Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Hyderabad : Muno Bheel belongs to minority (Hindu) 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.
The PHP Team