Columban missionary Fr Daniel O’Connor writes about the killing of a landless farm worker in a dispute over water and wood and the fear landlords wield over whole villages in Pakistan.
On a very hot day in May, Shomo working alone, was trimming back thorn bushes from the side of the village track that his landlord had asked him to do. Some months previously a dispute had taken place between Shomo and another landlord. He had accused Shomo of closing off the water to his crops and opening it for another landowner.
Men arrived on the scene, grabbed Shomo family became concerned for his safety. They tried many times to contact him on his mobile phone but to no avail. A large crowd of family and friends went to the farm buildings to make enquiries about Shomo.
On arrival they were refused entry. When they threatened to force the gate open, he allowed them in. All the rooms were open barring one. They were a large group, yet out of fear of power and influence of the landlord system they did not break open the lock.
Early next morning a large number of people from the village of Yaqoob went in search for Shomo. Some people saw the landlord washing his hands and feet in a small water canal. When this man saw them, he fled the scene on a motorbike. Nearby the people felt shocked and devastated when they discovered the body of Shomo in a sitting position near a tree with his axe propping up his head. The body and head had many torture marks and wounds on it.
A shepherd, who was employed by the landlord confessed that he saw his boss and the associate bring Shomo to the farmhouse. At that time the boss told the shepherd to finish work for the day and go. It appears that Shomo was murdered because of the dispute over water and wood.
Statements were made to the police. Before burial the body was taken to the hospital so that a post-mortem could be done. Two months have lapsed and the post-mortem has not been given and no arrest has been made. A judge hearing the case accused the police of taking money.
Not all the evidence was written by the police. Tragically people with power, money and influence pay money to police and medical people so that the full and correct are not written. Lawyers can also be involved in double dealing.
The Catholic Diocesan Justice and Peace people and others are following up on the case. Much prayer, struggle and perseverance is demanded versus the odds stacked against achieving some sort of justice and peace. Some years ago, when I was in Badin Parish there was a case where the farm workers achieved some sort of justice by blocking the busy road between Badin and Karachi for a few hours.
Some landlords learnt that they cannot rule and oppress at they will. The poor landless farm workers became aware that they, when united in large numbers, are able to achieve good results. We hope that a similar result will be achieved regarding this case.
We have a school in the village where Shomo lived. The children from 6th class upwards walk to another village for their education. Recently the landlord has forbidden them to walk over his land to get to school. The children and parents live in fear of him.