For three-quarters of a century now, I have struggled for the emancipation of my oppressed people who live in these parts of South Asia. All this while, I have earned the ire of rulers who have usurped power. On numerous occasions I have been under house arrest or in jail during the best years of my life. Whenever I have tried to raise my voice against the vandalization of Sindh, my Motherland, I have been jailed. Several attempts have been made on my life.
I have never once been allowed to state my case in any court of law and to speak on the subjugation of my people. This is the first time that I have been given an opportunity to speak on my land’s laments. I wish to tell this court and through it to all humanity, especially the thinking people who are living in the closing years of the 20th century, the atrocities that have been committed against my Motherland, Sindh, by ruthless occupying nations. I want to do so also in order to tell my people, its intellectuals, how a nation which has given the lead to all peoples of the world in the fields of art and culture is now being brutalized and held captive by force and fraud. There are people in this land who are under the influence of migrant feudalistic from India, and are proudly touting subjugation as the panacea for Sindh’s problems.
Among our many misfortunes is the fact that some of our compatriots hate independence and love enslavement. At this juncture, representing the spirit of Sindh, I repudiate these elements. If I don’t do so, I shall be considered to have violated the sanctity of the spirit of independence for Sindh.
I wish to state here, Your Honor, that Sindh is a distinct geographic entity where there are rivers, forests, lakes, mountains, deserts and verdant valleys. Through the ages it has been expanding and contracting. It has been independent and enslaved during various stages of its history but, at the same time, it has always had a pure and proud soul that has never accepted slavery or indignity. It has never surrendered to death despite the fact that attempts have been made to bond or break it. This spirit has flitted around Sindh like monsoon clouds as the last voice of the Dravidians of Mohen-jo-Daro. It has emerged from time to time- sometimes in the shape of Raja Dahir, sometimes in the person of Dodo Soomro, sometimes in the shape of Darya Khan and Makhdoom Bilawal and Shah Hyder Sannai. It has expressed itself in the love and courage of Shah Inayat,
I feel that these historic persons of Sindh have become part and parcel of my being which would like to reach a logical end now. Without doubt, it is Sindh’s geographic, national, political, economic, cultural and moral beauty, which are the ingredients of its independence. It is this throbbing spirit which has forced me since early childhood to strive for the emancipation of Sindh and its people. Whatever shape my political struggle has taken in South Asia, it has had but one focal point- "independence for Sindh". All that which I will now state about my political endeavors should be seen in the light of the submissions I have just made.
I completed my early education in Sindhi in 191 5 when the First World War was at its peak. When I took to studying English and Persian, I began to see the world in a new light. I came to realize that the world was facing four major problems - poverty, illiteracy, lawlessness and fear Philosophers, intellectuals and men of wisdom have been trying to solve these problems down the ages. When pondered over these problems, I came to realize that they were rooted in these factors:
Colonialism, feudalism and capitalism caused poverty; Nomadic life and lack of civic and educational facilities together with high cost of education caused illiteracy; And the bloody and barbaric World War on the international level and disorderly life, superstition and blind faith together with threats from wild animals, thieves and marauding raiders at the local levels produced fear and lawlessness. As I have said, this was the time when the First World War was at its height. Human life had become cheaper than animal life and thousands of innocent people were being killed. In war, the brave man is he who has killed more people than the others. We, the people of Sindh, had by that time been forcibly made part of British India and had become slaves of the British. The Indians were used as gun fodder. The British had made several promises to the people of the sub-continent in return for their cooperation in the war effort. Among these, the most important pledge was that all British colonies, including India, would be freed.
The Muslims were assured that despite the fact that Britain was at war with Turkey, their holy places would not be desecrated and the Muslim lands would be set free. The First World War ended in 1918. Small nations in Europe got their independence but not so in Asia and Africa. On the contrary, through new divisions and treaties, they were put under a stronger and sterner colonial rule.
When the Indian Muslims who were even more specially under the influence of religion came to know that the Turkish Empire was being cut into pieces and that the countries under it would be divided among the British, the Greek and tie French and that the holy places would be placed under Allied control and that India would not be set free, they were gravely Perturbed, Generally also, a wave of protest against British imperialism swept across India. The Muslims launched the Khilafat Movement to express solidarity with Turkey. The All-India Congress, which had hitherto done little except Passing resolutions or presenting memoranda (to the British), became an active political party after Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa. He used the public sentiment against the Raj to telling effect by forging Hindu Muslim unity. Sensing that this unity would be dangerous for their interests, the British, instead of introducing further reforms, clamped the Rowlatt Act on India under which the emergency powers which the government had assumed during the First World War were perpetuated. All communities in India protested against this black law.
As part of the general protest, a public meeting was held at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919. General Dyer ordered the force under his command to open fire on the protesters. As a result of the brutal and indiscriminate firing, hundreds of people died and thousands were injured. A storm of protests rose against this massacre. Sindh also took part in the protest movement.
I was a witness to all this and had reached a stage in my life where I could not remain aloof from what was happening around me. I began increasingly to wish to join the intrepid and organized struggle that was gathering pace against British imperialism. I got my opportunity soon enough. Pir Turab Ali Shah and Jan Mohammed Khan Junejo organized a Khilafat Conference on February 7-9, 1920. It was presided over by the Sindhi veteran Pir Rushdullah Shah Jhandeywaro; I also attended this conference together with Makhdoom Moeenuddin of Khinyari and Syed Asadullah Shah Tikhurai. Among those who attended were Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Abdul Bari Farangi Melhi, Maulana Shaukat Ali and Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi despite my young age, this conference did much to create political awareness in me. My first political act was to organize a Khilafat Conference in my hometown on March 17, 1920. It was presided over by Maulvi Hakeem Fateh Mohammed Sehwani. Many prominent Sindhi leaders like Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi, Dr. Nur Mohammed, Shaikh Abdul Aziz, Shaikh Abdus Salam (Editor, Al-Wahid attended the conference.
Funds were collected for the Turkish cause and several people announced their decision to leave the service of the British. This was part of the Tehrik-i-Tark-i-Mawalat under which many People renounced British titles and judicial and other jobs throughout India.
Two days after the conference, a general strike was observed in my hometown on March 19, 1920, to express solidarity with the Turks, After that, I attended Khilafat conferences in several cities in Sindh. The meeting held at the Dargah of Makhdoom Bilawal on March 26, 1920 was the most important one of my early life because I made my first public speech there. Since I was young and of short stature, I spoke from a tabletop. Apart from the leaders referred above, I met Mahatma Gandhi at the Sann Railway Station when he was on his way from Hyderabad to Dadu on April 27, 1921. In the brief meeting, Gandhi advised me to wear Khaddar that I did the following month. Since I was a minor, I was under Court of Wards and a warden had been appointed for me. This court of wards managed my family’s estate and paid me a certain sum every, month. The Government took a stern view of my participation in the Khilafat Movement and the Sindh Commissioner, who warned me to keep out of it because it was anti-British, summoned me to Kotri. The Government was aware of my family’s relations with the people of Kotri Tehsil and the Kohistani areas many of them had attended the Khilafat conferences and the Government feared that the general feeling of discontent might flare up into an uprising.
The Commissioner threatened that punitive action would be taken against me if I continued to participate in the Khilafat Movement. I told him that I had no intention of withdrawing into my shell. I was the only male in a four-member family. The court of wards then suspended m) monthly stipend and I was told that I would be sent to Bombay for forced education. An official however also proposed that the court of wards should hand over my lands to me so that the cares of estate management may prevent me from taking part in active politics. In spite of all this, I continued to take part in the Khilafat Movement with zeal.
Since there was great unity between the Hindus and the Muslims at the time the meetings of the All-India Congress, the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind and the Muslim League used to be held at the same city at the same time. As a result, I could meet many political leaders. Until Hindu-Muslim differences weakened the Khilafat Movement, I continued to take part in it till 1924. In 1929, Turkey, realizing that the Khilafat was the root cause of its problems, abolished it. Consequently, the Khilafat Movement fizzled out in India also. This led political workers to think in terms of abandoning agitational methods and to seek change through constitutional and legal means under the Montagu Cheimsfo Reforms. So taking politics as a vehicle for social change, I started to work for the welfare of the people after being elected Vice-President of the Karachi Local Board and President of the Manjhand Tehsil Local Board. I was later elected President of the Karachi District Board in the year 1925.
It was around this time that the British appointed the Simon Commission to review the Indian situation. No Hindu or Muslim was represented on the Commission that was, therefore, boycotted both by the All-India Congress and the Muslim League. I had by then joined the All-India Congress. As a congressite and an old Khilafat Movement worker, I strove to have the Simon Commission boycotted in Sindh. Wherever the Commission members went, they were greeted with black flags and ‘Simon go back’ slogans.
All members elected those days to the Bombay legislative council from Sindh belonged to the feudal class who worked only for personal or group interests. No wonder they cooperated with the Simon Commission. In 1928, a movement for the separation of Sindh from Bombay was launched. Three important conferences were held for this purpose in Karachi, Hyderabad and then again in Karachi. Resolutions giving facts and figures together with cogent arguments were Passed, The British were told that Sindh had never been a part of India and that its merger with Bombay had no historic, moral or legal justification. Important leaders like Haji Abdullah Haroon, Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi, Mohammed Ayub Khuhro, Pir Ali Mohammed Rashdi, Jethmal Parsram Mir Mohammed Baloch, Jamshed Nausherwan Mehta, Rustam Khurshid Sidhwa and myself attended these conferences. The British annexed Sindh after a bloody war in 1843 and a free people were enslaved. Even so, Sindh remained a separate entity for four years under Governor Sir Charles Napier. In 1847, Sindh was made part of the Bombay Presidency for administrative purposes. The struggle that we launched was called the movement for independence from Bombay. I confess to the intellectuals of my nation and its intrepid new generation that since we did not have adequate political acumen and since we were embroiled in problems of an all-India nature, instead of demanding complete independence for our country, we only demanded that it be made an autonomous province of India. Indeed, we should have demanded total independence, Let us not commit the error here of equating Sindh with the other states of India whose rulers had later risen in revolt to sever them from the rest of the sub-continent as had happened in the case of Hyderabad Deccan, Mysore, Jodhpur, Junagadh, Jaipur, Baroda and similar other states which were naturally and historically a part of India. In Sindh, the case was totally different. Through the ages, Sindh had existed as a separate entity parallel with Hind (India). When the struggle was on for the separation of our land from Bombay, Khan Bahadur Khuhro wrote a book titled ‘Sufferings of Sindh’ in which he had argued with the help of historical references that Sindh was an ancient, independent land. As I have stated before, the feudals of Sindh who were represented on the Bombay Council were in favor of the Simon Commission. That is why the Commission had constituted a provincial committee headed by Mr. Shahnawaz Bhutto. Some members of the Bombay Council were put on this committee. Shahnawaz Bhutto was against the separation of Sindh at that stage but Syed Miran Mohammed Shah had written a note favoring the idea. Subhash Chandra Bose and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew were touring Sindh at the time and I had greeted them warmly and feted them in Karachi. The British Government didn’t like the idea that the scion of a landed Syed family, instead of pursuing politics of toe licking, should be hobnobbing with fiery revolutionary leaders of the sub-continent. All this while, I was getting farther and farther away from the imperial administrative structure and getting closer and closer to the patriotic leadership of India.
There were two courses open to me- either to conform to the imperial norms of the Raj or to struggle for the honor, dignity and independence of the people, no matter what the price. I chose the latter course. I undertook a whirlwind tour of Karachi District after being elected President of the Local Board and called about thirty meetings at which maps of India in which Sindh was included were garlanded. I wore khaddar dresses and exhorted others to do likewise anti-British speeches were also made at all these meetings. While I was on tour, Mr. Gibson, who was then Collector, Karachi, and who had the authority to oversee the working of the Local Board, sent me a message that what I was doing was not rural development but the subversive work of the Congress movement which I could not do. He asked me to cancel the rest of the tour. I did not oblige him and continued with my tour ‘in the company of Maulvi Abdul Karim Chishti, Jethmal Parsram, and others.
This turned Gibson into an enemy. Then something transpired which added fuel to the fire. It so happened that the Government of Bombay advised the Karachi Local Board to appoint a qualified engineer on its staff. I selected Mohammed Hashim Gazdar for the job. Now, the Collector of Karachi favored one of his Christian P.A’s relatives. The Collector also had the support of the Local Board’s Chief Officer, Qazi Abdur Rehman who was at one time editor of Al-Wahid and had suffered a great deal for taking part in the Congress movement. It was in recognition of his services that I had him appointed Chief Officer. Later, however, he was bought off and started to work for the Collector, Mr. Gibson. Annoyed at my choice, Gibson managed with the Bombay Government to suspend payment of its grant to the Local Board. I was further warned that if I used the Board for political purposes, I would come to grief, It may be recalled here that the Government had already lost the loyalty of Karachi, Shikarpur and Hyderabad municipalities and, therefore, the loss of the Karachi Local Board added to its worries.
To counter the effect of my tour of the Karachi District, the Collector ordered Qazi Abdur Rehman to go to the places where I had made speeches in favor of the Congress and promote the British cause. He put the services of the Deputy Collector, the Mukhtiarkars and Patwaris at his disposal. Qazi Abdur Rehman essayed out to do as he was told. At this the Sindhi nationalist leader, Hakim Fatah Mohammed Sehwani of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Hind wrote an open letter to Qazi Abdur Rehman through a newspaper July 20, 1930 in which he took him to task. He reminded him that when he had gone to jail for taking part in the national movement, he had written verses in his favor and lent him his blessings. He said that while he had used poetry for his praise then, he was now admonishing him in prose. He reminded him that since he was a paid employee of the Local Board, he should refrain from his nefarious activities and stop playing the tout for the British.
Hakim Fatah Mohammed also reminded him that the British had opposed G.M. Syed, the President of the District Local Board when he undertook an honorable mission and campaigned for Goth Sudhar (rural reconstruction), so much so that the Government had tried to block the funds the Local Board had approved for G.M. Syed’s tour program. It was already being openly said that Qazi Abdur Rehman was part of the conspiracy to block the funds. "Is organizing meetings in schools and singing paeans for the British part of your official duties? Are chief officers of other local boards doing this? Does the Local Board pay you for holding these law and order meetings? Have you sought permission from your President? If you are hurt by the nationalists’ opposition to the British, go on leave to pursue your nefarious activities at Government expense. I appeal to the people to tell Qazi Sahib plainly and without fear that what he is doing is not right. But if they are afraid of bureaucratic repression, they should advise fellow citizens not to attend such meetings. The people should know that the chief officer is not their ruler but a paid servant. While all this was going on, the Bombay Government’s grant to the local board remained suspended. However, it was eventually restored by the efforts of the Sindhi members of the Bombay Council, Miran Mohammed Shah, Khan Bahadur Ghulam Nabi Shah, Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, Allah Bux Soomro and others. Not only that, engineer Mohammed Hashim Gazdar also retained his post. All gentlemen named above were themselves presidents of various local boards. It was in their interest that the collectors should have only a nominal say in the affairs of local boards. That is why they came to my rescue. I was now able to devote greater time and energy to my Goth Sudhar and Samaj Sudhar (rural and social reconstruction) programs.
When I acquired political awareness and began to look at the world around me politically, I found that poverty was a universal problem and Sindh was no exception. After the advent of the British, agricultural land was distributed to a select group of families for services rendered. As a result, excepting these feudal families the common people lost their land and their stable livelihood. They were forced to work on the land as mazdoors (laborers). Other farmhands were called kisans (peasants). However, the difference between the farm mazdoors and kisan was that while the mazdoor was paid daily wages, the kisan got his dues after a year. The mazdoor worked singly but the kisan’s entire family had to toil hard. At payment time, only the leading member of a kisan family was paid. He had no right to the land on which he worked. Again, a kisan family was put under concocted debt and evicted or made to seek similar position under other landlords He spent all his life in grinding poverty in utter social degradation, unable to educate his children or afford a proper health cover to himself or to his family. So in order to save the kisans from the clutches of the landlords, the bureaucrats, the money-lenders and dacoits and to obtain for them medical, educational and other civic amenities, and to enable them to live in peace and security, I with the help of my friends, laid the foundations of the Sindh Hari Committee under the Presidentship of Jamshed, Mehta, in Mirpur khas in 1930. This committee waged a protracted struggle for the emancipation of kisans, for securing tenancy rights for them, and for educating them. Selfless kisan workers suffered incarceration. The feudal lords and a brutal bureaucracy tortured many of them to death. They continued their hard struggle in spite of all this. They achieved several successes, the most important being crop-sharing on an equal basis with the landlord and the passing of the Tenancy Rights Act. I admit that we could not achieve all of our basic objectives. An important reason for this was the British policy to sustain the feudal lords in order to retain their loyalties. This policy was retained after partition by the civil and military bureaucracy; I could not give enough time to the Hari Committee because of my increasing involvement with all-India politics. Anyhow, I continued to cooperate with the Committee at every level in spite of the fact that most of my time was taken up with the constitutional and political problems of the sub-continent.
In 1930, Gandhiji began the Civil Disobedience Movement from the Congress platform. The Congress struggle for independence was attracting more and more people. In keeping with my family background and traditions, I had also joined the Congress but was not able to play any significant role in the struggle against the Raj. However, I was deeply interested in national (especially the rural) reconstruction. In those days, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was the one politician who had successfully combined politics with a struggle for social reform. This was my objective, too. That is why I was keen to meet Abdul Ghaffar Khan. In 1931, the annual meeting of the Congress was held in Karachi. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan attended it together with his Khudai Khidmatgar followers. I met him and familiarized myself with his modus operandi. I also hosted a lavish party in his honor.
In spite of his deep involvement with sub-continental politics, Bacha Khan had set up a separate party for his people in his province, Pashtunkhwa and was struggling for social reform there. Impressed by his strategy, I strengthened my relations with the Congress and, at the same time, established an exclusively Sindhi party in 1933. It was named the Smith People’s Party and was led by Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto. Khan Bahadur Allah Bux Soomro and Miran Mohammed Shah were elected its deputy leaders. Soon afterwards, in the light of the recommendations of the Round Table Conference and the Government of India Act, 1935, Sindh became independent of Bombay in April 1936, and acquired provincial status. However, and advisory committee was appointed to assist the Governor until such time as elections were held. Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto was named advisor to the Sindh Governor, Sir Lancelot Graham. The same year, we established the Sindh lttehad Party on the pattern of the Punjab’s non-communal Unionist Party. Seth Haji Abdullah Haroon was elected its president. Allah Bux Soomro also joined it, The Sindh lttehad Party took part in the 1937 elections and achieved notable success. I was among the many lttehad candidates who won. However, our party president, Abdullah Haroon, lost to Khan Bahadur Allah Bux Gabol in Karachi while deputy leader Shahnawaz Bhutto conceded victory to Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi in Larkana. In a House of 60, the following was the party position:
Ittehad Party 24
Sir Ghulam Hussain’s Muslim Political Party 3
Sheikh Abdul Majid Sindhi’s Azad Party 3
It is clear that no party enjoyed an absolute majority but since the Sindh lttehad Party had merged as the largest single entity in the House, it should have been invited to form a government. However, in utter violation of all parliamentary norms, Governor Lancelot Graham invited Ghulam Hussain Hidayatuilah’s Muslim Political Party to form a government. Three European members were instructed to support Sir Ghulam Hussain, The latter began by offering two ministries and the speakership of the House of independent Hindu members. Later, he lured the Baloch group of the lttehad Party by offering them a ministry. As a result, we had to sit on the opposition benches under the Leader-ship of Allah Bux Soomro together with the Congress members.
I want to state here that in order to seek the separation of Sindh from Bombay, we had to seek the support of all India parties like the Congress and the Muslim League because certain influential but selfish Hindu elements were trying to thwart us in our bid to seek an autonomous status for Sindh. The all-India parties did help us out we had to pay a heavy ideological and political price for it. The Muslim Leaguers got their price in the shape of separate electorates and weightage in Muslim minority Provinces, and the Government got political mileage by giving the Governor more powers for recovery of funds advanced for the construction of the Sukkur Barrage. Thus the Sindh Assembly was paralyzed and throws at the mercy of the Governor. The other loss was that the Sindhi people who were wedded to the concept of peace, brotherhood and tolerance were held powerless in the background and Sindh fell victim to communalism and religious intolerance. This was our ideological loss. The Sindh Assembly, instead of serving the people of the province by removing poverty, ignorance and lawlessness, became a House of horse traders for whom everything was fair for getting power and pelf. The struggle that the people had waged or were waging to secure a non-communal Sindh was undermined. Everyone in the House threw away his Sindhi identity and began to look at things through Hindu and Muslim glasses. Who know that the communal fire that had been lit in the Assembly would turn into a conflagration!
Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah had enticed some self-serving Hindu members by offering them ministries but there was nothing common in them except lust for office. Therefore, the ministry could not last long. The downfall started with the resignation from the cabinet of Mukhi Gobind Ram because he had gone bankrupt. The independent Hindu group wanted Nihchal Das Wazirani to replace Gobind Ram but Ghulam Hussain preferred Dr. Heman Das of Larkana. At this, the Hindu group fell foul of Ghulam Hussain who in his turn lost faith in the former. He now began to woo us through Syed Miran Mohammed Shah and Sahibzada Abdus Sattar Sirhindi. But when I said no, he resorted to strong-arm tactics. He had the bungalow at my native town Sann sealed through Collector Nur Nabi because I owed the government Rs. 300 in land revenue! My friend Tahil Ramani, who was the Chief Officer of Dadu District Local Board, was asked to persuade me to support Sir Ghulam Hussain. Tahil Ramani was a gentleman and he refused to put pressure on me and told the Government that I was not the sort of person who would leave the party on whose ticket I had been returned to the Assembly for the sake of a cabinet job. Sir Ghulam Hussain dismissed Tahil Ramani and replaced him with Mohammed Ayub Khuhro’s brother-in-law, Abdul Latif Panwhar.
This precipitate action further annoyed the Hindu group. Taking advantage of the situation, I moved a motion of no confidence in the House but Speaker Bhoi Singh, instead of putting the motion to vote resorted to a walkout and thus the Ghulam Hussain Government was saved. By now Ghulam Hussain had realized, however, that his Government could not survive except with the cooperation of the lttehad Party. Therefore, he offered the formation of a coalition government, through Sahibzada Abdus Sattar Jan Sirhindi. We told the intermediary that we had come to the assemblies with certain definite objectives and that it was not our ambition to vie for ministerial offices. The welfare of the people of Sindh was an integral part of our manifesto. If Sir Ghulam Hussain undertook to implement the part of our manifesto for the welfare of the people of Sindh, we could help him without joining his cabinet. We put the following important points of our manifesto before Sir Ghulam Hussain:
This attitude made me sick of the Congress and I got associated with the Muslim League. I had joined politics with some definite aims and objectives. They all related to securing for the people of Sindh a better deal than they had hitherto. I joined, and left the Congress and the Muslim League for the same reasons. All-India problems were never one of my priorities. I found that the Congress High Command was concerned almost wholly with all-India issues and had little time for the people of Sindh and their problems. I was, therefore, obliged to part ways with them and joined the Muslim League. For parties constitutions agreements and me have never been any the more sacrosanct. They are meant for the people and when a group tries to use them to promote its own interests as against those of the people, an honest, and upright patriot owes it to himself to opt out of such parties, constitutions and agreements. And that is what I did.
Here I may add that I made two attempts to maintain my relationship with the Congress before I joined the Muslim League. First, I wrote an impassioned letter to the Sindh Congress President, Dr. Choith Ram Gidwani in which I explained my viewpoint on the Congress at length. I present here excerpts from the letter:
In October 1938, the central leader of the Muslim League, Mr. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, visited Sindh at the invitation of Haji Abdullah Haroon. I attended a League meeting as an observer and came to the conclusion that its views on Sindh’s welfare problems were different from those of the Congress whose policies were largely Hindu-oriented. I had come to realize this through the assembly proceedings and through my talks with All-India Congress leaders and the attitude of the Sindh Congress and the independent Hindu group. On numerous occasions I tried for the establishment of a government in Sindh which was free of the communal virus and which could eradicate hunger, poverty and disease from the province. It was for this purpose that I had worked for the removal of the Ghulam Hussain Ministry and for the induction into power of Allah Bux Soomro. However, the Sindh Congress, the independent Hindu group and the timesaving Muslim members of the Assembly, too, cornered Soomro.
The Muslim League was a communal party that had a fair sprinkling of British loyalists, many of whom had been knighted or made Khan Bahadur. It had no program for the emancipation of the people. It lacked sincere workers and I thought that if devoted workers like me and my colleagues joined it, we could change its character and turn it into an anti-imperialist and pro-people Party. It was in this spirit that I joined the Muslim League. I wanted that all Muslim members of the Assembly should join the Muslim League and thus become a bulwark against the Sindh Congress and the independent Hindu group. Towards this end, the text of a resolution was prepared in the presence of Mr. Jinnah. Apart from Allah Box Soomro, some others were also associated with this task. Later, however, Soomro reneged for frivolous reasons and refused to join the Muslim League and kept his Ministry alive with the help of the Congress and the independent Hindu group. Together with this, he continued to seek the Governor’s help to lure the Muslim members to his group. He knew that these members cared more for their personal interests than for principles. That was the reason why my motion of no confidence against the Soomro Government during the budget session was defeated. When I tabled the motion, twelve members supported it, but when it was put to vote, only seven favored it. Even the parliamentary leader of the Muslim League party, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah and its deputy leader Mir Bande Ali voted against the motion and got cabinet jobs. These were the circumstances, which forced me to seek the support of an all-India party to work for the betterment of Sindh. It was in this spirit that I joined the Muslim League.
I consider straight politics an integral part of my faith. True service of the people earns for you divine blessings and spiritual solace. Until such time as individuals or parties use politics for serving humanity, they have my support and sympathy When I realize that they are using politics for promoting class or individual interests which are likely to hurt Public interests or that their policies are not based on equality and justice, I consider it my duty to oppose them.
Here I may refer to my policy differences with my friend Jamshed Nusserwanji. The latter was of the view that no matter how bad the present, one should not strive against it unless one was sure of a better future. Many experienced and sincere political workers have adhered to this political creed. Contrary to this, however, I have held and continue to hold the view that if one is not satisfied by the present, one should struggle for change and that the future will take care of itself. In other words, I have subconsciously subscribed to Shah Waliullah’s credo that all unacceptable systems should be demolished.
Soon after I joined the Muslim League, something happened which vitiated the atmosphere of unity and brotherhood that had prevailed in Sindh for centuries. The Sindh of Sufis and sadhus was engulfed in the flames of communalism which reduced the land of love and unity into ashes and as a result of which the sub-continent was divided in 1947. It is a tragic fact that as a result of partition, the Punjab and Bengal were divided into separate geographic entities while in Sindh a whole nation was divided and a large numbers of our people were forced to say goodbye to the land of their ancestors. The people who were obliged to leave were the very same who had played a great role in contributing to the material welfare of Sindh and to its linguistic and intellectual advancement. Among them were the devotees of Shah Sachal Sarmast, Shah Inayat and Sami. They had retrieved and collected the works of Sachal and Sami. They included people like Dr. Gurbakhsani, Kalyan Advani, Lal Chand Amardinomal, Jethmal Parsram, Bherumal M. Advani, T.L. Waswani and others.
The incident that shook Sindh is known as the Masjid Manzilgah Case. There was an old place in Sukkur, which had been named Manzilgah Masjid by the Muslims. Several delegations from Shikarpur and Sukkur called on the Prime Minister of Sindh, Allah Bux Soomro and demanded that the Muslims be given possession of this Masjid. Soomro deputed some ulema of the Jamiat-i-Islam, Sindh, to visit the site and report back to him as to what were the merits of the case. These ulema confirmed that the place was indeed a mosque. The Hindus objected that if the place was given over to the Muslims, they would violate the privacy of the female Hindu devotees who came to pray at the temple, which was situated on the bank of the Indus.
It had been established that the place was a mosque and there was pressure on Allah Bux Soomro whose government depended for survival on the support of the Congress and the independent group opposed to the site being handed over to the Muslims. Therefore, Soomro could not take any decision in the matter.
Tired of Allah Bux Soomro’s ambivalent attitude, Muslim delegations called on the Muslim League President, Haji Abdullah Haroon and proposed that the League should take the matter in its own hands. Haroon called a meeting of his party’s provincial working committee of which I was a member. I suggested that since the Muslim League was a political party, it should not embroil itself in a dispute that was purely religious because it would stoke the fires of communalism much against the interests of Sindh.
However, the working committee ruled in favor of taking up the Manzilgah Masjid issue and chalked out a sattyagraha program. Pir Mian Abdur Rehman of Bharchondi played a major part in this. To defuse the situation, Allah Box Soomro had an ordinance issued of the Governor under which anyone could be sent to jail without proper legal proceedings. Around 3,500 people were arrested after the promulgation of the ordinance much to the consternation of the League leadership, and the agitation began to peter out.
My days with the congress had taught me that once it has started, it is extremely insulting and damaging to call off an agitation halfway through. Therefore,) took over the leadership of the movement and had the Masjid Manzilgah taken over by force. The Allah Bux government tried to have the occupation vacated by the police. The people set up barricades to foil the police bid to retake the mosque.
On November 14, 1939, 1 was arrested along with two other sattyagraha leaders and sent to the Central Jail, Hyderabad. Soon afterwards the Muslims inside the mosque, instead of being arrested, were forced to leave after they had been baton-charged and tear-gassed. Hindu-Muslim riot started that very day in which several innocent lives were lost and property worth millions destroyed. This was a black spot on the fair name of Sindh.
Arrested with me were Agha Nazar Ali Pathan, Dr. Mohammed Yamin and Nematullah Qureshi. Others arrested were Shaikh Wajid Ali from Shikarpur, Qazi Fazlullah from Larkana and Agha Ghulam Nabi Pathan from Sultan Kot. Pir Ghulam Mujaddid Sirhindi of Shikarpur and some others were also put in jail.
After a while, the Hindus urged Allah Bux Soomro to provide protection to them in the countryside or face the ouster of his government. Meanwhile, I was released from the Central Jail, Hyderabad, on January 9, 1940, after serving a two-month term. I met some sagacious and farsighted Hindu colleagues and told them that I would not stop at anything short of the removal of Allah Bux Soomro’s government who had put my friends and me in jail. Thus we got rid of the Soomro cabinet with the help of these Hindu friends. Before I proceed further, I want to present two documents here. They shed some light on my thinking despite the fact that I had taken part in a communal movement. With my release, I issued the following statement:
‘When I decided to take part in the Masjid Manzilgah movement, I could not even dream that it would have such bloody consequences. Murder, dacoits and arson are against our creed and are to be condemned. Sindh is in the teething stage in politics. It may have to learn several lessons before it can hope for a better future. The main reason for our recent tribulations is our inexperience and shortsightedness.
"Hindus and Muslims have been living together with great love and amity for centuries, guided as they have been by Sufis and man of great learning and piety. It is our ardent desire that in the future, too, this unity should blossom and be a beacon light for the rest of India. We are pained when we-find that there are obstacles on the road to the realization of these objectives. A permanent peace between the two communities is the need of the hour. It is my fervent desire that) should work towards this and. Our province is passing through a critical period and I appeal to everyone for Hindu-Muslim unity so that we can live like good neighbors.’ (Naeen Sindh laai Jidda Juhud, P. 67-69).
"I congratulate you. You have not yet lost your spiritual purity. This is a miracle. After 11 years of hard work, we continue to strive. Let us prevent the recurrence of past events...
Shaikh Abdul Majid did not resign because he was discipline-bound not to do so. It was considered necessary that Khuhro should be in the cabinet. I had undertaken to secure the resignation of two ministers under the agreement arrived at in Maulana Azad’s presence. Therefore, I resigned to honor the accord and asked Maulana Azad to give me a month to get the other resignation.
After my resignation, the Muslim League members asked Mr. Jinnah to take disciplinary action against me. Mr. Jinnah refused to do so and asked me to organize the League and made me chairman of the organizing committee. I put Agha Ghulam Nabi Pathan (Sukkur, Syed Haji Hasan Bux (Nawab shah), Qazi Fazlullah (Larkana), Mohammed Hashim Gazdar (Karachi), Sahibzada Abdus Sattar Jan Sirhindi (Hyderabad), Faqir Mohammed Mangrio (Mirpur khas) and others on the committee and set about the task of organizing the party. I toured most of Sindh for this purpose. In the speeches I delivered, I also made a critical appraisal of the Ministry’s performance and called upon the Muslim League members of the provincial cabinet to fulfill. The promises they had made to the people.
Within the short span of a year, I succeeded in raising the Sindh Muslim League membership from 6,000 to 300,000 which came to 25 percent of the total number of adult male Muslims in the province. Primary branches rose to 450 in number that proved that we had spread the League message to every nook and corner of Sindh. We opened a complaint cell in the provincial office to bring people’s problems to the notice of the cabinet and the bureaucracy. The Muslim League literature was distributed far and wide and every effort was made to introduce Mr. Jinnah to the people. All this shows the spirit with which I worked for the Pakistan Movement and the Muslims. I reproduce here the text of a poster that was published during this period.
Thus I struggled day and night, organizing the party, little caring for personal comfort. However, I was aware even then that the Muslim League was not an end in itself for me but a means to an end. The feudal lords dominated the Muslim League. I decided that if an attempt was made to put the People on the wrong trail in the name of the League, I would oppose it. I give an example here. A Bill seeking to conduct a survey of the feudal estates and to ameliorate the lot of the oppressed peasants was presented in the Sindh Assembly during its budget session in 1941. Had the Bill been passed, serfdom would have come to an end in Sindh. Mir Bande Ali was then heading the Cabinet. Because I had resigned from the Cabinet, Khan Bahadur Allah Bux presented the Bill. However, the feudals who had joined the League in search of office, opposed the Bill and forced the party not to vote for it. I voted for the Bill against party discipline. The speech I made on the issue in the Assembly on March 26, 1 941 is being reproduced here:
Sir, I feel called upon to make a statement of my views at a moment when I and the majority of the members of my party do not see eye to eye upon this question of the Amendment of Land Revenue Code. There were times when, if I differed from the majority view, I did not consider it necessary to explain the reasons that made me adopt a course different from majority view. But now I feel that I am moving in such environment and surroundings that my individual actions contrary to the accepted procedure of the day are not going to remain unchallenged. I feel that such occasions do create misunderstandings and confusion. It is therefore but right on my part to make my position clear when there is a conflict between my conscience and the majority view of my party which I have accepted with open eyes as an instrument for the fulfillment of my ideals. Such incidents are of very delicate character in the life of a man whom politics are the means for spiritual evolution-
"Sir, I must make it clear that with me politics are a faith which has no connection with ambition for power or prestige, name or fame, or an engagement for leisure hours. It is a serious effort of the spirit for the highest manifestation and accomplishment of body and soul. Organizations, their codes and regulations, individuals and their mutual attachments are all to me the means to achieve the end; and the situation becomes indeed delicate when there is a conflict between ideals and means.
"Sir, Islamic philosophy to me is the means, which will bring us nearer to the realization of our ideal that aims at the establishment of the long-cherished Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Muslim League Organization in India having taken upon itself the duty of organizing the Muslims in India for the achievement of the said ideal, becomes identical with Islamic philosophy and so when t joined the Muslim League, I did it with that idea in my mind. It is true that organizations are made up of individuals and majority of individuals lack higher perception, with the result that in democratic organizations it is generally the case that their standard is lowered according to exigencies and requirements of the majority caprices. It is thus very difficult for those who have a higher vision of life to submit at times to things, which according to them are contrary to the accepted principles. They are then torn between two powerful forces; obedience to rules of Organization and obedience to the higher truth, Today I find myself in this position. If the Muslim League stands for equality, fraternity and equity, on which the foundations of Islam and Pakistan are laid, which latter is the immediate goal of the Muslim League, then I cannot understand how my friends can compromise this principle by advocating the perpetuation of a system which is diametrically opposed to the said principles. Jagirs are a remnant of the old feudal system, where in return for martial, civil and administrative services, or for the maintenance of families of royal relationship, these lands were given as bestowals. The foundation of this system was based upon inequality and created class distinctions, which were forbidden by Islam. I cannot understand on what authority in these democratic days when feudal system is a thing of the past my friends are indirectly helping in the preservation of this system. I know that we are still controlled by a Government that recognizes class distinctions and is supposed to be the custodian of vested interests. Therefore, if we are not in a position immediately to do away with the jagirdari system, still I cannot see why we should not strive to relax, if not altogether break, the shackles that hang heavily upon the poor people.
"Now, I shelf go into the details of the Bill itself. It has two main features; survey of Jagirs and settlement of Jagirs lands. There appears to be no possible reason to oppose the principle of survey of the jagiri lands as in the absence of such survey, there is always the possibility of undue loss of revenue to Government.
"As regards the settlement itself. We know that there are several honest jagirdars who will be pleased at the passage of this Bill, as at present they hold land-areas beyond their legitimate title to the same. It is only the few dishonest and high-handed jagirdars who have been accustomed to squeezing their poor tenants that will object to the passage of this Bill. The jagirdar’s position in respect of the jagiri lands is identical to that of the Government in respect of the ordinary lands. There is no reason why jagirdars should be allowed an opportunity to charge the poor tenants more than what the Government charge the zamindars.
"On the other hand, it is to be borne in mind that the jagirdar enjoys his right as a form of political pension. So he should get only some share out of the revenue but he should have no hand in the management of the land. It is high time that Government should recover the land revenue from the zamindars or Mukhadams in the jagiri lands and pays to the jagirdars a share out of the collected revenue. The jagirdars should now become pattedars, until Government revises the whole land policy,
"Sir, these are my views which I believe to be the real views of the Muslim League; but if I have not been fortunate enough to convince some of my colleagues of this truth, I am not disappointed. I shall carry on my work patiently until I succeed in converting my friends to the true ideals of our Organization"
It was strange that the same Muslim League was opposing those Bills for whose passage we had joined it after protracted opposition to these measures by the Hindu members of the Assembly and the Allah Bux Ministry. Our own League was opposing our basic aims and objectives whereas members of the Sindh Assembly and Allah Bux were trying to get these measures approved by the House!