DADU: A DSP and as many as 15 police personnel were injured, some of them critically, when they faced violent reaction to their attempt to arrest striking workers of a private coal company in Singhar Khoso village near Khanot town along Indus Highway in Jamshoro on Friday.

Reports from the area suggested that a small police party led by SHO Mohammad Ayub Odh of the Coal Mines police station first tried to arrest some suspects but was trapped by a mob of villagers wielding clubs and axes in the morning. Members of the police party were attacked and the suspects they had taken into custody were freed. Six policemen, as well as 10 villagers, were injured in the attack and the clash that ensued.

The police party had to retreat, though along with two of the detained suspects who were taken to the Manjhand police station. A larger police force was sent to the area in the evening while villagers were already holding a demonstration against the police action. The villagers again attacked the police.

Later, the area police claimed that the SHO-led police party was sent to the village to arrest five suspects wanted in some criminal cases. They said residents of many houses in the village surrounded the police vans and attacked the policemen with clubs and axes to get the suspects freed. Official weapons of some policemen were also snatched, they added.

On their part, the protesters rejected the police version saying that in fact the area police had intervened to forcibly bring an end to the strike being observed by workers of a private coal mine in the village. They said the company had not been paying salaries to its workers for five months.

It was gathered that about an hour after the incident, a large number of villagers — men, women and children — proceeded to Rajarai, the nearby section of the highway, to hold a noisy demonstration against police. Both sides of the highway were blocked and all vehicles, both passenger and goods carriers, remained stuck until after sunset.

Considering gravity of the situation, a strong police force led by Jamshoro ASP Aleena Rajpar, Kotri DSP Nazar Mohammad Dreshak and Sehwan DSP Bashir Ahmed Khunharo rushed to Rajarai and tried to pacify protesters by holding negotiations with them.

However, angry protesters turned violent after, what the protesters claimed, “unacceptable advices put to them” by the police officers. DSP Khunharo and eight more policemen were injured in the clash. A number of villagers were also injured.

During the course of violence, the protesters hit stranded vehicles with clubs and stones, smashing window panes of several of them.

Police rounded up 25 protesters, including women and children, after the clash to get the highway cleared for hundreds of vehicles, providing relief to those stranded for almost 12 hours and remaining without food and water amid sizzling weather conditions.

“Five of the Khoso tribesmen working in the company were leading the strike and police turned up to arrest them,” they said, and explained that in fact police used force to provoke villagers.

“Police used guns causing injuries to men, women and children and also tried to take them away which provoked a sharp reaction, he added.

One of the villagers, Ali Sher Khoso, said that they were fighting for their legitimate rights and police should support them as over 200 families were affected by the company’s indifferent attitude and heartless action.

He said an FIR was registered by the Jamshoro police against 50 villagers whose fault was observing the strike.

He condemned that a big police force riding 25 mobile vans later tried to disperse their peaceful protest.

Sehwan DSP Bashir Khunharo said that he and many police personnel sustained club and axe injuries.

Sehwan Assistant Commissioner Noor Ahmed Khahro visited Manjhand hospital to inquire about the health of injured persons. He said condition of two policemen was critical.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2020

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