Lahore, India—Twenty-three (23) male tenants from the village of Dera Sehghal, Muridkey city in Sheikupura district a tenant, have been in prison for a year now. Police have charged them with theft, robbery, and other heinous crimes, but these were false accusations made just to force them to vacate the land they had been cultivating as tenants since 1970. This was the testimony of Jamila Bibi from the same village during a recent gathering of peasant leaders that aimed to re-launch the struggle for land rights despite arrests and state repression. Scores of peasant leaders from various parts of Punjab gathered, April 10, in Lahore, in a meeting organized by Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, chaired by Mian Mohammed Asharaf, a peasant leader from Lahore.
Jamila Bibi said that the night before the meeting, an 80-year old tenant, Sardar Mohammed, was dragged on the floor while we women resisted his arrest.
“There is no more male tenant left in the farm. Only women and children are left in the village that has been without electricity for over one year now,” said Jamila. Her husband, son, sister’s husband, and three cousins have been in jail for over a year, too.
“They are not thieves or robbers. They are ordinary peasants trying to safe their only livelihood that is few acres of land they are cultivating for long.” Jamila told the peasants’ gathering.
Sugra Bibi, another peasant women leader shared that her daughter was murdered last year just because she was breadwinner for the family who was supporting peasants to resist. No one has been arrested for the crime, while most of her relatives are in jail including her son.
Noor Nabi, general secretary Anjman Mozareen Punjab and local union council chairman, gave testimony on Mehr Abdul Sattar, Nadeem Ashraf, Malik Salim Jakhar, all tenants at the Military Farms in Okara, and Hafiz Husnain Raza and district correspondent Nawai Waqat Okara who are all facing several false charges because they had consistently demanded land rights at the farm. Mehr Abdul Sattar is currently in the Sahiwal High Security Prison for the last one month and no one has been allowed to visit him.
“We fear he’s being tortured every day. The High Security Prison is meant for religious convicted terrorists and Mehr Abdul Sattar is under trial. He has been accused falsely as RAW agent and links with religious terrorists,” said Noor Nabi.
Farooq Tariq, general secretary Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee and spokesperson for the Awami Workers Party, have demanded an end to the repression of tenants from different parts of Punjab. He said that all tenants should be granted land rights and Military Farms administration should leave this agriculture business to peasants by “honorably withdrawing from the land that tenants have been cultivating for over 100 years.”
Farooq Tariq said that worst sort of feudal culture has been imposed on the tenants at Dera Sehghal. Police have been used to register absolute false police cases against the ordinary tenants. He thus asked the chief minister to visit the village and see for himself “the worst sort of feudal practicesjust 20 kilometer away from Lahore.”
The meeting was also addressed by Mehr Ghulam Abbas, Liaqat Ali, Nasir Iqbal and others. The meeting was organized to commemorate the International Day of Peasants on 17th April.
From a Press Release issued by Nasir Iqbal (Gharhi Shahu Lahore)