Manu Bheel is a Dalit who went on a symbolic hunger strike to oppose the kidnapping of his family members by a Muslim landlord in Pakistan.

“I have left no stone unturned in search for my family, who were abducted in broad daylight from a farm in Jhuddo taluka in Mirpurkhas district in 1998. I have gone to police, to elders in my area and I have been knocking on the doors of the law but my parents, my wife and my children are nowhere to be found. I have also gone on extended hunger strikes but to no avail. If a well-to-do person goes missing from your big city, people will move heaven and earth for his or her recovery, but here my entire family have vanished from Mirpurkhas and no one cares. With no family, I have no home … I have no life,” Manu pleaded.

“They were kidnapped. I know because there have also been confessions from a couple of men, there have been arrests, too, but despite all this, there has been no progress in locating my family members. My parents were old. They may not even be alive today, but what about my children, my wife?” he asked.

“Meanwhile, instead of helping me, there have been false cases lodged against me to create hurdles in my way. I am a very poor man. I don’t mean anyone harm. All I want is my family back,” he said.

1998: Nine family members are kidnapped

In 1998, two years after his release, nine of his family members were kidnapped, allegedly by men sent by his former landlord Abdul Rahman Mari.

Manu Bheel rushed to the police. But the window of political opportunity that had secured Bheel’s own release had meanwhile closed. Former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, had been replaced by Nawaz Sharif whose allies include Pir Pagara and his Pakistan Muslim League (Functional).

Pir Pagara in turn is supported by Bheel’s former landlord Abdul Rahman Mari. Thus a change in the political landscape allowed Mari to seek revenge for Bheel’s release and to kidnap his family with the impunity that characterises so much of the abuse of Pakistan’s Dalits.

Read:

Pakistan: Manu Bheel, Sindh Province

Dalit women in Pakistan – denied a life in dignity and respect

Hindu Bonded labours, kidnappings and Private Jails in Sindh, Pakistan

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