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Rights activists slam land mafia’s efforts to occupy Bheel community village

Karachi

May 24, 2020

Dozens protested outside the Hyderabad Press Club against the alleged forced occupation and burning of houses of the Bheel community near Hala by land grabbers. The protesters demanded that the government provide protection to the affected families.

The protest was organised by the Sindh Agriculture General Workers Union (SAGWU) and Hari Haqdar Tahreek (HHT) and attended by trade unionists, rights activists, agriculture workers and members of the Bheel community.

Addressing the protest, Nasir Mansoor, the secretary general of the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF) , said the land mafia was now active in the rural areas as was in cities and the ancient settlers were being evicted with the connivance of the administration.

He alleged that attempts were being made to seize the 100-year-old Bheel Mori Goth near the town of Hala, which had more than 200 houses of landless peasants, and the local administration was backing the illegal operation by the land mafia. If this did not stop, the scope of the protest would be widened, he warned.

Explaining details of the attack on Bheel Mori Goth, Sabhagi Bheel, the HHT vice-president, said that in broad daylight on May 10, armed land grabbers attacked the village, set some of the houses on fire and killed the cattle, during which several residents were barely able to save their lives.

She added that the land grabbers also resorted to firing but the police failed to stop them and an FIR was lodged only after the people of Goth started protesting. A few attackers were arrested but the real culprits were still at large, she alleged.

Sabhagi said the area had become very valuable due to its location within the city limits and on the main road, so the land mafia wanted to grab it and had also prepared forged documents in collaboration with the revenue department for the purpose.

She said the Goth was very old settlement even before the inception of Pakistan but now the mafia wanted to take it in the claim. There had been several attempts to seize the land for two years but each time the haris had thwarted the attempts with their unity, she maintained.

Dr Badar Soomro, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said the attempt of mafia to deprive the oppressed peasants of their shelters was tantamount to depriving the people of their basic right to housing which was guaranteed under the constitution and law of the country. He reiterated that human and workers’ rights organisations would go to any lengths to protect this constitutional right of citizens, especially of the downtrodden section of society.

He added that he was part of an investigation group that met the area's SHO, DSP and investigating police officers and reminded the officials that their primary responsibility was to stop the land mafia's threats and provide protection to the victims.

He expressed solidarity with the protesting peasants and said the HRCP was with them in their struggle.

The protesters demanded that all the attackers be arrested, and the Goth and its inhabitants protected from the land mafia and ‘claim mafia’. They urged the administration to abandon its support of the attackers and not become an obstacle in the way of justice.

Despite the passage of 73 years of Pakistan's existence, the seizure of Sindh lands in the name of claims should end and strict action should be taken against government officials who helped make fake land claim papers, they said.