KARACHI: Villagers and armymen got into an altercation on Thursday over a graveyard plot in Chashma Goth as a result of which three children and a few women were injured and a police case was registered against 400 villagers.
The centuries-old graveyard is being marked off by the Malir Cantonment staff. Scores of people went to the army personnel on Thursday evening to try and persuade them not to build the boundary wall as it would render the graveyard inaccessible to them. “We requested the army personnel to either withdraw their occupation of the graveyard or give us permission to bury our loved ones. But instead, they are erecting a boundary wall around it,” said Nawaz Dablo of Chashma Goth, Ibrahim Hyderi.
The conversation did not go well and degenerated into an argument after which the army baton-charged the families and forced them to disperse via aerial firing. Six women and children were injured. After they went to get treatment, the victims and their families went to register cases against the army personnel but the police refused. Instead, the affected families found out that an FIR, under section 324, was lodged against 300 men and 100 women of the area on the complaint of Sarfaraz, an army officer. “The complainant has stated in the case that a mob attacked him and his colleagues when they were erecting the boundary wall.
They tried to damage the wall and created a law and order situation,” SHO Ibrahim Hyderi Mir Abdul Samad told The Express Tribune. However, according to the villagers, they have been living in the area for centuries and there is only one graveyard where the people of Rehri, Chashma Goth, Khaskheli Goth, Illyas Jat Goth, Syed Para and Baloch Para bury their dead. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum chairman Mohammed Ali Shah, who is included in the list of 300 men nominated in the FIR, has been working on the case.
The forum has held more than one dozen meetings with the relevant personnel in a bid to have the land freed up. “Initially, they promised to give the villagers alternate land for the graveyard, as they were establishing training centres there. But now they have refused,” said Shah. According to him, main transport lines and roads pass through the plot and the construction of a wall will partly cut the population off from the rest of the city. Shah said that after the FIR was registered, the police started raiding the houses of the villagers who went to speak to them.
“Last night, we reached the police station along with the injured women and children, but the SHO refused to lodge the case, saying that he cannot register a case against the army. But we have now decided to raise this issue at every platform to end this illegal occupation,” he claimed. Sindh Minister for Jails Haji Muzaffar Ali Shujra is the elected representative of the area and according to him, they had negotiated with the armed forces about the burials. “It had been decided that a passage leading to the graveyard would be kept aside for the people, but after the boundary wall was made, the chances of that seem bleak,” he said.
The minister said that the Malir Cantt staff sometimes permit the villagers to bury their dead and sometimes they do not. “A few weeks ago, people forced into the graveyard to bury the body of a woman,” he said, adding that he would approach the army again to resolve the matter. When The Express Tribune contacted an army official, he said that out of 1,300 acres of land owned by the Pakistan Army and Navy, 69 acres have already been encroached on by the people of the area.
He added that some people encroached on the land five decades ago and built a graveyard. “We have asked them not to bury more bodies there and want to provide them alternate land near the area, but they are not agreeing to this,” he said. The official said that despite giving them a passage to visit the graveyard, some people started demolishing the under-construction wall and assaulted the workers. In retaliation, the army took action and lodged cases.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2010.