My friend Salam Dharejo ordered me to write about Hashu after having read my blog about Gidu Mal sahib. The history of this country is filled with tales of exile, but most of them are self-imposed exiles.
Hashmat Tehlram, also known as Hashu. was arguably the first political activist in Pakistan to have been forcefully sent into exile in 1949.
Renowned Sindhi poet and literato Sheikh Ayaz writes in his book Sahiwal Jail Kee Diary:
“In 1963, when I was in Delhi and was about to head back home, Hashu said to me, 'Ayaz! Remember this: if you ever hurt a refugee in Pakistan, it will be as if you’ve hurt me. Because I, too, am a refugee in India.'”
Hashu was an actual genius, though sadly, an unemployed one.
A knowledgeable man, Hashu had also gone abroad, to the United Kingdom, for higher education, but came back without a degree. Afterwards, he began actively participating in politics.
Back in London, Hashu was a classmate of Indira Gandhi. He was also quite active in the pre-Partition struggle for independence from the British Raj.
Among Hashu’s many companions were Sheikh Ayaz, Comrade Sobho Gianchandani and Ibrahim Joyo. GM Syed was also quite impressed by him Hashu.
GM Syed was initially in the All India Congress. Later, he joined the All India Muslim League, whence, upon differences with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, he quit the League too.
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The All India Congress claimed to be the torchbearer of secular politics in India, while the All India Muslim League plainly asked Muslim population to come aboard. After having rejected both the parties, Syed was quite confused over what the future of his politics ought to be.
In his book Janab Guzaaryam Jann SieN (translated into Urdu under the title Merey Hamdam Merey Rafieque), he writes on page 217:
“At that time, Hashu’s love and his words were a beacon of light for me. He introduced me to the soul of the ‘national issue’. Afterwards, I began perceiving matters from a completely different perspective. The Congress believed India was a nation without any religious divides. On the other hand, the Muslim political theory was quite unconventional, emotional and based on misconceptions in comparison to other political theories of the world. In this context, I could only envision the unique Sindhi national identity as the whole truth. This enabled me to foresee the future with clarity.”
According to Syed, Hashu put tireless efforts in establishing the ‘Sindhi Samaj’ in Delhi. Initially, a Sindhi Language Convention was arranged. Radha Krishan, then President of India, was also invited to the convention.
Renowned literato Laxman Komal writes about the camaraderie of Sheikh Ayaz and Hashu on page 75 of his book Wahee Khaatay Jaa Panaa (Bahee Khaatay Kay Varq in Urdu):
“[On one occasion] Sheikh Ayaz got a little tipsy after downing a few pegs of rum. He stood like a lawyer in the courtroom and suddenly was kneeling before Hashu to touch his feet. He then started delivering a speech in English: ‘I owe half my existence to Hashu’. To this, Hashu replied: ‘Why half, Ayaz? Why not full?’”
Hashu was a vocal opponent of the British Raj. He was of the view that a united India should soon become an independent nation. In the book mentioned above, Sheikh Ayaz writes on page 597 about Hashu’s utter disliking of the British Raj:
“[Once] Hashu had a poster printed against the British Raj. It showed a map of India with a huge soldier’s boot crushing the country. The poster read, 'Stop this march of imperialism'. He was sent to prison for two years as a result of that poster. However, after spending a year and a half, Hashu was out of prison in 1941.”
Sheikh Ayaz further writes, “I shall live for communism, I shall die for communism, but I shall not live under communism.”
Hashu would always tell Comrade Sobho, “You will always be used by communists and supply your life and bones the foundation of a new building.”
Hashu always considered Sindh to be his motherland. He was never ready to leave his beloved land. Even after Partition, he remained in Sindh.
In 1947, soon after Pakistan came into being, Hashu was put under house arrest in Karachi. During that time, Hashu worked on translating GM Syed’s book My Struggle for a New Sindh into English.
After Partition, Syed’s political ideas were unacceptable for the new political establishment of Pakistan. Likewise, Hashu’s political ideas, too, were an unbearable burden for the establishments before and after independence. He was presented before the court of Masood Khadarposh, the then Commissioner, Karachi.
Masood Khadarposh was known for his note about the peasants of Sindh which is added to a commission report. The note, detailed as it was, later became known as the 'Haari (peasant) Report'.
The judge and the defendant knew each other well. Sheikh Ayaz writes on page 550:
“Masood asked Hashu during the conversation: ‘Why don’t you go to India?’ To this, Hashu candidly said: ‘This is my country. Why should I go to India?’ Masood then pointed to the commissioner’s room nearby and said, “You Sindhis will be decimated like the Red Indians.
“He then penned down the extension of Hashu’s house arrest. Masood was unable to raise his head until we left the room. I was shocked at what Masood had said. A little while after Hashu was freed, he was sent into an exile. We were there to drop him at the airport from GM Syed’s home.”*
Hashu was never ready to leave his country, his motherland for India. Even in 1963, after having spent 15 years in exile in India, he considered himself a refugee there.
On pages 73 and 74 of his autobiography, renowned literato Laxman Komal writes about Hashu’s condition after being sent into exile:
“I was in Bombay at Kirath Babani’s residence. We had only poured out our first peg when the doorbell rang. When Babani’s wife opened the door, it was Hashu. A torn shirt, worn-out pair of pants, unshaven for at least a month, an old flat hat on his head and dark circles around his eyes.
“'Is it you, Laxman?' he exclaimed and then sat by my side in silence. Kirath gave him a drink. He gulped it in one go. Kirath took me to another room and told me to hand Hashu a five rupee note so he'd go away. Kirath said he had done this enough times already, but it was the only way to get Hashu to leave. Otherwise, he wouldn't go away easily.
“With teary eyes, I lifted Hashu from the sofa. He kept glancing here and there for the bottle Kirath had hidden after the first peg.
“I took out a 10 rupee note and placed it in Hashu’s hand. In an instant, Hashu was stepping out without saying a word. I could see the man taking long steps into the dark. A great literato, a genius, a thinker, a seasoned English journalist, Hashu Keval Ramani was disappearing slowly.
“As I came back inside, I told Kirath not to arrange any food. I told him I would not be able to take a single bite.”
I personally cannot speak of Hashu’s greatness in a single blog; he deserves a book. He accepted exile over compromising his ideals and his struggle.
Even after leaving Pakistan as an exiled man, Hashu was concerned about the refugees who had chosen Pakistan to be their homeland after Partition. He knew how exactly how painful it is to leave home and never return.
Translated by Ayaz Laghari from the original in Urdu here.