A New Sundown Town?

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Insaf Ali Bangwar

Sundown Town was once referred to the places in the Midwest and South in the United States of America where, after the dark, non-whites or people with certain races weren’t allowed to enter. People wandering after the dark were subjected to discrimination, intimidation and violence. This is a bygone story while we are landed in a ‘new Sundown Town’ with even worse circumstances.
Notoriously known as ‘Katcha’ – a riverine region surrounding Ghotki, Kashmore and Shikarpur – the bandits within the area have created circumstances described above in Sundown Town. While in the Sundown Town solely non-whites were not allowed to walk in in the town, the bandits, going a couple of steps beyond, allow ‘no one’ to wander after the dark. Worse, the acts of looting, abduction and thuggery are performed in the sunup/sunshine.
Recently, the nightmarish murder of a school teacher – Allah Rakhiyo Nindwani – in Kandhkot testifies the circumstances akin to ‘stateless societies’ like Somalia, Libya or Yemen. The loss of his life is the price he paid to carry a double-barrelled gun for his own protection. Prior to this tragic incident, a PhD scholar, Ajmal Sawand, who earned his degree from France in Artificial Intelligence, was mercilessly murdered in the same region – Kandhkot – by some rogue tribal men. However, the police cited both cases, as personal clashes, a vendetta.
These are the cases that came to the spotlight, while hundreds of cases routinely escape the reporting, some due to executive authorities’ negligence and others because of fear of retaliation, and perception of crime severity among other factors. The ineffectiveness of police in protecting, reporting and executing necessary procedures aggravate the injuries.
Sindh, once a province of peace, prosperity and hospitality with vibrant culture, and archaic identity, has been catalysed into a battlefield arena. The pivotal role in changing the history, culture and nature of the province has been played by feudal lords in support of the political elements. Courtesy of ‘influential people’, the ‘Katcha’ and its adjacent areas are ‘no-go areas’.
The population of Sindh in general, of the northern region in particular, are treated as sub-humans with no basic facilities, access to education, health and jurisdiction. Perhaps, due to the absence of state writ. A herd before feudal lords, an obsolete population before the incumbent, the rural Sindh resembles a society that existed in archaic times. In locality, intermittently individuals are abducted, kept for ransom and sometimes even murdered due to incomplete demands of the bandits.
With the talons of feudal lords getting the sharper and dwindling role of state institutions in combating the irregularities surfacing time and again, the fate of the northern region of Sindh remains in doldrums. This, in effect, triggers the feudal syndicate to continually racketeer at the expense of people’s coercion, ignorance and disenfranchisement.
The feudal lords, often under the veneer of demagogues transcend the societal, constitutional and imagery bulwarks so as it is their ascribed prerogative. Since the state institutions submissively let the population be dragooned, the grievances of the people are merely going in the air. Though the situation in the region had been a jamais vu, the recent incident is bringing clarity to the dystopian presque vu. “The docile masses of an enslaved nation” are on a ride destined to a dilapidated road and it’s a slippery slope: one crisis will unfold after another and another.
Though the questions are constantly raised regarding the silence of the region’s representatives for what purposes are they (s)elected, owing to the cloud of fear, no one goes beyond slight criticism like heterodoxy and heresy. The representatives are dynamically the same with parallel actions. The representatives meet the criteria to be dubbed as incompetent, opportunist and tyrants. However, no one dares to point a finger.
“The power flows through the barrel of the gun”, from this statement what one should perceive: the bandits transcend the state writ? Do they have the upper hand over the status quo? Will the citizens be left at their mercy? If so, how long? How powerful the state may be internationally, their take in this region remains an enigma.
In addition to this, who sowed the seed of this bandit system and when? What made them so powerful that state writ seems weak? What were the push and pull factors leading to this malaise, and most importantly, who let them become police of the state and local regions? What is more concerning is that the state has treated the symptom, never entirely killed the cause. How? Time and again solely CSPs were shuffled, never a grand movement was led. Thus, this malaise turned into a cancerous malady haunting locality.
How far it may be the Achilles’ heel for the state to liberate its citizens from these bandits, it should be the primary purpose for the institutions to hijack them; either via carrot and stick approach or by state writ. In short, by hook or crook, liberty must prevail in the region for a sigh of relief. Categorically, to nip an exigence in the bud is to transform the modus operandi. Bringing the feudal system in the region to the halt along with bringing reform to the executive department (and other departments as well) and enlightening the population of the region will catalyse deliverance in queue. Though a Herculean task, it is never impossible to bring a change.

The writer is a freelancer. He can be reached: insafalibangwar98@gmail.com