Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Mashujaa Day

Guest post by Shiraz Durrani

Close your eyes for a few minutes (but do not go to sleep!). Imagine the situation: British colonial intruders take over the country by force of arms and brutality. Unbelievable brutality, not worthy to be called a civilised country. Almost every Kenyan nationality resisted them. But all defeated by superior firepower, deceit and divide and rule policy.

Workers resisted too, with strikes right from the beginning when the railways started. But over-all not very effective. Enter Makhan Singh with his working-class ideology and experience from India. With a total commitment to equality and justice for all. He united all the trade unions into a powerful organisation, the East African Trade Union Congress. They struggle for 8 hour day, higher wages - and won. He linked the workers’ struggles with the political struggle for national liberation. He turned the five fingers of resistance into a powerful fist that struck a final blow to colonialism. He and others linked working class struggle with a radical nationalist movement which became Mau Mau. Without this contribution, Kenya would perhaps have remained a settler colony for much longer. Thus the colonial authorities attempted to deport him and detained him for the longest period that anyone was detained in Kenya. And that is why he was isolated after independence because the comprador regimes feared him as much as the colonialists did.

So the question is, why are Makhan Singh, Pio Gama Pinto, Vidyarthy, and others who contributed to Kenya’s independence being celebrated here today and not at the national ceremonies in Kakamega (where the main Mashujaa Day ceremonies took place)? Why has Kimathi, Mau Mau and their activists and supporters been left out of the national consciousness? The reasons are clear and are contained in many books. Here I have some from Vita Books whose books provide the true history of Kenya’s War of Independence - including books on Makhan Singh, the contribution of South Asians in Kenya’s independence, Pinto, among others. Such material exists but is not in school curricula or in libraries - academic or public. At the request of the Headmaster of the SCLP Samaj School & College (Sri Cutchi Lewa Patel Samaj) these books were donated to the School Library for students, parents and communities of the School.

Photos by Shiraz Durrani.

Mashujaa Day was celebrated on 21 October 2018 at Sri Gurdwara Ramgarhia Railways, Landhies, Nairobi, Kenya. The Chief guest was Makhan Singh’s son, Hindpal Jabbal. Those honoured were Makhan Singh, Pio Gama Pinto and G. L. Vidyarthy. Pheroze Nowrojee spoke about all three. Hindpal's son talked about his grandfather and his writings.

Shiraz Durrani is a British-Kenyan library science professional noted for his writings on the social and political dimensions of information and librarianship. His widely held Information and liberation writings on the politics of information and librarianship draws on his experiences in librarianship from Mau Mau period Kenya to the modern-day UK.