Dr. Khatumal Jeewan on the Rise of Meghwars in local Politics of lower Sindh

 

Dr Khatumal Jeewan

dr khatumalDr Khatumal Jeewan (Khatu) is the most celebrated Dalit leader of Pakistan. He has been senator, four times MNA (Member of National Assembly)  and two times MPA (Member of Provincial Assembly) on party ticket of Pakistan People's Party, between 1985 and 2013. This speech was delivered at a time when the Meghwar community had organized itself around the leadership of Dr Khatumal Jeewan. These were the times when Sodha Thakurs, the traditional upper caste Hindu heads of Thar region of Sindh had just stopped taunting and denigrating Meghwars and Bheels, and had started to reckon their vote bank. Although Dr Khatumal Jeewan and Eng. Giyanchand were elected on party tickets of the feudal-capitalist and casteist party (PPP), it was nevertheless the beginning of Dalit political assertion at a micro political level, and provided reasons for experiences of self-esteem. In the successive democratic governments that ensued after the end of the martial regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in late 1980s.

The speech was delivered in 1995-96 (the exact date is unconfirmed). Dr Khatumal Jeewan delivered this speech to the Meghwar community at a private wedding of the son of Arjan Das Meghwar held in the village Jhapyo, Mithi, Tharparkar Sindh. Dr Khatumal Jeewan was then MNA (1993-96), and Eng. Giyanchand Meghwar was MPA (1993-96). In this short speech, he reflects on the oppressed past, existing challenges to Dalit communities, about his own trust in Eng. Giyanchand (both Meghwars) about his commitment to the community and the need for trans-local Scheduled castes or a Dalit alliance. This speech gives the background to later Dalit politics in Pakistan up till now in 2017. It also shows the deep-seated desire to achieve self-respect and dignity in a society which is still wanting, and where Dalits continue to be discriminated and humiliated in various coarse and subtle ways.

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Here sits brother Giyanchand. Here stand I. God knows that we both are your sons. When we come into your presence, we feel we are essentially from amongst you. We have risen up from that same oppressed existence; have been brought up in that same environment as you. This respect that we have in society is because of your vote. You got united, you joined hands, you stood together, you showed solidarity, you recognized yourself, and brought us two, the oppressed like you, in this respectable position.

Today one thing saddens me however. There are rumours in the air that Giyan and Khatu are two different persons. God knows these rumors are baseless. You voted Giyan and also Khatu. Community (nation/Qaum) has rights over every individual. Grab us both by our necks. But whoever foments these rumours, whosoever he may be, is the traitor of this community (qaum). He wants to create conflict within our community. He wants to cut our community into small factions. Never pay heed to any such rumour-mongers. Today is the opportunity to clarify all such issues. The whole issue is that we are oppressed people. We are the most poverty stricken lot, always enslaved to the upper castes. Today, when the enemy saw, the ones who oppressed and persecuted us all our life, when they saw that two of us have become MPA, MNA, they have started planning to break us apart. They are devising ways to create a rupture within us. They are the people who have spread such rumors. 

Each member of our panchayat, each of our brethren must keep in mind that we are your sons. We are your servants. We are bound to serve you. Between the two of us (Khatu & Giyan) there is not the slightest of friction.

Having cleared that, we will discuss particularly issues of Thar, and district Mithi. You must have observed that Taluka Mithi in particular is naturally a free and peaceful region. The persecution that has been committed in Chachro, people of Chachro sitting here know very well. Excesses that have been committed upon our people in Nangar. The oppressions that were meted out to our people on the side of Diplo. We and you are not unaware about all that. We, on our part, must have done our utmost to reach to our people there to alleviate their sorrows. From our personal pockets, we must even have helped them with all apprehension of the fact that when we cannot procure jobs for our people, we at least lessen whatever little misery we could.

During election days, I had said one thing to you all. You might remember it. Despite hardships and the misery, the way our people vote us into assemblies, is unparalleled in Pakistan in its commitment to the community. Elections are rigged in Pakistan elsewhere, but in our constituencies our vote is ours only, for us only. The alien hand, the upper caste, even if you cut his thumb to stamp on our ballot, it won't make an impression. It was because of that Giyan and I had long vowed to dedicate our lives to our people.

Apart from that, our people have some complaints against us as well. We could reach to them at some places, and failed to reach to them at certain other times and places. Our community is very large and dispersed throughout Sindh and Punjab. From Nangar to Karachi to Rahimyar Khan you will find our people. In terms of reach if you would assess from Rahimyar Khan, to Nangar, to Karachi, you find our people in every second or third village. If you would assess in terms of jobs given to them; even if we cannot give jobs to persons from each village, you will find in every third village a person whom we enabled to get employed gainfully.

I say, we are the oppressed people but the vote is ours. It's our strength. Vote is not that of Maharaajs (upper caste Hindus). God has afforded us an opportunity. Today recall those bitter facts of our existence. Our elders, those who are sitting here, they must be knowing better how miserably we have lived our lives. Time is on our side now. It demands of us that we unite, and show solidarity so that our people could elect our own people only. Once we achieve that unity, these Maharaajs will bow down before you at your doors, and lick your spit. By God, they will virtually lick your spit at your door. Vote has power. Vote makes the Prime Minister of this country. Vote makes the president. Vote makes MPA. This vote, this thumb has great power indeed. When we would use it sensibly, god-willing, we shall be victorious.

Secondly, you have been troubled to be with us this night, this late at midnight. I told my colleagues that friends must be sleeping at this hour. Please, do not wake them up so late at night. Whenever we come before these people, as I said before, we are straw-men, we are the oppressed people. We had never imagined that we could be MPA, MNA ever. All this happened because of you.

I have always said, that our victory is your victory, your victory is ours. Our victory does not go down the stomachs of some people. When elections would occur in the past, these people like Rana Chander Singh would not even go to the doorsteps of people. Today these same Rana Thakurs, in Chachro, make calls here and there, saying: 'keep the kettle on the stove, I will have a cup of tea'. This transformation was because of you, because of your unity. These are the same people who would not let us enter inside their guest house with our shoes on. We had to drop our slippers outside their doors, that too at a distance. Today those people visit our places and drop their shoes outside our doors just to beg for votes. They do not do it out of respect but because their own oppressive honor is under threat from us. Their rule ends suddenly if Meghwar, Bheel and Kolhi get united on a single platform.

We spoke about Scheduled caste communities. We spoke about them because we believe it is their right, for a Bheel to be elected to assembly; it is the right of Kolhis to get elected. They have got their votes. When six to eight of our people would come into assemblies, by God, we shall change the whole map of this region.

Look how history unfolds itself! We were enslaved for centuries to these Hindus. Our generations after generations were devastated by these rascals. Our innocent people, why would they drink water from their hands, instead of a glass, at their doors? These were our own Hindus that did this to us. They were these Maharaj and Thakurs who destroyed several of our generations. Today we have got an opportunity that we unite and organize. We show solidarity and unity so that we could bring these people to our doors. Thakur and Mahraaj will know our worth only when he would drink water dropped down from our goblet into their folded hands. That power to us will come only through our sensible use of our vote.

One more thing. Everyone complains that we do not reach them, that we do not come to them in time. Today when we were sitting here, then earlier we had discussed that issue as well that in coming two three days, I call a meeting at Chachro Tehsil as well. Would be better if you arrange a Mithi of Mithi and Diplo here at Mithi, so that we could appoint such a person who could attend to community issues, any events and accidents instantly. You all together, the elderly included, choose amongst us a person so that we together could open up an office as well, so that any urgent task could be performed and we be informed instantly if we happen to be at Karachi or Islamabad then. It's the dire need of hour. These surrounding villages do not have many problems, but there, in Chachro, for these two years community issues that we have resolved, the way we have suffered, its list, if I present before you, then you would know with what difficulty we have coped with uneasy situations there.

Having said that, there is one more thing. We were just sitting here earlier, were having friendly conversation. I said one thing. By god, You need neither MPA, nor you need MNA, in case any unwanted event happens in Mithi, or in Chachro, or at Nangar. Or any atrocity is committed against any community member anywhere. We were at Karachi. A girl was abducted. They called me. By the time I reached the police station, two hundred fifty to three hundred women and about four to five hundred meghwar men had circled around the police station by that time. The DC was there. ASP was also there. The entire administration of the district was there before I reached. That is the power of the people.

I have just one humble request to my community. When any of the community members from Nangar to Kashmore to Karachi is prickled, the pain should be felt by all across the districts at Nangar and Mithi as well. When any atrocity is committed, you all should just come to gather up there. You do not need to call upon any Moti Samon, Arbab Samon, or Laat Samon (upper caste lords). When the offenders see the huge mass of people, their hearts shiver inside their breasts.

We too, collectively, have some social ailments. When in a village a person is afflicted with some misery, he is left to suffer it individually. No one bothers to rescue him or her. If we just get united and then if anyone were in trouble, whole community should then rise up in unison. When someone attempts to take away baby crow, all crows together make hue and cry to put up both physical and psychological fight against the abductor. In a similar way, if we too get united in times when we need each other, no one can then pluck even a single hair of yours. Just to arrive and help in time is what is needed from each of us.

I have now had enough of bullshit. And it is already quite late at night. You all have been kept awake for long. When we come before you like this in your presence, by God, we assume you all are our judges, and we your alleged culprits. If you may have any other complaint at any time, any of our brethren may have grievance, then do tell us, now or anytime. Before taking my place, I would extend many many congrats to honorable Arjun on his son's wedding today.

Transcribed and translated by Sufi Ghulam Hussain. The original speech was delivered in Sindhi language.

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Sufi Ghulam Hussain is a doctoral scholar at Bielefeld University, Germany. He is doing research on caste politics and Dalit assertions in Pakistan. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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