Rohri, Sindh–An ancient modern city

This post is part of The Great Railways Project.

Sateen Jo Aastan

photo courtesy of  Flickr. com

There goes the Karachi Express to Rohri!

The Rohri Junction Railway Station is a major stop for most express trains in Pakistan. The town has two railways bridges. The Lansdowne bridge, named after the British Viceroy at the time was inaugurated in 1889. This bridge is no longer in use and railway traffic has now been shifted to the newer ‘Ayub Bridge’ this one named after President Ayub, who inaugurated it in 1962. But both bridges are still there and must make for a beautiful sight against the stark desert plains and surrounding low hills.

Rohri will be a major stop on our train journey. The train station, the railway bridges and the town itself figure prominently in our reporting plan.

According to a message posted on a discussion forum on the Lonely Planet website, the direct train from Karachi to Rohri takes “around 8 hours” and Wikipedia promises that the station called ‘Rohri Junction Railway Station’ is staffed and there are food stalls on the platform.

The railways run smooth, but some times the good folks try to get a free ride. In 2009, reportedly, a railways divisional commercial officer “conducted a surprise raid” on two Rohri trains and found over 200 passengers sans tickets. The officer, good man, recovered the amount owed from the surprised folk right there and then. The story was reported in the Business Recorder newspaper, a Karachi based publication.

Of course, the good folks also suffer occasionally. As in earlier this year when the engine of the Pakistan Express “failed” at the Rohri station and the people were stranded for a good 15 hours. No good railway man came to their rescue it seems and when some folks started to protest they were “charged” by the Railway police–all this during the month of Ramzaan. The report ran on the ARY website on July 14th.

Ancient tools and utensils have been discovered in the hills of Rohri, not surprising given its location near the Indus River where an ancient civilization once lived. To call it ancient is perhaps misleading. In Pakistan a Hard Country, Anatol Lieve describes it thus:

“It is rather depressing, when visiting the excavated ruins of the city of Moenjodaro in upper Sindh, to note that its clay bricks were better made and better laid than most Sindhi towns and vilages of the present, though, both are made from the same mud.”

The ruins under the sand then are more modern than the towns you see standing before you. But alas, these ancient relics are in extreme danger from flooding from the waterlogged rice fields surrounding the area. In 2012 reportedly around 300,000 people were displaced by floods caused by a breach in the Rohri canal.

Among the oldest rituals practiced in the town is the historic “Shama Gul” procession, an annual 9th of Muharram gathering that has been taking place in the town for the last 500 years.

The famous Indus River Dolphins are nearby. Although it was rather depressing to note a dead dolphin–one among more than twenty found dead in 2011.

I found a few reports of honor Killings or ‘karo-kari’, one that took place at the Rohri date market. The location name would make me laugh if the whole situation was not terribly tragic.

Posting the full report here:

“Two persons were killed and four others were injured over a Karo-kari dispute at the Rohri date market in Sukkur district on Tuesday. According to the Rohri police, members of the Lakhan community opened fire in the date market resulting in the deaths of 21-year-old Kulsoom Lakhan and 25-year-old Shahzado Mirani. Both victims died on the spot.

One of the alleged shooters, Malik Nawaz Lakhan, and passers-by Ajay Kumar, Hazara Khan Chohan and Imam Bux Chohan were also injured.

A police contingent led by Rohri DSP Haji Masood Mahar reached the spot and arrested the five men involved in the shooting. They were identified as Rab Nawaz Lakhan, Dil Murad Lakhan, Shamshad Lakhan and Haq Nawaz Lakhan and an injured man, Malik Nawaz Lakhan. A repeater rifle and TT pistols were also seized from them.

Panic spread among the shoppers as they scrambled to hide or find cover.

The bodies were taken to the Rohri Taluka Hospital for a post-mortem examination after which they were handed over to the heirs.

The Rohri police said that around a dozen lives had been claimed by an old enmity between the Lakhan and Mirani communities. They said that lately the matter had been swept under the carpet but this alleged Karo-kari dispute caused the sparks to fly again.

Police said that they had begun patrolling Lakhan and Mirani villages to prevent more clashes from erupting.”

Have you been to Rohri?