Karachi: Landlord’s hirelings kidnap 2 families
KARACHI: Two families that moved to Gadap in Karachi outskirts after being displaced by the recent floods have been kidnapped by a landlord’s armed men and have been shifted to a farm in the Sanghar district.
Rawto Bheel, a farmer by profession, is the only person to have escaped the raid that was conducted on his family. He says he is completely uncertain of his family’s future saying that they might be subjected to torture for wanting to rid themselves of the bonds under which they had been suffering for almost three generations now. He has approached human rights activists for help.
The incident took place on December 12, on an evening in which both families were busy in their routine work on agricultural land. Armed men arrived at the scene and began forcing the families into a truck. Though the family members screamed out for help people in the vicinity didn’t help them for fear of their life. The armed men forced the families into the vehicle and then drove off without facing any resistance.
Rawto says that his family has inherited debts, and that this debt trapped them into living a life of fear and inhumane treatment. For years, no-one in the family had even dared to flee in fear of being caught and having to face further atrocities.
Rawto’s family members included his 28-year old wife, Kanhoon, his young brother, Daloo, his five-year old daughter, Nenoon, and his 17-month old daughter, Sahibaan. The other family members include Mr. Toto Bheel, his 30-year old wife, Sajneen, their eight-year old son Qaim, their second son, Tamil, and an eight-month old baby called Aanto.
When the floods hit their area, the local landlords — who had all but lost their political power over the area — were unable to control the peasant families, who fled the area in search of a new home. Rawto shifted his family to a farm near Gadap in the outskirts of Karachi in search of a more secure life. However, someone from the new community divulged the family’s location to the landlord, which is led to the raid conducted by the armed men.
Organizations working for the protection of peasants rights in Sindh believe that more than three million people out of the total 5,484,128 affected by the flood belonged to poor low-caste Hindu families and were mostly farmers.
Raw to alleged that the kidnappers were Ali Jan, Zulfiqar Khaskheli and two others, and that they had acted under the patronage of the landlord Ali Ghulam Mari of Jhol town.
Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), is part of the team that is leading the struggle for the rights of such farmers.
He says that his organization has already pointed out that the peasant families that leave their lands to escape the landlords are not necessarily safe: landlords are able to use political power to force them back to their farms to continue working under bondage. He said that a majority of these low-caste Hindu families had gone without any help during the relief work and that Rawto’s case is one of the few in which the family manages to escape: the majority of such cases usually go unreported.
Dr Ghulam Hyder, head of the Green Rural Development Organisation (GRDO), an organisation which is working to protect such families through legal procedure, says that he has freed some 1572 people to date and that his organization is in a constant struggle to help more families. Hyder added that there some greedy people who belong to these farmers’ communities are playing into hands of landlords by divulging the whereabouts of the families that try to flee.