The following information is provided by the Chairman of Anjuman-e-Muzareen Punjab (AMP) and it is mainly oral without documentary proof.
The Military Dairy Farm Okara comprises of six military farms. These farms cover an area of 18 chaks numbered as 3/4-L, 4/4-L, 5-A/4-L, 6/4-L, 8/4-L, 9/4-L, 10/4-L, 11/4-L, 12/4-L, 13/4-L, 17/4-L, 18/4-L, 20/4-L, 24/4-L, 25/4-L, 26/4-L, 44/3-R, and 45/3-R. In the early 20th century, land of the farm had been given to the ancestors of the peasants for cultivation and Abadkarai (habition) by the Government of British India. At that time, much of this region was infertile that could not be used for farming. The tenants were given the land with the promise that the peasants would be granted permanent ownership of the land once they succeeded in making it productive. The ancestors of the peasants succeeded in making the land fertile after much hardship, but the promise of ownership rights was not fulfilled.
Due to the environment created before the First World War, the Government of British India planned to set up several farms to meet the needs of military personnel. One of these farms named Military Dairy Farm Okara was set up in 1913. The government did not disturb the possession of the ancestors and they continued their tenancies under Military Farm Management. The land had been given on lease of 20 year which had expired in 1933 and it had never renewed.
The total land of military Dairy Farm Okara was 17013 acres out of which 5000 acres were in direct cultivation of the management while 12013 acres land was in possession of the tenants. Out of 12013 acre land 1000 acres land was spread over in the Chak # 26/4-L and 24/4-L. In these Chaks, 80% land had been possessed and cultivated by ancestors of Christian peasants.
After the partition of the sub-continents, in 1958, the land went waterlogged and could not be cultivated therefore, the peasants had to move around for earning their livelihood. In 1998, when the land returned to normal, the peasants came back and began farming. In 2000, the Military forcefully possessed the land for the purpose of Military Training Camp. The tenants did not want to leave the possession but Military vacant the land. However, the Military had not built any training camp but used that land for agricultural purpose.
The ancestors of the tenants occupied the under the valid authorities as sub-tenants of the former lessee. On setting up of the Military farm, they were allowed to continue at tenants but this condition had not been applied to their descendants. The other Military Farms are in possession of the tenants on which they are cultivating.
The Provincial Government had introduced many Abadkari Schemes during the last several years in which proprietary rights had been given to the tenants at a nominal rates. But with the tenants of the Chak # 24/4-L and 26/4-L had left without land.
Over 500 peasants had been earning their daily bread from that land. But after the possession of the Military, their lives turned to morning. They all were poor and unskilled people who knew only cultivation. They had no source of income to pursue the matter in the court. On the other hand, the military is the most powerful institution of the country and even the government had never dared to stand before the military.
The 500 peasants get together for their hereditary rights and after a struggle of 9 years; they managed to submit an application to the Board of Revenue Punjab in May 2009 on behalf of Rasheed Masih son of Barkat Masih. But the application had not been entertained properly due to the significant status of the Military.
Munawar Bibi who is president of the AMP, Dr. Chanan Pehalwan, senior Supreme Council member AMP and AMP chairman Younis Iqbal Founder of AMP are leading this movement. In Revenue Board’s documents they have their names as the ones plowing the land till 80’s. Later on they
On 1st July 2010 about 500 Christians and 200 muslims would enter the land and occupy it. Then we will give them legal help if any criminal case filed against them. Along with that a civil lawsuit for stay order will be filed. However, full consensus hasn’t yet developed whether they should go for the stay order or they should wait until the other party takes any legal action. One major reason is that our party hasn’t been able to get the agreement between Military Farms administration according to which the land was transferred to the Okara Cantonment Army — 40 Division and Engineering Corps. According to them the purpose of this transfer was for war practices of the army but they gave it to contractors for cultivation.
Spoke person Younis Iqbal
Founder of AMP