I have not encountered this much difficulty in writing about any person whom I had met twice in my life, about whom I had read, and about whom I had heard from his contemporaries. I saw and heard him in Television Talk shows on various subjects. I heard his speeches. I read some of his books and columns. As a critic or debater, he always appeared to be well armed with spear of facts and figures, a stunning eloquence in expressing his views, a sharp intellect – all out to shred the credibility of his contestants and expose their superficial knowledge of the theme under discussion.
He betrayed confidence, moral and intellectual authority, and scholarly superiority in his arguments aimed at a wider spectrum of audience from scholars to subject experts, educated middle class to the common man. He switched from one argument to the other with clarity of mind. He was not confined in his knowledge to a single subject. He moved like a living library, well-endowed with a deep knowledge of every faculty. His lectures were like streams ebbing and flowing with curls and curves, and through ups and downs of history, covering rise and eclipse of nations and civilizations, laying bare pearls of facts from odd mélange of fiction, plucking truth from the cobweb of falsehood, exposing the wicked nature of the elite, torture of underprivileged by ruthless human evolutionary march and cutting across the upheavals of revolutions and the oppressive religious beliefs.
He was not a historian but knew history like the palm of his hand; he was not a traditional religious scholar but had labored hard to grasp the spirit of gospels. His understanding of Karl Marx, Lenin and Angel dwarfed subject experts. He did not have a doctorate in Philosophy but his grasp of the Greek philosophies and Western political thought outweighed the labour of the gray haired professors. His writings reflected the depth of Sea, the majestic flow of a river; the roar of a waterfall, devastating intellectually every argument coming in his way. There was no match to his mighty pen, his hard labour in research and collection of facts and analytical appreciation of conditions. He authored 36 books. His books, essays and columns reveal treasure trove of knowledge, erudition and scholarship permeating the cobweb of hearsay and falsehood and allowing readers to have a glimpse of truth obscured under layers of misrepresentation and misleading statements.
His friends, followers and contemporaries struggled for years to determine his place as to what he was: an astute politician, a consummate political scientist and theorist, a diehard Marxist, a crusading nationalist, a shrewd strategist and indefatigable agitator, a great social reformer, a versatile scholar and writer, a committed leader and teacher. They found it hard to restrict him to any single status. He proved an unbeatable warrior on every front, undaunted by temporary setbacks, hardships of jails, pecuniary losses or social pressures. His achievements as a true Marxist, a political strategist and leader, a scholar and writer, a liberal social agitator and reformer not only received public recognition within his home province and the country but transcended regional and international borders, too.
This was Rasool Bukhsh Palijo, as his friends, colleagues and admirers knew him with pride and whose reflection we could see in his writings, in his long struggle spawning over many decades. One article cannot encapsulate the achievements of this unique son of the soil, this moving and motivating spirit, this versatile scholar, this committed political and ideological mentor, this nationalist crusader, this believer in the virtues of labour and struggle, this man of uncompromising convictions and irreproachable character, this formidable challenge to the tribalism, dogmatism and fragmentation of humanity, and compartmentalization of political consciousness into self-serving national politics and nationalist politics.
No political party in the country attracted Rasool Bukhsh. He liked a bit National Awami Party as a nationalist and leftist political party. But, he could not feel comfortable among all those Khans, Sardars, and insincere nationalists Consistent with his political beliefs he co-founded the Awami Tehrik with another political thinker and sage from Sindh, Fazil Rahu at the far end of the 1960s. Both were of the firm view that the labour class being small in strength, though motivated for political struggle, could only create waves in the muddy waters of status quo but would be unable to bring it down unless supported by the huge peasantry.
The condition of peasants all over the country was more miserable than the industrial labour and factory workers. They lived in perpetual poverty and misery. The co-founders of Awami Tehrik had an ideological convergence to concentrate their political struggle on forging an alliance among the underprivileged classes from labour to peasantry to low-income employees and traders in urban and semi urban areas. They wanted to prepare the population at the lowest rung of the societal pyramid which was bearing the oppression of the exploitative system to break the shackles of the social and economic slavery; the obscurant religious and superstitious customs, the outmoded feudal traditions; the primitive and decadent tribal supremacy.
The Awami Tehrik made gradual and formidable ingress in the rural and semi urban populations creating an ideologically motivated core of leaders and activists in both genders. Within a decade and half, Awami Tehrik had already strong roots in the rural population. Its senior leader, Fazil Rahu, known for his popularity among the peasants, had incurred the ire of the powerful feudal demigods and was assassinated to the chagrin of his colleagues and admirers in January 1987. His assassins had no idea that the vacuum created by the assassination of Fazil Rahu would be filled in by his comrade in arms, Rasool Bukhsh Palijo. Undaunted by the loss of his friend, he forged ahead to strengthen the Awami Tehrik.
Motivated by the Tehrik’s battle against the decadent tribal custom of stereotyping the women for roles of child bearing, housekeeping, kowtowing the male supremacy, living within four walls of their homes in perpetual economic dependency, the female workers of the Tehrik shunned this tribal way of living and came out in droves seeking and playing a political role in educating and reawakening the desire of their fellow sisters and daughters for social and economic emancipation by acquiring education and taking up independent employments.
This was followed by the ‘Sindhi Student Tehrik, Sujag Baar Tehrik (Conscious Children Tehrik), Girls Scouts Tehrik. Organizing students and children from both genders in disciplined rural and semi-urban units to engage them in productive social activities and raising their consciousness of the social, economic and political conditions in which they were born, being brought up, and which they were aiming to change, was a unique initiative to the credit of Rasool Bukhsh Palijo.
His battles for the defense of Sindh’s national existence, territorial integrity, resources, rights and privileges constitute an emblazoned chapter of the recent history of the province. He fought these battles with courage and gallantry following the footprints of the legendary Raja Dahir, Dodo, Dollah Darya Khan, Mian Muhammad Shahil aka Shah Baharo, Mir Sher Muhammad Talpur, Hosh Muhammad Sheedi, Pir of Pagara Sibaghatullah Rashi and Ruplo Kolhi. He challenged the decadent tribalism and landlordism like Syed Inayat Shah and Mai Bakhtawar. He never took off his gloves in his struggle to fight the case of Sindh.
We found him in the vanguard of all the movements of Sindhi intellectuals and writers, political leaders and activists – may they be inspired by the suppressive One-Unit scheme, the defense of the rights of Bengalis, the publication of voters’ list in Sindhi, the restoration of Sindhi language to its pre-partition position, the political agitation for restoration of democracy under MRD, the PPP-MQM coalition agreement of 1988, the slaughter of Sindhis in Hyderabad by Urban fascists, the building of Kala Bagh Dam. His struggle in all these movements outweighed many big names.
He also superintended the intellectual front of the anti Kalabagh battle and set himself to research and collections of facts and figures on the night raids on the water rights of Sindh by Punjab for 150 years writing a comprehensive treatise recording in detail the nature of water disputes, findings of various water commissions and committees, apportioning of waters among states, provinces and regions in accordance with the universally recognized upper and lower riparian laws followed all over the world. The anti-Kalabagh momentum built by Rasool Bukhsh Palijo would never die.
This heroic sage who appeared on the horizon of Sindh from the small village of Moongur close to Jungshahi of district Thatta in January 1930 regained the embrace of his mother soil in June 2018 leaving behind a blazing trail of brilliant scholarly pursuits, rich political literature, ever inspiring books, a multi-faceted tale of political struggle, and a strong corps of trained, disciplined, intellectually curious, ideologically motivated, politically conscious, well read and well-endowed leaders and activists in both genders.
Comrades, the gun has fallen silent but the war is far from over; many serious battles are yet to be fought. Do not let the numbing winds of despair overwhelm you. Look at the young moon as it merrily peeps out from a rebellious piece of cloud hovering over a fresh grave in Jungshahi; watch the restless soul rustling with the waves of Sindhu and beckoning to us to see the beauty of this motherland; feel her miseries, learn from her patience, aim at mountains, control our ego for her sake. This is what this great son of soil did from his conscious age to the final embrace of the mother earth of his small village.