Protesters, media personnel injured as police suppress Islamkot sit-in against laborer’s ‘murder’
MITHI: Bheel community’s ongoing protest in Islamkot over the recent death of Dodo Bheel, a worker hired by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), spread to other cities and towns of Tharparkar and Mirpurkhas on Monday after police moved into action to suppress the protest.
Laborer Dodo Bheel was one of the several workers detained by some security guards of the company for 14 days to interrogate them over theft of scrap from a store in Thar Coal project’s block-II, according to the bereaved family. They and their relatives had been holding sit-ins and demonstrations in Islamkot since his death at a Hyderabad hospital was pronounced on Wednesday-Thursday night. The family alleges that the security guards subjected Dodo Bheel, besides other detained laborers, to intense torture and handed him over to the Islamkot police when his condition turned critical.
They had suspended their campaign on Friday evening after local MNAs, MPAs and police authorities had assured them that the suspects, nominated in the FIR, would be arrested. However, they resumed the protest on Saturday evening as the suspects were not arrested.
Tharparkar SSP Hassan Sardar Niazi was quoted as saying that eight security guards were detained for interrogation but the Bheel community came to know that those nominated in the FIR were not among them.
Local and activists of Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, and civil society activists, besides Sindh Taraqqi-pasand Party leader Dr Qadir Magsi, extended their support to the bereaved family by frequenting the protest venue.
In the late hours of Sunday evening, police suddenly moved into action and started baton-charging the protesters and tried to arrest some of the 150 protesters booked under certain sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act and Pakistan Penal Code. Local reporters said around 50 of them, including some close relatives of PTI leader Lajpat Soorani, were rounded up during the action.
Reports from Islamkot suggested that police also resorted to teargas shelling causing chaos and panic. A number of people were injured in the action. They included eight local reporters — Jhaman Misrani, Imtiaz Dharani, Sadiq Bajeer, Junaid Azad, Ghazi Bajeer, Sudheer Rathore and Sadiq Bajeer — who said their cameras and mobile phones were broken or taken away by policemen.
Krishan Sharma, Subhan Samejo, Advocate Shahnawaz Hingorjo, Kishore Jagani, Parshtam Soorani and other activists of different parties and groups speaking at a press conference in Mithi on Monday condemned the unwarranted police action against protesters and media personnel. They said women and children were among those affected by the episode.
They wondered that police did not lay hands on the suspects even after PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, taking notice of the alleged murder and subsequent protests, issued directives to get the matter resolved peacefully and amicably. They welcomed the order issued by the chief justice of the Sindh High Court asking the Mirpurkhas DIG and Thar SSP to appear before him on July 13 to explain their positions regarding the alleged murder.
Members of the journalist community on Monday held demonstrations in Mithi, Diplo, Islamkot, Nagarparkar and other towns of Tharparkar district. Rallies were also held in different towns of Mirpurkhas district to express solidarity with Dodo Bheel’s family and condemn police action against protesters and media personnel.
The participants demanded removal of the SSP and holding of an impartial inquiry into the labourer’s death and police action.
Journalists in Thar also announced a boycott of Sindh government’s functions and events until justice was done to the affected media personnel.
SEMC spokesman Mohsin Babar, in a press statement, has expressed grief over the unfortunate incident. He said that company’s officials contacted heirs of the victim and assured them of all-out moral and legal support. “A departmental inquiry into the tragic incident has already been initiated against those persons nominated in the FIR registered by the family of Dodo Bheel,” he said, and added that some of the people had also been placed under suspension.
Ministerial probe committee formed
Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Monday constituted a committee comprising three ministers — Syed Sardar Shah, Imtiaz Ahmed Sheikh and Nawab Taimur Talpur — to hold a probe into the whole affair and submit a report at the earliest.
The committee was supposed to meet Dodo Bheel’s family members, SECMC executives, Tharparkar deputy commissioner and SSP, as well as journalists from Mithi and Islamkot.