PRIVATE JAIL OF LANDLORD
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PRIVATE JAIL OF LANDLORD

Jhol : Pakistan | Feb 19, 2011 at 4:41 AM PST
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Muno Bheel belongs to minority community, and had worked on farmlands

of influential landlord Abdul Rehman Mari of Jhol in district Sanghar

along with his family for years. He is seeking recovery of his family

held by landlord as bonded labour and kept in private jail since May

1998. His family was once recovered by police on order of Sindh High

Court on petition of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Sindh office

in early 1998 but on 2nd May same year the landlord with his armed men

raided home of Muno Bheel in village Jam Waryam Memon near Jhudo in

Mirpurkhas district and kidnapped 9 members of his family who are

missing since then. Muno Bheel had filed case of kidnapping of his

family including his elderly parents,wife, daughters and son at police

station Jhudo in Mirpurkhas district wide crime number 35/98 but

police took no action to recover the kidnapped peasant family. Since

then he has run after post to pillar for recovery of his family and

had observed the longest hunger strike in history of Pakistan in front

of press club Hyderabad for 1287 days. Chief Justice of Pakistan

Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chowdhry had taken suo moto action in 2006

and had called to court Sindh chief secretary and Inspector General

police, had ordered them to recover family of Muno Bheel yet Muno was

still awaiting liberation of his family from private jail of landlord.

Chief Justice had appointed DIG of Mirpurkhas division Rana

Saleemullah Khan for recovery of Muno Bheel family and when, according

to Rana, he was close to a place where this peasant family was kept,

he was not only transferred but also suspended by then Sindh chief

minister Arbab Rahim for the reason that if police put hands on

landlord Mari his government might fall down as the Mari landlord is

Khalifa of a politically influential Pir on whose support every

successive government in Sindh survives.

In September 2003 an MPA of PPP Ghulam Qadir Chandio of Nawabshah

district had raised voice for recovery of family of Munoo Bheel kept

captive by landlord Mari and forced to work as bonded labour in Sindh

Assembly. Then Sindh law minister Chowdhry Iftikhar ( from Sanghar

district) had assured the house for early recovery of bonded family

but since those days government has taken no step to get release of

the family.

Meanwhile an human rights body Peace and Human Rights Trust filed a

petition in Sindh high Court Hyderabad circuit bench against landlord

Mari who had got bail from district court Mirpurkhas against FIR

35/98 of Jhudo police station. On plea of advocates of PHRT Rana Aslam

and Justice ( retired) Rashid Rizvi , Sindh High Court cancelled

bail of landlord who was then arrested in April 2006 and remained in

Hyderabad central jail for 18 months. But yet police failed to recover

family of Munoo Bheel from his private jail at his farm near Jhol town

of district Sanghar. The landlords of Sindh are said to sell the

peasants to their brethren landlords in Balochistan as such the

family of Muno Bheel is also said to have been sold by Abdul Rehman

Mari there.

Sindh being a feudal society, there is no procedure of any account

of how much crop the peasant has raised and his share in it. And as is

the practice that landlord provides ration to each peasant family as

subsistence so that they can live and work for him as slaves. And at

end of each crop tells them that the debt they had taken from him at

time they had started working on his farms, has multiplied as such

they are not allowed to leave his lands and have to work generation

after generation to liquidate the debt that never comes to end. They

are not allowed move out of landlord’s farms and many are kept in

chains and under tight security of armed men of landlord. The bonded

or forced labour is modern form of slavery.Though there is law called

Sindh Tenancy Act under provisions of which landlord and peasant are

to share production of crops on equal basis that is half share to each

but the law is never implemented and Mukhtiarkar ( the land revenue

officer of Tehsil) is the sole arbiter under the law who always takes

sides with landlord. In 1992 ( during rule of Nawaz Sharif) a law

named Bonded Labour System Abolition Act was enacted yet the practice

of bonded labour still continues in country and according to surevy

conducted by Comrade Ramzan Memon of Bhandar Hari Sangat even today

there are around 2 million bonded peasants working on agriculture

farms of landlords in Sindh. The worst affected areas with regard to

bonded labour in Sindh are districts of Sanghar, Mirpurkhas and Thar.

Majority of bonded peasants who till lands of big landlords of lower

Sindh districts above mentioned and whose families are kept in private

jails belong to Hindu minority people of Bheel, Kolhi and Meghwar

communities.

Various human rights organizations including Human Rights Commission

of Pakistan, Peace and Human Rights Trust,Green Rural Development

Organization and others have liberated through courts thousands of

bonded labour from farm lands of landlords as well as from brick

klins. The liberated families are living in 5 Hari camps around

Hyderabad namely Sikendarabad Hari camp,Mukhtar Rana Hari camp and

Baba Salahuddin Hari camp near Kotri and at Husri and Azad Nagar near

Hyderabad. Aslam Rana advocate and president of Pakistan chapter of

Peace and Human Rights Trust has said that under Bonded Labour System

Abolition Act 1992 and rules framed under it the district governments

were made responsible for liberation of bonded labour from their

districts and for rehabilitation of liberated families including

providing them homes, technical training to enable them to get jobs,

schools and dispensaries at Hari camps but district governments of

Hyderabad and Jamshoro have done nothing for rehabilitation of

liberated Hari families who are living in Hari camps miserable life,

many under open sky with no homes, no schools, no dispensary, no

drainage, no jobs, no water for drinking and no electricity. Under

such cirsumtances scores of liberated families finding to source of

livelihood and no human basic need at Hari camps,had gone back to

rural villages and engaged again by landlords to till their lands as

bonded labour. Dr. Ashothama, Sindh Coordinator of Human Rights

Commission of Pakistan has told that the commission can get release of

bonded labour from private jails of landlords and brick klin owners

through court orders obtained by their lawyers and with help of police

but the commission has no resources for their rehabilitation. It was

solely the responsibility of government ( be it federal, provincial or

district) under Bonded Labour System Abolition Act and as the

governement has no intention to implement this law like other laws,

the poor peasant community of Sindh, Hindus and Muslims are destined

to work as bonded labour and continue to serve the feudal lords by

remaining in their private jails. Their plight can end only when the

Jagirdari and big land holdings are abolished and land distributed

among the landless tillers. This is impossible for time being as these

very big landlords and Jagiradars continue to rule the country since

creation. In democracies landlords, being members of big political

parties, are elected to assemblies and become members of cabinets

while during military dictaorships they are sold easily to Generals

and picked up to serve them in their cabinets. The peasants had seen a

ray of hope in MQM chief Altaf Hussain when he raises their voice in

his public meetings by demanding abolition of Jagirdari system but

within few days he succumbs to compromise under political

considerations with feudal rulers. Muno Bheel is living in a katcha

home in Hari camp Sikendarabad near Kotri town of Jamshoro district

along with around 300 other families of liberated peasants moslty of

minority community in a condition without basic needs of life. At 60

he is still hopeful that one day he could he able to meet with his

family he has not seen since 1998.

Adnan Younus is based in Karāchi, Sind, Pakistan, and is a Reporter on Allvoices.
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