Free my Ranjha, free the Ranjha of Heer,” these slogans have been echoing in the streets of Naseerabad city for the last twenty days. Heer holds a poster at every protest rally for the release of her son.
Heer, over 60 years old, is the mother of activist Seengar Noonari. Despite her illness, she has been protesting for 20 days for her son’s release. She remembers how Seengar helped the community and raised his voice against local issues.
Seengar Nonari is a political leader from Naseerabad taluka of Qambar Shahdadkot district. He is the labour secretary of Awami Workers Party (AWP) Sindh. His ‘enforced disappearance’ was reported on her sister Aabida’s Facebook page on the morning of June 26. That morning, she informed her followers in a Facebook live session that her brother was picked up by Rangers, police and men in civvies at 3 am. “My brother is a peace-loving political worker who has worked for girls’ education, fair wages for labourers and the overall well-being of working-class people,” she said.
While speaking to Naya Daur Media, Fouzia, wife of Seengar Noonari, said that everyone at their home was asleep when the incident took place. A group of uniformed and plainclothes men smashed open the door. “The men broke in, held all of us at gunpoint and started searching the house,” she said.
She said that her three children woke up to the noise and were terrified when they saw the gunmen. Upon finishing the search operation, the men managed to find some books only.
The next day, there was a strong reaction on social media against the incident. In Nasirabad, the heirs of Seengar and the Awami Workers Party staged a sit-in protest. Political and social organisations, including hundreds of women, labourers, and citizens of the city, joined the protest and demanded the immediate release of Seengar Noonari.
“We went to the police station in the morning to see if Seengar was there, but the station head had no clue if he was arrested. We then tried to register an FIR against his abduction, but it was not registered,” Fouzia says.
She has recently filed a petition in the Sindh High Court on June 29 seeking her husband’s release. The court declared the petition admissible and sought a reply from Rangers and other institutions.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International South Asia also issued a statement appealing to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to find out the whereabouts of Seengar Nonari as soon as possible.
The statement said, “.. is alarmed to learn that no information has yet been released as to where Seengar has been detained, the charges being laid against him or even if he will be presented in civilian court. While a petition for his release has been filed in Sindh High Court, it is crucial that his family is immediately notified about his current status.
“Few punishments are as cruel as enforced disappearances and not knowing the whereabouts and fate of their loved one is a source of immense pain and anguish for Seengar’s family.”
PPP Senator Farhat Ullah Babar retweeted Amnesty International’s statement and wrote on Twitter. “State within state unacceptable. Hope CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah will urgently look into it and recover abducted activist Seengar Noonari”
Who is Seengar?
Seengar Noonari, a former councillor of Naseerabad, had contested the 2018 general elections as a candidate for the provincial assembly. According to a statement issued by his party, he is abducted because he mobilised hundreds of workers against Bahria Town’s land grabbing and was preparing for AWP’s Day of Action against Bahria Town when he was arrested. “He has never so much as hurt a fly in his life & has been a living example of non-violent politics. But his lifelong efforts to organise workers are now a threat to elites,” the statement said.
“Stop silencing people who care about this land and its people and are willing to spend their entire lives struggling peacefully to change people’s circumstances. End the crime of abducting & torturing political workers for having a different set of beliefs and a desire for change. Stop silencing the few people trying to make others conscious and free. Let people breathe”
Protest rallies and sit-ins have been held in Naseerabad every day since June 26. The heirs of Seengar say that they will continue protesting till his release. The Awami Workers Party Sindh has also called a grand sit-in in Naseerabad on July 18.