from Sindh met with the Governor-General of West Pakistan on the 7th of June 1966 for review and relief on the land taxation.
In total, Jatoi authored 26 booklets, books and pamphlets on a range of subjects

Hyder Baksh Jatoi wrote another pamphlet, entitled, “Disposal of Gudu Barrage State Lands” which showed that Haris or landless peasants were the most deserving people, and all of them needed state lands for cultivation. He recalled that Mr. Abdul Sattar Pirzada, the then Chief Minister of Sindh, had announced to distribute 600,000 acres of land to landless peasants. However, after the imposition of the One Unit scheme, the promise was denied, and peasants were refused. Another most pertinent pamphlet of Hyder Baksh Jatoi regarding “Haris’ Petition of Rights” was written in response to the decision of Din Mohammed, the then Governor of Sindh, to hear the Hari leaders. It was a document of suggestions on how a change in certain clauses of the Sindh Tenancy Act could provide a better environment for the Haris.

On the language front, he wrote “Shall Sindhi Language Stay in Karachi or Not?”. It showed how Sindhi language and Sindhis were being thrown out from Karachi. The central theme of the pamphlet was about the decision of Karachi University that Sindhi language would not be the medium of answering in the examinations. Another pamphlet authored by Hyder Baksh Jatoi was “Stop Ejecting the Population from Makhi Lake Area”. He pinpointed that people of Makhi Lake — followers of Pir Pagaro who fought against the Sikh empire as well as the British army in pre-Partition days – had been displaced from their lands, and 500,000 acres of land were being distributed to non-locals. He appealed to the concerned authorities that the Hurs should not be ejected, and they must be considered the true owners of Makhi lands.

Hyder Baksh Jatoi wrote, “Democracy and Justice of the Chief Justice” at the crucial time of the history of Pakistan, while a decision on Moulvi Tamizuddin Khan’s petition came out in support of Governor-General. Jatoi noted with great regret that Mr. Mohammed Munir, Chief Justice of Pakistan, had dismantled the foundation of democracy in Pakistan, and the country’s highest judicial forum.

In total, Jatoi authored 26 booklets, books and pamphlets on a range of subjects that included restoration of democracy in Pakistan, civil rights of the people of Pakistan, status and future of Sindhi language of Pakistan, dismantling of the One Unit scheme and restoration of the provinces, manipulation and rigging in elections, jail reforms and the socio-political and economic plight of the Haris of Sindh.

He paid the cost for his dreams. In his political career, which started in 1945, he had to suffer a great deal. He was arrested, detained and deported at various times. He was jailed eight times, with the duration ranging from five months to three years. In total, he was behind bars for seven-and-a-half years. He remained imprisoned at Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Sukkur, Karachi, Mach, Campbellpur (Attock) and Lahore. Apart from the charges of being an infidel from mullahs, another charge was from the radical left: who used to comment that Comrade Jatoi’s language and cultural expression were inclined to nationalistic chauvinism. Hyder Baksh Jatoi was of the firm view that the Haris and labourers were custodians of Sindhi language, rather than few zamindars and powerful groups. He argued that how one could be chauvinist if one protects and promotes the language and culture of the people, and if this is objectionable then he might be the first chauvinist as he uttered the ‘Jeay Sindh’ slogan. He used to say, “Our friends forget that every revolutionary segment’s struggle for the national and social liberty in their homeland, ultimately contributed to the world socialist movement.”

Valuing his fearless stand on the Sindh cause, he was bestowed with the honour of the title ‘Bab-e-Sindh’ in Nawabshah, and the same was repeated in Hyderabad and other towns of Sindh. In January 1969 when he was released by the Supreme Court, he took it as an opportunity and addressed gatherings and led processions against the One Unit scheme. In the last stage of his life, he was of the view that there was a need for coordination among the active sections of the society. Thus, he formed the Hari-Mazdoor-Shagrid-Coordination Committee (Hari-Laborer-Student Coordination Committee) and he was made the chairman of the committee.

His health deteriorated because from continuous imprisonment, aging and little self-care.  He suffered a paralysis attack in September 1969. He was a man of determination and a staunch believer in peoples’ struggle. He considered the One Unit to be unnatural and was of the view that it could not be sustained for long. But the time-frame for its demise, he argued, relied on on the popular struggle and material conditions. He prophesied correctly that General Yahya Khan, then President, would abolish the One Unit scheme and restore provinces. The announcement was made on the 28th of March, 1970.

The major contributions of Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi were the spread of the ‘Hari Inquilab’ in far flung areas of Sindh and creating a cadre who upheld the ideas of peasant rights. He was a socialist as well as a Sindhi nationalist par excellence. He never disowned his ideas either in writings or verbally. The motto of Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi was “daring, discipline, vigilance and hard work”.

He has diagnosed with liver cancer, and it became the cause of his death. Comrade Hyder Baksh died on the 21st  of May 1970 at Hyder Manzil in Hyderabad. He was buried beside the mausoleum of Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, the former ruler of Sindh.

Dr. Zaffar Junejo has a Ph.D in History from the University of Malaya. His areas of interest are post-colonial history, social history and peasants’ history. He may be reached at