Born for forced Labour. BY Abbas Kassar. Hyderabad.

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HYDERABAD: Munoo Bheel the unfortunate peasant belonging to minority Bheel community, considered by even Hindu upper caste Thakurs and Banya as" untouchable" has been observing token hunger strike in front of Press Club Hyderabad since 19 January 200

According to Munoo Bheel he with his family had worked as peasants tilling the lands of landlord Abdul Rahman Mari for many years but as the landlord did not pay them the share from sale of crops they raised on his lands according to Sindh Tenancy Law he had ran away from the lands of above Zamindar and with help of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Sindh Task Force Hyderabad got his family members liberated from what he calls private jail of landlord through police under orders of Sindh High Court Hyderabad circuit.

But he says that after some months the same landlord along with his armed men raided their home in village Waryam Memon Deh 31 Taluka Digri district Mirpurkhas on 2nd May 1998 and kidnapped his father, mother and children, in all 9, who were made hostage by the landlord since then and compelled to do forced labor on his lands. According to Munoo Bheel he had filed FIR No.35 /98 at police station Jhudo district Mirpurkhas but police has not taken any action to help recover his family. Munoo Bheel says that he had run after all government officers starting from SHO to Mukhtiarkar and Deputy Commissioner and moved Applications to every higher authority including President, Prime Minster, Governor and Chief Minister but according to him the Wadero holding his family Members are more influential. Chowdhry Aftab the senior worker of HRCP and looking after the office of HRCP Hyderabad confirmed the sufferings of Munoo Bheel and his family and said that not only HRCP and other Human Rights NGOs but Anti-Slavery International has also appealed to Pakistan government to liberate the family members of Munoo Bheel from what he calls the private jail of Landlord.

On September 10,2003 former Senator and now MPA Ghulam Qadir Chandio had raised voice for Munoo Bheel in Sindh Assembly urging government for recovery of 9 Family members of Bhunoo Bheel who were made captive by Jhol landlord and forced to work as bonded labor on his lands. Sindh Minister for Law Chowdhry Iftikahr, who belongs to Sanghar district, assured the assembly that he would help recover Munoo Bheel family.

One more peasant Khuda Bux alias Khudoo Odd knocked the door of HRCP Hyderabad office on 11 September 2003 for recovery of his 5 family members he alleges have been kept hostage by a Ghulam Qadir Mari landlord of Sanghar at his lands at Dili Darwazo Sanghar and was taking forced labor from them since last 5 years. Khudoo Odd 50 identified his family members as his wife Gulan 45,son Harchan, son Shaukat Ali, daughter in law Husna and 8 year old Mashooq son of Husna.He said that he was crying for last 5 years for recovery of his 5 family members who were forced to work as bonded labor at lands of Wadera Ghulam Qadir Mari but no one dares to help rescue his family members.

People especially of minority Hindu communities of Kolhi, Bheel and Meghawars are widely spread in the districts of Mirpurkhas, Tharparkar, Badin and Sanghar As also in Taluka Tando Allahyar of Hyderabad district. They are engaged as peasants to work on the agricultural lands of Zamidars where according to HRCP Their families are given subsistence allowance in shape of grain food so that they could live and work for Zamindars. According to Tenancy Act, followed throughout Sindh the peasant is entitled to half of agriculture produce he raises on fields. But in areas mentioned above the general cry of peasants is that They are denied their share in crops production according to law and given only ration to live on.

Another peasant Dhoorio said he had raised banana on 25 acres on lands of one landlord Manjhi Khan Lashari in Deh 225 Taluka Mirpurkhas but when the banana crop has ripened the landlord has turned his eyes and was declining to give him the amount of his t share. He said contractor has offered Rs50, 000 per acre of Bananas which will come around Rs.12, 50,000 for 25 acres and his share will become half of it. But now the landlord was refusing to pay him his share and forcing to eject him from the lands.

The situation in above districts vis-à-vis the landlord peasant relations are very critical. The landlords give advance to peasants for making kutcha houses at time of time of engaging them on lands. This advance is never cleared and at time of selling produce of every crop the landlord doubles his advance amount which continues to soar. The landlords do not allow the peasants to leave his lands and on resistance puts their families under constant watch of his Kamdars (field mangers) and watchmen. They are made to work according to HRCP in private jails and sometimes in chains. The peasants in Sindh were working like serfs since generattions as if they were born of forced labor.

The peasants so far liberated by HRCP had alleged that the landlords and their Kamdars were raping their women folk. The HRCP Sindh Task Force has so far Liberated nearly 15000 peasants from so called private jails of landlords. The HRCP had arranged the settlement of liberated Haris in its Hari camaps. These camps are situated at Sikendar Abad Kotri where there were 400 families of liberated Haris; Hari camp near Mazar of Baba Salahuddin in Kotri (with 400
Families); Hair camp at Jhan Mori taluka Hyderabad (50 families); Hari camp at Uderolala (50 families); Hari camps at Husri also taluka Huderabad (100 families) and Hari camp at Matli (10 families) was once the largest concentration of liberated Haris but after the incidents of kidnapping of liberated Haris by their former masters, hundreds of families left this camp out
Of fear of kidnapping. Recently 7 family members of a peasant Chanesar Bheel Were kidnapped from near Mirpur Sakro in district Thatta by landlord of Mirpurkhas Ashraf and his son Riaz accompanied with armed men on 11 September 2003 Thursday last Chanesar Bheel was tilling the lands of landlord Ashraf in Mirpurkhas and was liberated from his private jail along with his family 3 years back by HRCP and settled at Hari camp Kotri. But as he could not find any job at Kotri he migrated with his family to near Mirpupur Sakro some months back. The landlords and their armed men kidnapped 7 of his family members After attacking his home and subjecting all family members including women and children to severe torture. Those kidnapped were Mst.Sujhata 7,MST Satbai mother of Sujhata, Ghuman Bheel, Amorakh, Salam 9,Moolachand and Sajjan.Mirpur Sakro police was alleged to have helped the landlord in kidnapping. Police on instigation of landlord have arrested Photo Bheel one of family member of Chanesar Bheel.

Apart from HRCP, Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party headed by Dr.Qadir Magsi and Sindhi Qaumi Saath had also helped freeing about 3000 Haris from the clutches of Landlords of Tando Allahyar Taluka of Hyderabad district. These liberated Haris were living in the area called Qadir Nagar in Qasimabad since then and doing Labor work in and around city.

Even after their liberation they don't feel secure and fear to be kidnapped any time. According to Chowdhry Aftab a large number of 1.7 million peasants working On lands of Zamidars in lower Sindh districts of Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Badin and Thatta were languishing in private jails of influential Landlords. The peasants are provided wheat or rice for use as food. They sell some grains to meet other necessities like clothes etc. With increase in Activities of HRCP and other NGOs dealing in peasants rights some landlords holding peasants as hostages and keeping them in private jails have started to feel that they could not hold them long but they were not ready to share the produce with them or free them from bonded labor as they think that it might tarnish their image of influence.

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