Deputy Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob, a venomous person hailing from Delhi, had suggested the British authorities taking inhuman actions against Hur Community including establishing Concentration Camps
Despite imposition of martial law, mass arrests, killings, destruction of villages and a well-hatched conspiracy of disturbing demographic composition of the area by colonization of Bugti tribesmen of Balochistan, Punjabis, Pathans and retired military personnel, granting them thousands of acres of agriculture land in Sanghar and adjoining areas, and clearing a vast area of Makhi forest in a bid to make it unable for Hur militants to use as their hideout, the British failed to suppress the Hur uprising. The then acting Deputy Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob, an ill-natured and venomous person from Delhi, whose ancestors were said to be Jews and later converted to Islam, in a report to the Commissioner of Sindh on September 30, 1896 suggested inhuman actions against Hur community including establishing Concentration Camps generally known as ‘Lorrha’, the Hedged Villages, deporting the Hurs to remote Indian states and lodging them in concentration camps there. The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy. One can have the idea what the Concentration Camp was from the following piece of the Lambrick’s novel ‘The Terrorist’ and from account of those who passed long miserable years in those camps:
Saeen Rakhio, the main character of novel says: “It was a village called ‘Bhiri’, about six miles from Sanghar, and there was I born, within tall thorn hedge where policemen stood at the gate; so it is nothing strange that I should die inside a jail. You must have heard how at these places the inmates had to answer their names to the police at roll-call every morning and evening; in the daytime the men were allowed to go out on their work but at night all had to remain inside and the womenfolk might not go beyond the hedge even by day except at harvest time. Then indeed most of them and the children could go with the men for reaping the autumn crops round about Sanghar and along Dim canal, and in the spring season into Makhi, where many of us Hurs had ancient rights to cultivate, though the majority depended on grazing cattle there.”
Saeen Rakhio mentions the deputy (Sardar Yaqoob) of Lucas (Commissioner of Sindh) during whose period the hedged villages were established on his recommendations.
Sindhi book ‘Azadi Ja Aseer’, published by Roza Dhani Chair of Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur, which is in fact a list of 5525 Hur community people, male and female, lodged in two hedged villages in Nawabshah and Khipro, describes the concentration camps as ‘a jail spread over 16 acres of land with eight feet high hedge around it and 50ft high watch towers at the four corners where the policemen were deployed round the clock to keep check on movement of confined people. Each camp had a big wooden gate with iron bars and it was guarded by armed policemen. The office and the residential quarters for the officials were built outside the camp. All the inmates had to gather at the ground near the gate inside the camp at the dawn and dusk for roll call. Each of the inmate had to tie a badge on his/her arm inscribed with his/her and father’s/husband’s name. The gate would open in the morning only after the roll-call. Initially, the womenfolk were also to appear for the roll-call but later as a result of protest they were exempted of appearance. The male inmates were allowed to go outside the camp for earning livelihood within five-mile periphery and fines and other punishments were imposed on them in case of violation. The camp administration, consisting of a Head Munishi of Revenue Department and police personnel, was not responsible for provision of food and medical facility to the inmates and often they had to starve. Several inmates including men, women and children died due to spread of diseases and starvation. The camp in-charge and policemen always forced the inmates to pay certain amount out of their daily earnings. No inmate was allowed to keep camel or horse and only donkeys were allowed for transportation.
It was a normal day when less than ten villagers expired in the camp. We used to spend whole day digging the graves and burying the dead. One day we counted 32 deaths and it was difficult for us to dig such a large number of graves for burial. Not a single day ever dawned with wailing of women and children on death of their dear ones. We felt tired of burials but the Dogra Sepoys would abuse and hit us with kicks and clubs to dig the graves and bury the dead.
Fakir Muhammad Suleman Wasan, who spent several years of his life in concentration camps of Wango and Gihlpur (Where the police-line exists now in Sanghar Town), told in an interview that a large number of men, women and children were lodged in the camp along with livestock. The ration, they provided, was substandard or poisonous, which caused outbreak of stomach diseases resulting in death of many villagers in a single day. “It was a normal day when less than ten villagers expired in the camp. We used to spend whole day digging the graves and burying the dead. One day we counted 32 deaths and it was difficult for us to dig such a large number of graves for burial. Not a single day ever dawned with wailing of women and children on death of their dear ones. We felt tired of burials but the Dogra Sepoys would abuse and hit us with kicks and clubs to dig the graves and bury the dead.”
Sardar Yaqoob suggested the British authorities of deporting the Hur families, men, women and children, on massive scale to Punjab, NWFP (Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw) and remote Indian territories. “They should be kept in concentration camps there besides establishing such camps in Sindh. Rest of the people of Hur community should be ordered to live near the police stations and appear daily at the police stations.”
In his report mentioned above, justifying the establishment of concentration camps, Sardar Yaqoob writes: “Colonization of retired army personnel and other outsiders will not deliver anything. The only solution to the problem could be compelling the Pir Pagara to order his disciples stop the activities. Moreover, since the Hur community is not in possession of agriculture land and their only source of livelihood is livestock, they should be crushed economically.”
He suggested the British authorities of deporting the Hur families, men, women and children, on massive scale to Punjab, NWFP (Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw) and remote Indian territories. “They should be kept in concentration camps there besides establishing such camps in Sindh. Rest of the people of Hur community should be ordered to live near the police stations and appear daily at the police stations,” he had suggested.
According to him the Pir Pagaro had two hundred thousand disciples in six districts of Sindh that included 70, 000 in Tharparkar, 2000 in Jacobabad, 1,000 in Karachi, 17000 in Khairpur state, 75000 in Hyderabad and 25000 in Shikarpur. He thought that 5453 disciples were actively engaged in insurgency and were a big threat to British authority. As per his proposal, the Hur community people including men and women were to be put into concentration camps. Their numbers were as follows:
A total of 3513 men and women hailing from Taluka Sanghar, Khipro, Shahdadpur and Makhi area; 1366 men and women of Taluka Hala, Tando Allahyar, Sakrand, Mirpur Khas, Umarkot, Moro, Naushehro Feroze and Kandiari; 40 men and women from Tharparkar; 75 men and women from Shikarpur; 20 from Jacobabad and 400 men and women from Khairpur state. No disciple from Karachi was put in concentration camps.
Sardar Yaqoob recommended enforcement of Article 2 of Criminal Tribes Act xxvii of 1871 with addition of certain clauses from Punjab Murderous Outrages Act xxiii 1867.
In his letter, Sardar Yaqoob suggested the British to promulgate Criminal Tribes Act for action against Hurs settled in eleven Talukas of Tharparkar and Hyderabad districts. According to the data provided by him, the total number of male adults of Hur community in the two districts was 4879.
Sardar Yaqoob proposed three concentration camps to be established in Sanghar Taluka – one each at Sanghar, Jhol and Bhiri; two concentration camps at Khipro and one in the limits of Khhaan police station for the Hur community of Mirpur Khas. He identified these locations for concentration camps in view of police stations as well as check posts already existing there with availability of sufficient police force. According to him 1060 male and 883 female members of Hur community belonging to Keerio, Bihan, Wasan, Rajar, Hingoro, Mochi, Junejo, Kori, Khaskheli, Chaang, Sanjrani, Gaho, Nizamani, Jokhia and Saand castes would be lodged at three concentration camps of Sanghar Taluka. For two concentration camps of Khipro Taluka, he proposed 369 male and 307 female members of Mangrio, Hingorjo, Bihan, Rajar, Hingora, Gujo, Kori, Sameja, Pahorr, Junejo, Keerio and some other castes. Since there were a few Hur families (13 adults and 9 children) in Umarkot Taluka, all peasants, belonging to Mangrio, Bhanbhro, Rajar and Syed communities, he suggested to keep them at nearest concentration camp in Khipro Taluka. He identified 15 families of Mahar, Bihan and Junejo consisting of 28 male and 22 female members, of them 12 landholders, who were to be lodged at concentration camp to be established in the limits of Khhaan police station.
Four concentration camps were suggested for Hyderabad district, one at Shahdadpur, four in Sakrand Taluka, where Jalalani or Sakrand camp was the biggest one. Seven villages of Hur community people were identified in Hala Taluka, which were considered as dangerous, as a Hur warrior Wasand Kazak hailed from one of these villages, and thus a concentration camp and a police station was suggested for them at Chharao. The Hurs residing in Chharao were found involved in derailing Lahore Express in 1942 during last phase of Hur guerrilla war.
For the Hur community people of Naushehro Feroze, mainly of Dahri caste, totaling 181 male and 135 female members, a concentration camp was proposed at Misir Ji Warri. Another camp for 220 male and 188 female members of Dahri, Khaskheli, Lohar (blacksmith), Hajam (Barbars), Keerio and Parhyar castes, was to be setup at Saawrri village in riverine area of Moro town. The 15 male and 12 female members of Hur community people of Rajpar and Lohar castes from Kandiaro were to be shifted to ‘Misir Ji Waarri’ camp of Naushehro Feroze. The reason for establishing concentration camps in Moro and Naushehro Feroze was the desert area of 30 mile distance between Sakrand and Moro, which according to Sardar Yaqoob, could be used by the Hurs as hiding place after committing ‘crimes’ in Sanghar and Sakrand areas.
The Newzealand-based Sindhi researcher Prof. Umar Chand in his book mentions setting up of first ever hedged village or concentration camp at ‘Janib Dhoro’ in 1895. The other concentration camps were established later, as according to correspondence between the officials of Sindh and the Bombay Government, Sardar Yaqoob submitted his detailed report to the Commissioner of Sindh on September 30, 1898 and after two months on November 23, 1898, the same report was forwarded to the Governor and President in Council, Bombay (Some researchers mention Lord Willingdon’s name as Governor of Bombay, which is incorrect, as Lord Sandhurst William Mansfield held this office from 1895 to 1900), by Robert Giles, the acting Commissioner of Sindh in place of Sir H. M. James who earlier on June 07, 1896 in a letter to the Bombay government had opposed imposing the Criminal Tribes Act on Hurs. “The Criminal Tribes Act contained no section under which, it could be extended to Sindh nor would it suit the case for the Hurs as they are not the ordinary criminals. They differ from ordinary classes of criminals of India,” he stated describing the Hurs as having a strong religious fanatic element in their character, and recalling their history compared them with rebellious Irish peasants who were protected by whole community in case of assassination of an unpopular landlord. However Robert Giles’ in his memorandum number 2834 recommended imposition of Criminal Tribes Act 1871 but explained the reasons why it was not appropriate to deport Hurs outside Sindh. As per order number 2536 and 2537, dated May 25, 1899, issued by Governor from Bombay, the Criminal Tribes Act was enforced in Sindh to punish the Hurs for rebellion. The inhuman law was executed in eleven Talukas of Sindh, where according to Sardar Yaqoob’s report there were 151 villages of Hurs, not very distant from vast jungles. He did not include certain areas of Shikarpur, Hyderabad and Tharparkar for enforcement of Criminal Tribes Act, as according to him there were hardly 36 male and 38 female adult Hurs in Rohri and Larkana while 40 adult Hurs were surveyed in Tando Bago Taluka of Hyderabad. A small village named ‘Bhagi Sar’ existed in Chhachhro Taluka where the Hurs of Halepota clan used to live. Being in small numbers and peasants by profession, they were easy to be controlled by police.
The British administration took measures to deport Hurs to Punjab, North West Frontier Province and United Provinces of India, but failed as Punjab and then NWFP refused to accept ‘dangerous criminals’
By the April 1900, the law was enacted to setup concentration camps to lodge entire Hur community in 15 such camps of which six were in Tharparkar district including Mirpur Khas, Sanghar, Jhol, Khipro, Shahdadpur and nine in Hyderabad district including Nawabshah, Sakrand, Hala, Moro and Naushehro Feroze. The total number of adult inmates including male and female of six hedged villages of tharparkar was 2870 while 2804 was that of nine hedged villages of Hyderabad. The number of children lodged in all the camps was equal to number of adult inmates.
The British administration took measures to deport Hurs to Punjab, North West Frontier Province (Present day Khyber Pakhtoonkhaw) and United Provinces of India, but failed as Punjab and then NWFP refused to accept ‘dangerous criminals’. Lucas, in a letter to Bombay Governor Lord Willingdon Freeman Thomas (1913-18) on June 1914, had questioned ‘why the government didn’t consider deporting the Hurs to Bombay Presidency when the Punjab and NWFP refused to accept them?’ Elaborating the idea of deporting the Hurs outside Sindh, Lucas quoted Robert Giles’ memorandum, he stated that ‘in submitting the proposal, Mr. Giles had explained that one of the principal objects of declaring the Hurs as criminal tribe was to enable the authorities to deport some of the worst members of this fanatical sect, and had expressed the opinion that no measure short of removal from Sindh would be really effective.’
Dr. Nabi Bux Baloch writes in his paper that the British government had abolished the concentration camps when Pir Pagaro Shah Mardan Shah (Father of Pir Sibghatullah Shah-II) promised to arrange 500 militants and financial help during the First World War in 1914. Baloch Sahib’s contention must be based on his own research, but the official correspondence available at Sindh Archives is a big proof that the concentration camps were never abolished. This chapter contains details of official correspondence.
The British authorities’ record includes a list of inmates of concentration camps of Nawabshah and Khipro prepared in 1944-45. Each page of this file bears ‘List of Registration Hur Criminal Tribe Members in Sindh Province’. The list contains the names of 5525 male and female Hurs lodged in camps from 1928 to 1944.
The total number of Hurs lodged in concentration camps exceeds the number mentioned in this list of 1944-45 or earlier in Sardar Yaqoob’s report of 1896, as the record pertaining to this subject seems incomplete. The number of concentration camps, which is said to be 15, also looks doubtful, as at some places 21 such camps were reported in Sindh alone. Moreover, several concentration camps were setup in Indian states where deported Hurs were lodged.
According to some Hurs – Fakir Haji Nangar Hingorjo, Haji Fakir Abdullah Hingoro and several others, interviewed in 1980s, the number of Hurs and their families exceeded two hundred thousands, as five to ten thousand people were lodged in each concentration camp. Abdullah Hingoro told that ten thousand people were confined in each of the camp at Jhol, Sinjhoro, Jarwar near Mirpur Mathelo, Shahdadpur, Mirpur Khas, Warah, Akri, Pithoro, Shadi Pali, Nawabshah, Johi, Khipro etc. One Sanwal Fkir Rajar told that he spent certain period at Shadi Pali and Johi concentration camp where 4500 and 5000 men, women and children were lodged respectively.
Click here for reading Part -I
Excerpts from the prize-winning research-based book ‘Hur – The Freedom Fighter’, authored by Nasir Aijaz, published by Sindh Culture Department in August 2015.