PESHAWAR: A jirga in Mardan district has expelled a family of cooks from a village for increasing their labour charges for preparing cauldrons by 50%.
The Social Welfare Committee in Kohi Barmol Katlang village ‘asked’ 10 families to leave and used the local mosque’s loudspeakers to urge villagers to begin socially boycott them. The men of the families have left in search of work elsewhere, while the women and children staying behind face the brunt of the hardship.
One of the victims told The Express Tribune by phone that there was no food in his house because the local shopkeepers had also been told not to sell anything to them. He said the children of the ostracised families had stopped going to school because of fear of other villagers.
He said the cooks had increased their labour charges from Rs200 to Rs300 to keep up with their own expenses, and this led to the harsh decision from the local committee.
“Our families are in a precarious situation. The government should take up the issue with the committee to allow us to stay in our homes,” he said, adding that their incomes had evaporated as as no one would hire them.
Anwar Saleem, another cook who has since moved to Mardan, said the committee had been generally taken decisions for the welfare of the village, but this move had ruined the lives of all the cooks. “The decision was taken on October 19, but we waited with the hope that the committee would withdraw it. That hasn’t happened,” he said, adding that they did not have any personal issues with any villagers.
Saleem told The Express Tribune that the community had been living there since 1863 in houses built on their own land. he opined that the decision was based on caste prejudice. “We are professional cooks and other villagers consider us inferior.”
When contacted, District Police Officer (DPO) Mian Saeed said nobody had been forced out of the village. “They [the families] met me and are at their houses. They had left the place due to the threat of an armed clash,” Saeed said, adding that police had taken preventive action.
One of the affected cooks, however, said the DPO had met them but the issue was still unresolved as most of the men were still afraid of the consequences of going back home.