More than 40 people were arrested from Dera Sehgal farms on Friday in a murder and terrorism case against 235 named and over 200 unidentified people of the Bhullar village.
The FIR was registered following the death of a passer-by from a stray bullet during a clash between Muridke Saddar police and Dera residents staging a protest demonstration on Thursday. The Dera residents had gathered on the GT Road for the protest demonstration against what they called highhandedness of the city police. They accused the police of taking away six men from the village and wrongly implicating them in a robbery case. They said the police violated the privacy of several villagers by trespassing into their homes and beating them during the raid. The protesters alleged that the case was registered by one Sharif Mehr who owns land in the village to blackmail the villagers into vacating lands they had been tilling for generations.
As many as 24 protesters, including 17 women, and 12 policemen were injured in the clash on Thursday. The protesters also accused the police of having fired the bullet that killed the passer by identified as Arif Ahmed, a resident of a Sialkot village. They said the protesters were unarmed and the police started firing after they failed to persuade the protesters to disperse.
Sheikhupura DPO Dr Haider Ashraf rejected the protesters’ allegation that the passer-by had died from a bullet shot by the police. He said the protesters had attacked a police team that had reached the scene to persuade them to end the demonstration on Thursday. The DPO said four robbery suspects had been arrested from the village a day ago on Wednesday. He said the village had become a hub for criminal activities in the region. “They have illegally occupied land and shelter criminals at their homes,” he said.
Muridke tehsil headquarters (THQ) hospital medical superintendent Dr Riaz Ahmed said 24 protesters and 12 policemen were admitted with injuries suffered in stone and baton attacks. Two policemen were referred to a hospital in Lahore as their condition was critical, he said.
Advocates Ghulam Dastagir, Abid Hasan Minto, Abdul Kareem Kareela and Safdar Sindhu had on Thursday filed an application with the Lahore High Court submitting that the deceased was killed by a bullet fired by the police and not by the protesters. Advocate Dastagir said the court had issued a directive for the Muridke police to initiate a probe against the policemen present at the demonstration. He said the relatives of the deceased had also accompanied them to the LHC.
The lawyer said the villagers had leased barren land (six squares) from the owners about 50 years ago. He said over time the villagers had tilled these and six adjacent squares of land owned by the government. He said the robbery case was part of the landowners’ attempt to blackmail the villagers into vacating the land.
Muridke Saddar police said they had yet to receive any directive from the court to initiate a probe against the police.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.