The autobiography of veteran Leftist Chaudhry Fateh Mohammad Jo Hum Peh Guzri documents the history of Left-wing politics and struggle of working classes
The freedom fighters of India used different tactics and organisations to liberate India from the yoke of British imperialism. In the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century, the Communist Party of India (CPI) was formed and despite all odds and oppression it became a symbol and vanguard of resistance in the united India.
Although the CPI was a secular party, in the end it supported the division of India and creation of Pakistan. It also asked its Muslim members to join Muslim League. At the time of partition, it asked its Hindu and Sikh members to migrate to India and Muslims to Pakistan.
The CPI became legal after the Soviet Union joined the Word War II against fascist Nazi Germany, though it was already working on different fronts.
If one goes through ‘A History of All India Kissan Sabha’ by Abdullah Rasul, one would find the mention of Kissan Committees in the present Pakistani Punjab and its ‘morchas’ but after partition there was a vacuum because of the migration of comrades to India.
The migration of Communists to India was a big setback for the Communist movement. Anyhow the remnants left in this part, Pakistan, started to reorganise the Communist Party afresh despite all odds.
The autobiography of 90-year-old veteran leftist Chaudhry Fateh Mohammad ‘Jo Hum Peh Guzri’, published recently, contains the history of Left-wing politics and struggle of peasant and working classes. He has highlighted mistakes and trends in the movement of the Left.
Chaudhry Fateh Mohammad, a graduate from Jullendher, was among the first few recruits. The tradition in old days was that the youth and intellectuals were asked to work among peasants and workers. Fateh Mohammad started working in Kissan Committee in the villages of Toba Tek Singh, a Tehsil of Lyallpur (Faisalabad).
Chaudhry Sahib has also given an account of the forced migration of his family and the murder of his father and other ordeals. He went to see his father in Chishtian (Bahawalnagar) when he was just 4/5. He fell in the village pond but was timely rescued. After graduation, he joined the British Indian Army and was sent to fight at the European front but since war soon came to an end so he was sent back. He says that his dream was shattered by the business of allotments in Pakistan.
He was inspired and made a party member by Dr Mohammad Abdullah in 1948. The first Punjab Kissan Conference was held on March 28, 1948 in village 405 JB.
The 247 pages of the book are divided into 42 small chapters. It is a normal practice in autobiographies to boast of one’s achievements but Chaudhry Sahib has also criticised himself and the split in the Left movement.
The book contains accounts of different Kissan conferences held up till the famous Toba Tek Sing Kissan Conference on March 23, 1970. It was a tradition of the Communists to involve the urban intellectuals in the peasant struggle so one finds the mention of Professor Eric Cyprian, Mazhar Ali Khan, Safdar Mir, Arif Abdul Matin, Syed Matlabi Faridabadi and Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi besides Sardar Shaukat Ali and C.R. Aslam. He has especially mentioned the names of individuals who influenced his thinking: Joshi, Dr. Mohammad Abdullah, Prof. Eric Cyprian and C.R. Aslam.
Chaudhry Fateh Mohammad had been sent to jail a number of times but the first ‘yatra’ was when he was a candidate of the CPP for the 1951 Punjab Assembly elections. He was also detained in the notorious Lahore ‘Shahi Qila’ torture cell.
The Muslim League was pro-Capitalism and was keen to develop close relations with the USA so it used different tactics to oppress and persecute the Communists in Pakistan. Although the resentment in the ranks of army against the ‘Gora officers’ was known to authorities for quite some time, it used the time of general elections in Punjab to announce the Rawalpindi conspiracy. All the accused were members of armed forces except Sajjad Zaheer, Secretary General of CPP, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Mohammad Hussain Atta. The government was successful in creating terror and instilling fear in the party workers and general public. But the party continued its work.
Chaudhry Sahib was assigned the task to work among the textile workers in Lyallpur in 1953. He has also briefly mentioned the Communist Party office at Jhang bazaar Lyallpur, but did not say it was gobbled up by a ‘comrade’. It would be an interesting study to find out what happened to the property owned by the CPP, including 114 McLeod Lahore.
On page 77, he tells us about a public meeting held near his village 305 GB where they had a separate enclosure for women but when woman labour leader Kaneez Fatima started addressing, the women participants removed the partition.
He talks about his travel to Dacca by train to attend the founding convention of National Awami Party but the most interesting part is his transit through India (which may seems a dream to Pakistanis today). The first and the last special train taking scouts from Lahore to Dacca National Scout Jamhoori chugged in 1960.
The Sino-Soviet split led to the breakup of international communist movement. The National Awami Party also split into the NAP (Bhashani) and the NAP (Wali Khan). Later on, there was another split in the NAP Bhashani in West Pakistan.
The best part of the book is that although Comrade Fateh Mohammad has shed light on different personalities and left groups, there is no malice and bitterness in his writing.
He has also discussed the 1970 Toba Tek Singh Kissan Conference which was the zenith of the NAP (Bhashani) Kissan Movement. The Left workers, intellectuals and students from all over West Pakistan attended the conference in a large number. It may not be incorrect to say that it was the biggest Kissan Conference in the history of West Pakistan. A special ‘Kissan train’ took Maulana Bhashani and other leaders and workers from Lahore went to Toba. This scribe also travelled by this train leading a Nationalist Students Organisation (NSO) delegation. In fact, every ‘Kissan Conference’ used to be a festival of workers and Toba Kissan Conference was no exception. One remembers Faiz Sahib reciting his poem.
In a separate chapter, Chaudhry Sahib, while talking about his stay in jail, has especially mentioned Faiz Sahib. According to him, Faiz Sahib was a very good company in jail.
Chaudhry Sahib quoted some part of Bhashani’s speech but missed the important and damaging part of Bhashani’s speech. In his speech, President of NAP Bhashani gave a call for a general strike and said ‘good bye’ to West Pakistan without consulting the leadership of NAP. This had had a negative impact on the NAP politics and most of the NAP workers joined the PPP. This also led to the creation of the Socialist Party and a later split between C.R. Aslam and Abid Hasan Minto.
Chaudhry Sahib has also talked about different efforts to unite the Left groups which could not materialise although on November 11, 2012 three leftist groups decided to merge and form the Awami Workers Party. Abid Hasan Minto was elected its president and Chaudhry Fateh Mohammad its Peasant Wings President and member of central committee.