Open Journal of Applied Sciences, 2013, 3, 482-489
Published Online December 2013 (
Open Access OJAppS
Nature of Conflicts, Tensions and Exploitation in
Sharecropping in Rural Sindh
Ghulam Hussain1, Anwaar Mohyuddin1, Shuja Ahmed2
1Department of Anthropology, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan
2Pakistan Study Centre, University of Sindh, Jamshoro, Pakistan
Received October 11, 2013; revised November 12, 2013; accepted November 19, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Ghulam Hussain et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License,
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This paper explains the causes of conflicts and tensions in sharecropping relationships, the nature and level of exploita-
tion. It explains the immediate as well as root causes of conflicts that emerge between sharecroppers and landlords.
Life-world of peasants of Sindh has been explored at village, sub-reg ional and regional level. It was found that the his-
torical systemic structures of exploitation still exist in its refined form in peasant life-world. Peasant life within village
and among village peasants is relatively peaceful. Conflicts emerge or take serious turn when outside systemic agents
get involved in issues related to sharecropper and landlord. Historically property rights given to big landlords and feudal
lords by imperialistic forces while snatching the indigenous right of peasants to self-cultivation, is the root cause that
has spawned several sub-systemic pathologies in the life-world of peasants. Absentee landlordism, Kamdaari system,
debt bondage, social bondage, system of Kann, landlessness, adulterated hybrid seeds, and issues of Sanad are some of
the sub-systemic evils that have emerged over the years. All such sub-systemic structures put bigger and influential
landlords into strategic advantage over the sharecroppers, particularly landless peasants; the imbalance that perpetuates
“permanent liminality” suppresses reciprocal dialogues and discourages mutual negotiations. Outside systemic factors
like SHO-Landlord nexus or Feudal-Police-Tapedar troika play central role in conflict creation and exacerbation in
landlord-sharecropper relationship leading to bloody conflicts, caste wars, tribal feuds and honor-killings, thus, further
differentiating and alienating life-world and the system rural Sindh.
Keywords: Life-World; Rationality; Conflict; Sharecroppers; Exploitation; Liminality
1. Introduction
This research-based explanation aims at the understand-
ing of immediate and root causes and consequences of
conflicts, tensions and the exploitation, embedded in
sharecropper1-landlord relationship. It will explain the
vulnerability of sharecropper and the strengths of land-
lords and the levels of exploitation and conflict inside
village settings as well as outside v illage settings.
Looking in the context of rural Sindh, although Jageers2
have been legally dissolved by the government yet for-
mer feudalstill hold sway and have kept those lands un-
der their informal control. Big landlords and the rem-
nants of old feudal are still very much feudal in their
body language, life-style, political ambitions and local
authoritative rule. The bureaucrats, the police officers
and even the upholders of justice have adopted the feu-
1The terms “sharecropper” and “tenant-farmer”, as defined in English
dictionaries, does not help much to define such peasants in Sindh rice
belt. Sharecroppers are usually defined as having shelter and tools
rovided by the landlord, whereas, tenant farmer is relatively in a
better position to have his own house and farming tools. Sharecropper
usually is on lien, whereas tenant farmer does not take loan. Farming
relationship between landowner and the sharecropper/tenant farmer is
so varied and diversified, that sometimes they share certain attributes
with the typical sharecropper, and sometimes with the typical tenant
far mer. Here, the term “sharecropper” preferably used because inSin dh
Rice Belt, sharecropper-landlord relationship is largely interdependent
in nature, although most of the sharecroppers have their personal houses,
yet many take input loans and tilling expense loan from the landlord
and sell the crop in the market when and where landlor d wishes.
2Jageer” was formerly, a landed area given under feudal lord’s super-
vision to collect land revenue from peasants. Jageers, later on, virtually
ecame undeclared property of the feudal lords, and peasants were
turned into sharecroppers.
dalistic mind-set as the sign of refined and elite taste.
Feudalistic mentality steeped in economic as well as eth-
nic discrimination and snobbishness emerged out of Eng-
lish graft and resultantly, due to lack of mutual reciprocal
dialogue, the system got disintegrated from the peasant
life-world. Collectiv e conflict resolu tion author ity ( Faislo3
by ChangaMurs4) and governance was more horizontal
in the past became vertical, one-sided and unilateral re-
leasing scores of social pathologies in the peasant soci-
Current state of rural peasants and sharecroppers is
explained here in the light of the Habermasian notion of
the “Colonization of the life-world by the system” [1]
and “Liminality” theory [2]. Absentee landlordism, Kam-
daari5 system, debt bondage, social bondage, system of
Kann6, landlessness, adulterated hybrid seeds, and issues
of Sanad7 are some of the sub-systemic evils that have
emerged over the years. All such sub-systemic structures
put bigger and influential landlords into strategic advan-
tage over the sharecroppers, particularly landless peas-
ants; the imbalance that perpetuates “permanent liminal-
ity” distorts communication and suppresses reciprocal
dialogue and mutual negotiations.
2. Research Methodology
This research paper is the result of two separate yet re-
lated qualitative researches conducted in two different
regions of Sindh with the purpose to look for similarities
and differences in peasant-landlord relationship, conflict
resolution mechanisms and to capture the peasant world-
view. The data collected from the qualitative-thematic
research conducted in Sindh Rice Belt on “Sharecropping,
Peasant Ethic and Landlordism” has been analyzed by
comparing the ethnographic f ield work conducted among
the peasant communities of lower Sindh. Interviews from
key peasant activists in Sindh had also been taken and
analyzed. In the study of Sindh Rice Belt pu rposive non-
probability sampling was used to select and determine
sample size. Study was conducted in three different geo-
graphical areas of upper Sindh rice belt in Pakistan. The
team of three researchers did participant observation,
conversational and semi-structured interviews, FGDs8
and individual case studies during the sowing or planting
season in the flooded rice fields, in Otaqs (traditional
guest houses), and Maikhanas (place for smoking and
3. Theoretical Framework
Theory of communicative action of Jürgen Habermas has
been used as an ideal type, a methodological tool, as well
as, as the main, not the sole, theoretical guiding principle
to understand structural ideological and political under-
pinnings of peasant life-world and the system. Bolton has
quoted Habermas that, “The construction of an unlimited
and undistorted discourse can serve at most as a foil for
setting off more glaringly the rather ambiguous devel-
opmental tendencies in modern society” [3]. Hence the-
ory of communicative action is applied here as an ideal
type in Weberian sense to assess the level of liminality,
exploitation, conflict and the modernization in peasant
life of Sindh.
Effort has been made to look for the possibilities o f the
true democratic process, to develop Habermasian ideal
institutional authority based on two ways open and free
dialogue between peasants, villagers, leaders and con-
flict-resolving institutions. Habermas proposes to promot e
cooperation over “strategic action” which aims at the
acquisition of personal or private [4].
For Habermas rationalization of life-world is an evolu-
tionary inevitability and a necessary social process to
emancipate society. It is required assess the validity of
claims on rational grounds instead of on faith [4]. The
“life-world can be regarded as rationalized to the extent
that it permits interactions… guided by… communica-
tively achieved understanding” [4]. The life-world “might
remain a powerful force even as rationalized with com-
municative action as the predominant model of social
action. But the actual resu lt in modern capitalist societies
is different: the life-world loses power at the expense of
powerful forces Habermas calls system” [3].
“Liminality” theory has also been applied here to bet-
ter explain social pathologies of the life-world and the
system. A liminal state (or stage) is an anti-structure
transitional state which produces fluid, amorphous con-
ditions during which preceding social structures, customs
and traditions are replaced by newer ones [5]. In liminal
state structures, norm and values of the society get dis-
solved, uncertainty prevails, and events become unpre-
dictable [6]. It is a hyper-active state of society that usu-
ally cannot lose for longer period of time.
4. Results and Discussion
Vulnerability of the sharecropper is the strength of the
6Kann” is the sharecropping contractual arrangement, in which land-
lord is entitled to get the settled or agreed half-share of the produce,
instead of usual half-share on the basis of 50:50 ratio. It is considered
y sharecroppers as the extremely exploitative contractual arrangement,
as even in case of natural calamities and theft, sharecropper has to pay
the agreed half- share to the landlord.
7Sanad” is the legal entitlement of the land, or the village are a, a legal
document to prove ownership of the landed property, or the place o
8FGD stands for Focus Grou
3Faislo”, is the informal traditional and customary justice institution,
arranged by the noble and honorable men from within the village
community and kinship groups, called as “ChangaMurs”. It is more
horizontal and egalitarian than the “Jirga” system prevailing elsewhere
in Pakistan.
4ChangaMurs” is the Sindhi colloquial term, which means, “well
recognized honorable men of the kinship and bradari.”
5Kamdaari is an assistance-ship of the absentee landlord, to supervise
his land and sharecroppers.
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landlord who tries to extract the maximum labor from
them. Social and economic crises that lead to conflict in
sharecropper’s life occur in situations when the land is
snatched by the landlord, caste clashes and family feuds
erupt, standing crop is ravaged by flood, rain, insects,
animals, collected paddy grain “Raah” or domestic ani-
mal is stolen, irrigation water shortage, fine to be paid in
Faisilo, Karo-kari case or scene of honor killing is cre-
ated among relatives, landlord over-invoices input loan,
landlord stops giving further loans, police to be bribed,
fees of lawyers to be paid, family and when the gainfully
employed main family member perishes.
Minor conflicts and bickering are immediately resolv ed
through mutual negotiations. The criterion for awarding
verdict is based on prevalent cultural norms and mores.
A sharecropper or a landlord may have certain genuine
concerns, the clarification of which may be sought by
them. Concerns of sharecropper and landlord may be
land-snatching, land-grabbing, misappropriation in record-
keeping, allotting the land adjacent land to another share-
cropper whose house is just away from the allotted land,
allegations of paddy theft, misbehavior of Kamdaar, in-
ter-sharecropper mistrust an enmity, use of foul language
or words on which there is a social taboo.
If the sharecropper and landlord may belong to the
same kinship group then settlement of dispute may not
take much time. Men and women of both families may
mutually engage, arrange an informal meeting and settle
it peacefully. Inter-caste conflicts are usually resolved by
the Wadera of the village, if it gets serious, otherwise
one or two reputedly wise and noble elders get together
and settle it. Issues and conflicts related to sharecropping
rarely get more serious than that. Landlords’ prerogative
to take back his land could prematurely end up escalating
When conflicts may become serious and there may be
the danger of one party inflicting serious harm on another
and most of the informal efforts at its resolution fail then
it is taken to the Wadera. Wadera may also take notice of
such developments by himself. Cases like sharecropper
injuring landlord or vice versa, allegations of theft, da-
coity, threats of honor killing and rape may be resolved
by the Wadera of the village. In case one of the impli-
cated persons belongs to the Wadera’s kinship group
then the matter is put before another mutually agreed
When the threats of honor killing are let to intensify it
may then lead to actual killing of th e alleged person. The
cases of theft and rape are followed by murder. If the
Wadera fails to recover protracted theft, then n eutral and
noble members of community (ChangaMurs) take cer-
tain deliberate efforts to pacify both parties and keep it
from further escalation. They approach both parties and
try to convince them to agree to Faislo . The aggrieved
party usually tries to inflict similar kind of pain on the
inflicting party before coming to the Faislo. To avenge
the murder another murder is committed. Both fake and
real cases are filed against each other till both the parties
are sufficiently exhausted. The purpose behind filing case s
is to make the other party suffer physically by the police
and financially in terms of bribing to police, lawyers and
4.1. Nature of Conflict and Feudal Exploitation
Inter-share-cropper clashes usually occur over irrigation
water. To avoid such clashes they have evolved the sys-
tem of “WaraBandi” on the basis of which watering days
for irrigation are informally appointed with mutual con-
sensus for each group of sharecroppers. But even then
there remains a constant tug-of-war between upper ripar-
ian and the tail-enders. Sometimes some casualties, even
murders occur over the issue of water. Sharecroppers
however try not to get serious and just put an exagger-
ated show of aggressiveness to convince each other. Lit-
tle bickering and squabbling is often sufficien t to win the
case. If that doesn’t work then sharecroppers make gr oup-
ings to steal water in the darkness of night by putting a
hidden hedge in the water course to divert its flow.
Sometimes casual disputes occur between sharecropper
and landlord over the account of loan and expenses in-
curred which is maintained by the landlord. Sharecrop-
pers can be implicated in false cases, accusation and so-
cially boycotted if they did not obey their Wadera land-
Some sharecroppers who live near the land enticed by
their tribal chiefs have a tendency to occupy and en-
croach upon the land of landlord s. They do not allow any
other sharecroppers to cultivate that land. They can even
harass landlords and other tenants by falsely accusing
them of something like Karo-kari (honor-killing and al-
leged honor transgression). Peasants and sharecroppers
are sometimes employed by Chief Wadera and Sardaars
to encroach upon the land of any landowner, small land-
lord or a relatively weaker big landlord. Usually Sar-
daars and Patharidaars9 of Baloch tribes entice their
peasants to encroach upon other’s property. Landed prop-
erty of mild and mutually coexisting ethnic Sindhi tribes
to encroach upon by Baloch tribes whose past history and
traditions sometimes allow them to encroach, grab and
snatch with the tacit approval of Sardaar, or Pathari-
4.2. Seed Choice; Hybrid v/s Traditional
During the process of development subsistence econo-
mies change into market economies and the people sw itch
9Patharidaar” or “Patharidaar-Wadero”, are the criminal characters,
like the underworld Dons of the urban centers. They tame dacoits and
thieves, and through them control the local police and exploit the
ers, landless
easants and the villa
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over from the subsistence to the cash crops [7,8]. After
green revolution in 1960s and the introduction of IRRI
varieties rice in upper Sindh and Mexican wheat in the
lower and middle Sindh have become major cash crops
and staple foods of the regions [9]. But now IRRI varie-
ties are probably replaced by some other hybrid varieties,
the issue of serious concern for farmers, growers and the
peasant activists. There were times when rice used to be
cultivated for subsistence. Traditional and indigenous aro-
matic varieties of paddy like BidriGulab and Basmati
were common but now such old varieties have become
extinct and the time-tested IRRI varieties are also being
adulterated and eliminated making peasants directly de-
pendent on local and foreign, usually western, hybrid
seed companies. Paddy is now cultivated not only for
subsistence but also to earn substantial income. That has
made both small farmers and landlords greedy particu-
larly the latter.
In informal meetings before actual interviews were
conducted some sharecroppers told researchers that they
had recently been threatened by a landlord of dire con-
sequences if they did not obey his commands. Landlord
was in fact forcing them to grow the hybrid seed which is
relatively expensive whereas sharecroppers wanted to
grow local varieties of seed. Four tenants who collec-
tively cultivated 18 acres of land, in fact abandoned
sharecropping, some others threatened to leave if the
landlord did not revoke his decision. In the end share-
croppers won the point and finally they were allowed to
grow local seed varieties which were less expensive and
trustworthy. This clearly demonstrates the freedom and
independence of tenants and the forceful insistence of
landlords for vested interest. They are not always coerced
to do tenancy at any cost. Yet, in usual cases, landlords
usually force sharecroppers to purchase the seed of their
choice i.e. certified hybrid variety. Hybrid seed is five
times expensive that of local traditional seed varieties.
Yield from hybrid seed is normally 20% more than the
local traditional “IRRI” or “DR”, Danglo and RoosiKar-
nal varieties. Despite of the high yield hybrid varieties
the net income of a sharecropper from these varieties
(Rachna, Guard, Pukhraaj, Komal, and AliAkb ar ) rema i n s
just the same due to the expensive seed purchase and
extra fertilizer application. In th at way landlord definitely
earns slightly more profit but the profit differential for
sharecropper is either just the same or even less than that
of traditional varieties. Because of the fact that hybrid
seed is highly expensive and beyond the purchasing powe r
of the sharecropper, landlord forcibly purchases it for the
sharecropper and coerces him to sow it. Sharecropper is
left with no option except to oblige the landlord or to
revoke sharecropping. Sharecroppers want that cost of
hybrid seed should be borne equally by the landlord and
sharecropper. Many sharecroppers believe that yield and
income differentials are just marginal in terms of seed
varieties. Therefore it is deemed wise by them to grow
locally purged traditional varieties.
4.3. Kann and Serri: Systemic Ploy
Kann is the system of sharecropp ing in which landlord is
entitled to get the agreed share of produce whether the
land or cropping produces more than the expected or
agreed share or not. In case of natural calamities, damage
to crop by animals or humans and even theft of some of
the produce, landlord would get his due share. In kann
landlord is entitled to get the agreed share of produce
usually slightly more than the expected half yield. Land-
lord could get his share of the produce as per agreement
even if the yield is less than what was expected. Simi-
larly sharecropper would get what is left after the land-
lord’s share has been deducted even if the yield is more
than what was expected. None of the sharecroppers
seemed willing to accept sharecropping on terms of Kann.
Neither any landlord was reported to have recently of-
fered his land on Kann . Sharecroppers have always been
against that system and they wanted to get rid of it. In
several villages of Sindh Rice Beltthat system has re-
cently been abolished by the landlords after the share-
croppers’ peaceful non-cooperative resistance. But where
the landlordism is still strong, it has been kept continue.
Similar to the syst em of Kann and unpaid labour (begar)
in Sindh rice belt the system of Serri prevails in lower
part of Sindh. Peasants belonging to outcaste Hindu mi-
norities have to irrigate and crop an extra land of the
landlord on his behalf without being paid under Serri [10,
11]. Serri is still well entrenched exploitative institution
whereas the Kann is near to its demise as the landed
property of landlords gets distributed internally through
familial division and distribution.
4.4. Issue of Sanad
Issues of Sanad (legal title to own house and village area)
did not emerge in the distant past when the peasant life-
world and the system were less differentiated. People
owned houses in the village just by being indigenous
members of residing kinship group. Land allotment was
informal and customary. Although the village land in
most cases belongs to the statenow, yet Waderas and big
landlords try to maintain hegemony over villagers and
village land. The person who voluntarily migrates or
forced by the Wadera to migrate to another villag e or the
city cannot sell his plot to anybody except his close rela-
tive or a Wadera himself. Houses abandoned by share-
croppers of Wadera himself or by common villagers be-
long to Wadera landlord only. He may use them for his
own purposes. That has been the most common pattern
since centuries but now village people are more aware
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about their rights and some instances of retaliations have
been reported. In one instance Wadera was forcing the
village Jogis (professional beggars) to evacuate the vil-
lage as the land had been lease by the landlord, in the
name of peasant-relative, from the government under land
reform program. Jogis had abodes over that land since
more than fifty years. They faced the landlord, fought th e
case and won the Sanad. Jogis did not seem to evacuate
the village in future. Jogis, however, did not achieve
their goal single handedly. Intervillage and inter-tribal
and ethnic politics played the major role. Many Jogis
were helped by the literate and influential members of
their caste belonging to other villages and areas in that
case. They were also assisted and made bold by the co-
operation by neighboring PatharidaarWadera. Above
case proves that multiple factors determine land arrange-
4.5. Land Registration and Encroachment
Although peasants in Sindh Rice Belt in particular, and
throughout Sind in general, do not feel compelled to get
their houses and lands compulsorily registered, the “ob-
solete record management system and peasant’s vulner-
able position (low-literacy, lower status) [nevertheless]
deprive them of the access to registration and documen-
tation process” [12]. That clearly shows the governmen-
tal legal system’s incompatibly with the real life lived
experiences of the villagers.
Land registration is still a non-issue in Sindh rice belt.
Most of the small landlords and landowners own lands
not formally documented in their names but they still
own it in the name of grand-grandfathers. Some former
sharecroppers were reported to have encroached upon
lands of the small landowners and they are cultivating it
since several generations but such encroached lands are
still registered in the former landowner’s name. In that
case former sharecroppers have become landowners
themselves without being fully registered. Any co mplaint
by former landowners to Mukhtiarkaar usually falls flat
and ultimately turns to be inconsequential as the lands
are in the physical and geographical proximity of en-
croachers and away from the former landowner’s reach.
Any village property or landed area, when it is occupied
by any party, either legally or illegally, cannot be easily
claimed back in the Sindh Rice Belt. But such occupa-
tions and encroachments are rare and mostly ownership
rights are well protected by tribal, cultural norms, and
customary laws of the Sindhi peasant society.
4.6. Role of Kamdaar in Conflict Resolution
Landlords who had more than 30 acres of land usually
appoint Kamdaar (Assistant to supervise fields on behalf
of landlord and to report him). Kamdaar keeps all or
some of the record of expenses, labor, investment and
wages related to cultivation activities. Some landlords do
not appoint Kamdaar and instead look after all the re-
lated issues themselves including record-keeping. Share-
croppers compete with one another for getting suitable
piece of land and for that purpose they, sometimes, resort
to unfair tactics. They poison ears of landlord and Kam-
daar or of landlord’s favorites against one another. Kam-
daar is sometimes bribed few thousand rupees by one of
the competing sharecroppers to make to win the favor of
landlord. Sharecroppers usually like establishing close
and direct relationship with the landlord and usually dis-
like Kamdaar
Some landlords who also do self-cultivation declare
themselves as Kamdaars and deduct their share of kam-
dari or supervision from the sharecropper’s share at the
time of distribution. Kamdaar is usually on good terms
with some sharecroppers, while on bad terms with some
others. His role in land-snatching and land-allotting is
pivotal. Sharecroppers try to keep him happy and con-
tended. Kamdaars can prove to be the worst exploiter of
an absentee landlord. In the absence of a landlord he is a
virtual owner of the land. Many a time Kamdaar, in col-
lusion with one or two sharecropp ers confiscate padd y or
hay or sell it secretly in the market. Earned income is
then either equally shared with the sharecropper or un-
der-invoiced b y the Kamdaar.
5. Theoretical Discussion
The concept of life-world, as defined by JürgenHaber-
man, better explains the Sindhi Peasant’s worldview,
peasant-culture, sharecropper-landlord conflicts, and role
of systemic agents like the police, Wadera, and feudal
lords. “To Habermas the life-world represents an internal
perspective [of peasants and villagers] (while… the sys-
tem represents an external viewpoint [of the state, gov-
ernment, police, and the feudal]… [peasant] society is
conceived from the perspective of the acting subjects
[peasants]. Thus, there is only one society; life-world and
system re presents an ex ternal viewpoint” [13]. “The life-
world so to speak, is the transcendental site where
speaker and hearer meet, where they reciprocally raise
claims that their utterances fit the world… And where
they can criticize and confirm th ose validity claims, their
disagreements, and arrive at agreements.” [14]. “By ‘sys-
tem’ Habermas means an external viewpoint or external
perspective that views society from the observer’s per-
spective of som eone not i n v ol ve d” [1 3] .
“The system has its roots in the life-world but ulti-
mately it comes to develop its own structural characteris-
tics. Examples of such structures include the family, the
judiciary, the state, and the economy. As these structures
evolve, they grow more and more distant from life-
world… these rational structures instead of enhancing the
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capacity to communicate and reach understanding, threa-
ten those processes through exertion of external control
over them” [13].
For Habermas, “subsystems of money, power, admini-
stration and bureaucracy have got reifie d. Political (power),
economic (money) and administrative (bureaucracy) sys-
tem “burst the capacity of life-world they instrumental-
ize… that results in the violence which in turn produces
“pathologies” within the life-world [13]. Such patholo-
gies in peasants’ perspective could be PatharidaarWadera ,
SHO-Wadero-Dacoit nexus, system of Kann, Bhoongo,
imported hybrid seeds, water theft, honor killings, caste
wars, serri (unpaid labor in lower Sindh), debt bondage,
social bondage, landlessness, casteism, tribalism, feudal-
ism and the institution of sharecropping itself.
5.1. Landholding and Landlessness
The biggest historical and structural exploitation that was
implanted in the body politic of Sindhi peasantry was the
sudden systematization of landed property by Mughals
and later on by the East India Company through the in-
troduction of the institutions of Jageers (feudalism) and
Zamindari (Landlordism) thus disenfranchising indige-
nous owners of the land that is peasant proprietors and
turning them into sharecroppers. Property rights of land-
lords over land in access of their economic potential are
one of the major causes of underproduction, poverty ex-
ploitation and conflicts [15]. Absentee landlords let their
Kamdaars (managers) manage their lands who in fact
serve as the prime tools of direct exploitation of the
sharecropper. In Sindh peasant exploitation is being per-
petuated by the absentee landlords who instead of taking
cropping seriously indulge into leisurely parasitic social
activities [15]. Apparently its borrowing and lending of
loans that traps sharecroppers into debt bondage, seems
to be the major factor and immediate cause of exploita-
tion of sharecropper and creates rifts between landlord
and sharecropper and although the role of Kamdaar in
creating rifts between sharecroppers and between share-
cropper and the landlord ( the direct result of absentee
landlordism) is also of much consequence, yet major
factor, the root cause is the ownership of land or the lack
of it, that is landlessness which gives virtual power to
landlord over sharecropper and puts the former in a per-
manent strategic advantageous position. Permanent stra-
tegic advantage has created a perpetual liminal crises in
which trickster landlords in collusion with systemic ad-
ministrative (police, Mukhtiarkar), bureaucratic, legisla-
tive (MNAs10, MPAs11, feudal ministers), and rational
legal (advocates and judges) permanently explo it the s h a r e-
croppers and landless peasants. Liminal situation pre-
cipitates the collapse of system unless the older world-
view is replaced by the newer one and people stop asking
fundamental questions of life [2 ]. All major events in the
history, revolutions, social and political movements that
brought about change in the structure of the system can
be said to be liminal states of society [2]. In liminal state
individuals are unable to think rationally and objectively
and adopt herding behavior that is blind imitation and
reproduction of dominant discourse produced by the
pseudo-leaders or the tricksters from the outside [5]. But
in rural Sindh liminal state has been relatively p ermanent
[2] under control of outside systemic tricksters.
5.2. Landless Outcaste Peasants
Sharecroppers of lower Sindh are probably the most
marginalized and ethnically discriminated liminal identi-
ties who have been pushed to the borders and margins of
the core dominant cultures. Most of the sharecroppers in
lower Sindh belong to the landless, ethnically and relig-
iously discriminated Hindu untouchable castes that tend
to migrate and forced by chronic drought from desert of
Tharparkar [10]. They are temporarily settled on the land s
provided by their Sindhi-Muslim landlords. Their vul-
nerable social and economic status due to landlessness
and insecurity of tenancy contract tempts landlords to
trap them into debt bondage. Debt bondage further leads
to social bondage in which the whole peasant family
serves landlords just like slaves. In extreme cases suspi-
cious and rebellious shar ecropper-f amilies are even c hai ne d
or imprisoned [16 ]. Hindu untouch ables ev en the lack th e
strong cover and defense that is provided to other Mus-
lim castes by their respective caste and bradari12 affilia-
tions and their kinship ties with landlord families. Hence
theirs’ is the extreme and permanent liminal state in
which life-world and the system are extremely polarized
and differentiated. Liminality in landlord-sharecropper r e la -
tionship in Sindh Rice Belt in Upper Sindh is not much
evident whereas in other matters related to bradari and
caste feuds; it may become evident when big landlords,
police, state-courts and tribal chiefs get involved in con-
flicting situations.
12Bradari” or a kinship group in Sindh Rice Belt has multiple conno-
tations depending upon the levels of affiliations. At the most intimate
level, Bradariis a kinship group intermarrying households, both ma-
ternal and paternal, which usually reside close proximity in an inter-
nally linked neighborhood (Paara) with lower boundary walls. They
tend to share, reciprocate, and exchange goods, services, secrets and
emotions routinely. At another dispersed level, the caste-group of the
same village takes the form of Bradari, when inter-caste issues erupt in
the village. In matters of inter-village importance, the whole village is
considered a bradari. In matters of caste wars or f euds, the whole caste
is taken as a Bradari. Bradari is also taken in the connotation of the
Punjabi “Panchayat”, when any serious is settled in informal courts
(Jirga/Faislo). In that case, both co mpeting bradaris, together with the
honorable decision-makers or judg e s are taken as Bradari.
10“MNA”, stands for “Member of National Assembly”.
11“MPA”, stands for “Member of Provincial Assembly.
Open Access OJAppS
5.3. Importance and Relevance of Sanad
To advocate that villagers and sh arecroppers should have
a sanad to prove their ownership [12] remains irrelevant
till some inter-landlord or inter-Sardaar politics from
systemic agents manipulates the situation for their private
ends. In Sindh Rice Belt to evacuate somebody even of a
minority low-caste Jogi tribe is extremely difficult even
for a powerful Wadera. In a society bonded together
through bradari and caste affiliation and influenced by
tribal culture, having a sanad or not, is usually inconse-
quential. That is one of the reasons that most villagers
even wealthy and independent or well educated ones do
not keep sanads. Village plotting and hous ing records are
updated through collective recalling by elders and trans-
ferred from one generation to another. Words of mouth,
oral testimony and oaths on holy book generally decide
ownership rights in case of conflict. In fact they rarely
need to prove that they are owners of their house. Almost
everyone in the village knows who owns what and since
when. Community consciousness or community sentimen t
usually determines socialrelations in villages.
Land encroachments are rare and mostly ownership
rights are well protected by tribal, cultural norms, and
customary laws of the Sindhi peasant society. Encroach-
ments have been made extremely difficult by overarching
protective social network based on Biradari, cast and trib al
affiliations. But whenever it so occurs, it occurs at the
behest of forces outside the village that are not immedi-
ately affected by such conflictin g situation s. Su ch outside
systemic factors are SHO-Landlord nexus or Feudal-
Police-Tapedar13 troika. They game played by outsiders
consequently leads to bloody conflict, caste wars, tribal
feuds and honor-killings thus further differentiating and
alienating sharecropper’s life-world and the system.
5.4. Hybrid Seed: Assault from the Global North
The choice of doing away with hybrid seed has serious
economic, social, cultural, regional, ecological and agri-
cultural and food-related implications. Peasants in Sindh
are probably unconsciously following in the same natural
line as suggested by South American peasant activists.
They are stressing on the production and preservation of
local indigenous seeds varieties that are also more eco-
friendly [17]. They are stressing the use and production
and consumption of locally produced foods like churned
butter, lassi (cold drink made of churned milk), milk, rice
and wheat. Theirs is the stance in line with the notion of
“food autonomy” which emphasizes the specific righ ts of
communities and agro-ecological regions to freely choo se
the consumption and production of local foods [18].
Peasant movements of Sindh such as Chambar peasant
movement and HariHaqdaar movement like international
peasant movement “Via Campesina” are rooted in cul-
tural values of “social justice... to ensure future without
hunger” [19]. Peasant movements of Sindh have laun ched
campaign against the reductionist market-based approach
to agriculture to ensure food security [17]. “As the food
sovereignty movement demonstrates market supply meets
corporate rather than human needs—corporate food pro-
duction does not address or generate demand so much as
generate hunger. Market control in the name of devel-
opment systematically violates th e rights of people of the
land to co-exist and secure the social reproduction of the
majority of the world’s people, and practice ecological
sustainability” [20].
6. Conclusions
In sharecropping tensions may erupt on the issues of
land-snatching, land-grabbing, water-theft, misappropria-
tion in record-keeping, allotting the land adjacent to an-
other sharecropper whose house is just away from the
allotted land, allegations of paddy theft, misbehavior of
Kamdaar, and due to that the inter-sharecropper mis-
trusts an enmity. Settlement of disputes in sharecropper-
landlord relationship is determined by multiplefactors
which may include relative economic strength, social
influence, kinship ties, tribal status, caste affiliations and
the nearness or proximity of land under cultivation. No-
blemen from the Kinships play pivotal role in pacify
overt conflicts. Formal rational legal means are resorted
to cases when outside systemic forces intrude into share-
cropper’s life matters. In such situations conflicting par-
ties, landlord or the sharecropper, tries to make the other
party suffer physically as well as financially by police,
lawyers, and judges.
Peasants in Sindh are following in the same natural
line as suggested by South American peasant activists.
They are stressing on the production and preservation of
local indigenous seeds varieties and are discouraging the
use of imported hybrid seeds that are not only adulterat-
ing localindigenously preserved seeds but are also more
capital-intensive and less eco-friendly. Similar to the sys-
tem of Kann and unp aidlab our (Begar) in Sindh rice belt,
the system of Serri prevails in lower part of Sindh. Serri
is still well entrenched exploitative institution whereas
the Kann is near to its demise due to sharecropper’s re-
sistance and as the landed property of landlords gets dis-
tributed internally through familial division and distribu-
tion hence indicating the positive change towards ration-
alization of life-world and the restraint of the system.
Issues of Sanad (legal title to own house and village area)
did not emerge in the distant past when the peasant life-
world and the system were less differentiated.
13Tapedar” is the administrative officer authorized by the government
to collect land revenue, water tax and keep land records of the area,
called “Tapo”.
Open Access OJAppS
Open Access OJAppS
Property right of landlords over land in access of their
economic potential however is one of the major causes of
underproduction, poverty exploitation, minor tensions
and serious conflicts. Absentee landlords let their Kam-
daars (managers) manage their lands who in fact serve as
the prime tools of direct exploitation of the sharecroppers.
Thus the root cause of inequality, exploitation and the
colonization o f peasant-village lifeworld is the ownership
of land or the lack of it, that is landlessness that gives
virtual power to landlord over sharecropper and puts the
landlord in a strategic advantageous position.
Above research-based explanation was aimed at the
understanding of immediate and root causes and conse-
quences of conflicts, tensions and the exploitation em-
bedded in them. Landlord-sharecropper relationship is
intricately interwoven with the peasant life, folk tradi-
tions, peasant ethic, village settings, rural economy and
the historical structural arrangements. It was found that
vulnerability of the sharecropper is the strength of the
landlord who tries to extract the maximum labor out of
him/her. The extent of exploitation however is minimal
within and among sharecroppers and the small landlords
of the same village where power relations are more hori-
zontal due to the impact of bradari and kinship ties. De-
spite that the relatively dominant position of the land-
lords being the owner of the land cause tensions and rifts
between sharecropper and landlord. Tensions between
sharecroppers and small landlords rarely erupt in serious
confrontation in Upper Sindh whereas in Lower Sindh
where peasant-landlord relationship is more liminal and
polarized, sharecroppers assisted by peasant activists (sup-
porters of peasant worldview) sometimes openly resist.
Minor conflicts and bickering are immediately resolved
through mutual negotiations. Hence, the life-world and
the system (traditional institutions holding peasant kin-
ship system and bradari together) are less differentiated
and more reciprocal. Liminality in landlord-sharecropper
relationship in Sindh Rice Belt in upper Sindh is not
much evident. Whereas in other matters related to bra-
dari and caste feuds, it may become evident when big
landlords, police, state-courts and tribal chiefs get in-
volved in conflicting situations. Social bondage, system
of Kann, marginalized role of nobles from within peas-
ants and the dominant role of Wadera and Sardaar are
manifestations of distorted communication, lack of dia-
logue, egalitarian attitudes and intrinsic values of folk
peasant life.
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