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Friday, June 21, 2024

Manu Bheel’s 25-year-long wait for his family abducted by his landlord: Pakistan

Manu Bheel is one of several bonded farm laborers freed in 1996 from the private jail of his landlord in Sanghar district of Pakistan’s Sindh province. Majority of Pakistani Hindus from Bheel and other SC/ST (Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribed) communities live in slavery-like conditions while working on agricultural land owned by feudal Muslim landlords.

Following their release, Manu and his family underwent a rehabilitation program, and as a result, they were able to start over as daily wage workers. Yet, their joy was fleeting.

Just two years after his release, 9 of his family members were abducted in 1998, allegedly by thugs dispatched by his old landlord Abdul Rahman Mari. Manu Bheel went straight to the police. Yet, the political window that had allowed for Bheel’s release had already closed, because Abdul Rahman Mari was supported by Pir Pagaro (a title given to the leader of a Muslim Sufi order in Sindh), a very influential religio-political person in Sindh.

Manu Bheel on protest to recover his family

No action was taken on Mari, despite many protests held and many commissions being formed to ostensibly probe the issue.

After an 8-year-long struggle, Pakistan’s Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the case and ordered the police to recover Manu Bheel’s family, but they were unable to do so. This prompted the Chief Justice of Pakistan to ask the Inspector General of Sindh Province to intervene. Still, nothing happened.

Late Bashir Qureshi, a Sindhi nationalist, meets Manu Bheel during a protest

The case was stalled due to a legal emergency in 2007, leaving the poor Hindu laborer’s relatives still ‘missing’. On 15 December 2021, a Commission for minorities rights established by the Supreme Court sent a letter to the Sindh Inspector General of Police reminding them about the case and demanding a detailed report within 15 days.

Super courts specail commission ask for report of Manu bheel’s family

But nothing has changed, and Manu Bheel is still waiting to be reunited with his family. Manu Bheel’s five-year long hunger strike has become a symbol of the impossible odds facing Pakistan’s Hindus, and how Bharat and the entire international community, especially the Western nations which claim to be the leaders of the ‘free world’ and champion of human rights, has failed its duty in standing up for this helpless minority.

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