Kashmir: Workers commemorate union leader killed in last October’s earthquake

“Nazir Gardazi struggled for his class”

On 13 January, the Trade Union Rights Campaign Kashmir (TURCK) organised its first meeting in the town of Bagh, which was largely destroyed by 8 October earthquake. Over 30 activists and trade unionists attended the meeting.

The meeting was held to commemorate the life of Syed Nazir Gardehzi, a well-known class fighter and health workers leader in Kashmir. Syed, Chair in Kashmir of the All Pakistan Paramedical Staff Association, was among the tens of thousands killed in the earthquake on 8 October 2005. Members of the School Teachers’ Organisation, the Paramedic Staff Association, Non-Gazetted Workers, journalists and lawyers attended the meeting.

Eight different speakers gave accounts of aspects of Syed’s life and the importance of workers’ struggles in Kashmir. Many of them thanked the TURC for the role it had played in organising earthquake relief.

Sattar Khan, a lawyer, commented, “If there had been a party representing the working class in Kashmir then the present situation would not have been the same today after the 8 October earthquake.”

“The Working class in any society is the majority and where ever it is stronger, for it, the struggle for its rights become easier”

In explaining Syed’s role in Bagh, Mohammed Afzal, a clerical worker in the Agriculture Department, said, “Nazir Gardazi struggled for his class. He never gave priority to his personal interests and we pay our homage to him. We will change this rotten society. We will snatch our rights from the rulers. We have only one class and that is the working class. There is dire need to organise. The ruling elite in Kashmir use any means and ways to control and, divide and break workers, on the basis of creed, caste, area, ethnicity etc.”

Azad Qadri, National Organiser of the Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan addressed the meeting as well, outlining the role of the workers’ movement in the Asian sub-continent, “In 1897, the basis of first trade unions were formed in Bengal and Calcutta, while the first trade unions in Karachi were formed by the fishermen. In the 1920s, the basis of the Indian trade union movement was laid. Apart from the army and the police, workers formed trade unions in all institutions. At present there is a need for a fighting trade union movement in Kashmir, as the only means of protecting workers’ rights and conditions.”

A financial appeal was made at the end of the meeting for Syed Nazir’s family, which raised over Rs 16 000 and was handed over to one of his children who attended the meeting.

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February 2006