Meeting to settle dispute between farmers, landlords

KARACHI: After effective campaign launched by the peasants rights activists and the vulnerable communities, the provincial government authorities have realized the fact and coming to a table to settle down the disputes among peasant workforce families and landlords in Sanghar district.

The event, being held on Saturday in Sanghar city, is expected to attract peasant rights activists, civil society representatives, landlords, deputy commissioner with tenancy tribunal heads assistant commissioners and revenue officials.

Sanghar district is known as the more cotton-producing area in the entire province. But the fact is that quite recently reports appeared pointed out the worst conditions in which a large number of farmer families live, mostly sharecroppers, who are being deprived of their right to crop share.

They are forced to work as slaves in many areas by certain landlords, who have backing of political leaders and parliamentarians.

Landlords are forcing farmers to leave their standing crops and shift their families. In case of farmers’ refusal, these cruel landlords are showing them muscle to face tyranny. This has created uncertainty among the peasant families residing in the entire district.

Ghulam Ali Leghari, a peasant activist, whose family is also struggling for their rights, expressed the hope that this session may set examples to safeguard the rights of oppressed communities in the entire province of Sindh.

He said “it seems nobody is there to listen to our grievances. We have visited door-to-door of parliamentarians, local politicians and the government officials to convey our difficulties, but everywhere we have faced humiliation.”

“We do not like to live in slavery and surrender our share. Despite pressures and threats we are receiving from certain landlords and criminal chieftains we believe in peaceful talks. They (cruel landlords) want us to leave abodes and shift families to other areas, despite the fact we are born there and living through forefathers,” he said.

“We had initiated long march and want to die in the struggle instead of surrendering our rights to crop share,” Leghari said.

The meeting is being organized by Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), which is struggling for protecting the rights of fishermen, farmers and herdsmen, who are considered as the most neglected communities in terms of their living conditions and deprivation.

Mir Hassan Mari, a host of the event, said they have approached local legislators to join the meeting and face their voters, whose lives and livelihoods are under threats. There is no school for the children of these poor farmers residing in the mineral-rich Sanghar district. Multinational companies are involved in oil and gas exploration and have identified the natural resources reserved. But despite this richness, the families of poor are being pushed to live under endless uncertainty, said Mari.

He said the district experienced the devastated flood 2011, which forced hundreds of poor farmers and herder families to stay away from their areas for several months. These people returned home and resumed their life on debris. But the problem they are facing is threats from landlords, who have encroached upon the village lands and pressurizing the poor farmers to withdraw their ancestral abodes.

PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, who led the peasants long march recently from Sinjhoro town to sanghar city with hundreds of peasant women and children, said after the campaign the government authorities have shown their interest to resolve the issue between landlords and peasants to avoid uncertainty.

“We are facilitating the stakeholders to settle the dispute. This initiative may set example in terms of encouraging farmers to adopt the way of struggle for their rights and live with dignity, instead of slavery,” he said

It has been learned that Tenancy tribunals have been non-functional in the district. That is why the farmers are facing problems. But the meeting will attract these heads of tenancy tribunals to share their findings that why they are not supporting the victim families.

It is for the first time that with the government and civil society stakeholders Church Father and other religious scholars will participate to resolve the issue permanently.

Peasant rights activists call their move to promote agriculture sector that is backbone of the country economy and termed landlords destructive and depriving farmers of their rights to live; right to build shelter; right to livelihood; right to have potable water and other basic facilities.

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