In the rural outskirts of Sindh, a heartbreaking incident unfolded as Jammu Masih, a 28-year-old Christian farm worker, saw his entire world crumble when his mudbrick house succumbed to a fierce blaze.
The calamity struck when a sparking straw from a burning pile of cotton residue on a nearby farm found its way to the husky roof of Jammu’s humble abode.
Initially the family received an apology from the landowner who later threatened violence if they sought compensation. Eventually the landlord offered to pay £50 if the family agreed to enter into a slavery contract, which the family have refused till now.
The consequences were dire, leaving the impoverished family grappling with the loss of not just their home but also their possessions, including wheat, money, kitchen utensils, clothes, blankets, and rope beds.
On the unfortunate day of October 24th, while Jammu Masih and his family were diligently working in a farm three kilometers away from their home at Panchak Mod, Ravtiani Stop Sindh, tragedy struck. A call from a concerned neighbor alerted Jammu that his house was engulfed in flames. Despite his desperate attempt to reach the scene on a motorbike, the ruthless fire had already devoured everything by the time he arrived.
Jammu Masih, devastated by the loss, recounted, “This terrible news shattered the ground beneath my feet. I hurriedly rushed toward my house, but the merciless fire had eaten away all my property before I could do anything to save anything.”
The fire not only claimed the house but also wiped out the family’s hard-earned belongings, including clothing, blankets, rope beds, kitchen utensils, and the precious wheat stored in a metal chest. The devastating incident left the family with nothing to eat, as their entire food supply was also consumed by the flames.
Jammu Masih, displaying resilience in the face of adversity, stated, “During the recent harvest season, we had collected around 80 kg of wheat grains, which was locked up in a metal chest to keep it safe. But the fire has also destroyed it. I have nothing except my faith and hope in my Lord who surely will provide us.”
Despite the calamity, Jammu Masih received no assistance from the landlord who had provided the family with a small piece of land for their mudbrick house.
In a surprising and disheartening turn of events, the family initially received an apology followed by threats of harm when they reached out to the landowner seeking compensation for the fire caused by work on his land. To make matters worse, he later proposed a meager £50 payment in exchange for the family entering into a reprehensible slavery contract, a proposal that the family has steadfastly rejected up to this point.
Fearful of existing indebtedness, Jammu Masih refrained from seeking help from the landlord, leaving the family to cope with their loss on their own.
Jammu Masih is not alone in his struggle. Many poor families, belonging to Christian and Hindu faiths in Sindh, lead nomadic lives, exploited by landlords in various ways. The meager wages, as low as Rs. 700 (£2.12) for a full day’s labor in the farm, make survival a constant challenge for these families.
Amidst the despair, there is a glimmer of hope as compassionate neighbors provided Jammu Masih with blankets and cooked food. The support from the community offered some solace to the grieving family. However, the tragic incident has forced them to sleep on the ground under the open sky, deprived even of their rope beds that were lost in the fire.
Conclusion: The story of Jammu Masih sheds light on the harsh realities faced by marginalized communities in rural Sindh. It underscores the need for collective efforts to address the challenges and provide support to those who find themselves on the fringes of society, grappling with loss and rebuilding their lives from scratch.
The family has reached out for assistance to cover the expenses of rebuilding their home and replacing some of their belongings. A sum of £500 would go a long way in restoring much of what was lost. We are launching an appeal to rally support for this family during these challenging times. Your generous donation can make a significant impact, and you are warmly invited to contribute (here).
Juliet Chowdhry, trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, expressed deep concern, stating, “This already impoverished family is now grappling with overwhelming challenges in their quest for financial stability, all stemming from a freak accident entirely beyond their control. Their current living conditions are perilous, with nothing more than a cloth serving as a makeshift roof to shield them from the elements. The family is left with only badly damaged cooking utensils, the scant clothes they had on during the fire, and a few small donations. As the winter months approach, the harsh cold and lack of adequate shelter put them at risk of illness and disease.”
She further emphasized, “The landlord’s indifference has plunged the family into significant debt, as he obstinately shirks responsibility for the actions of his workers that resulted in the devastation of Jammu Masih’s home. Despite the family’s steadfast refusal to succumb to a slavery contract, the looming financial strain might force them into this undesirable arrangement without external assistance. BACA aims to alleviate them from the burden of this agonizing choice.”