Advocate Veerji Kolhi belongs to a village Dhanagaon in Nagarparkar – a desert area that has been facing drought for years now. Whenever the drought hits Nagarparkar, thousands of families migrate in search of work to bigger towns. In 1988, while Veerji was studying in 5th class, his family also migrated and they went to a place called Juddo in Mirpur Khaas where the family worked as bonded laborers under the control of a feudal landlord. Veerji and his sister Krishna resumed studying there. When people from Nagarparkar leave for bigger towns, they don’t have any familiarity with the new area, they do not hold the influence or any rights since they are Hindu and considered minorities , so many times the feudal landlords of those areas force them into bonded labor. Veerji’s family were forced to work there and after 7 months when they wanted to return, the landlord demanded them to pay Rs.65, 000 for the work that they they had done or continue working there by force. His family could not afford basic food items to be able to pay the exhorbatent amount of Rs. 65,000 so they continued working there. The feudal landlord requested to Veerji’s father after 6 months, that if his children would study, who would do the extra work? Veerji and his sister Krishna had to leave school and work there for the next 4 years by force to pay the landlord. During that time Veerji’s uncle who himself was free of bonded labor found out about a person named Shakeel Pathan from the organization HRCP in Hyderabad helping people release from bonded labor. He told them about Veerji’s family after which they were released in 1992. After the release Veerji resumed his studies while working as a clerk in an agriculture farm with a police officer Muhammad Nawaz araayein. Veerji always talks very high of him as that police officer also supported Veerji in getting private education from 1992 to 2005.
This was when his life took a major turn and he met Dr. Fouzia Saeed in Hyderabad. Besides many other meaningful roles that Dr. Fouzia plays, she is also the director of an NGO called Mehergarh and she asked Veerji to attend a 2-months residential training on leadership in Mehergarh Islamabad. By 2005. He excitedly attended the training and received the most outstanding student award in recognition for his accomplishments. Nazish Brohi then published his interview in newsline and another was screened with Toseeq Haider on PTV. Veerji believes Dr. Fozia to be a light in his life when he was in the dark. He considers her his teacher, mother and he is never done with being grateful to Dr. Fozia for changing him from a farmer to a lawyer to a leader. He was taught tools of leadership, human rights, gender equality in the training and he learned it for life. He said that after attending the training when he returned, he couldn’t bear the oppression and exploitation being faced by his people and started the journey of becoming a lawyer and human rights activist fighting for the rights of people.
He got thousands of people released from bonded labor and contributed in raising and working on countless issues. In 2010, Veerji advocated in Kastoori Kolhi’s rape case. Veerji raised a media campaign on Kastoori Kohli’s case and he took it to Supreme Court after which the Chief Justice took a suo moto action against it . The people involved in the rape of Kastoori Kohli were also punished, but the rape was done by the son of a powerful feudal landlord who tortured Veerji for four days in a dark room and denied him food or water. Veerji also suffered physical and emotional abuse because he chose to stand for justice. From that time on Veerji’s life went into serious danger. He was shot at while he was in his car with his family constantly harassed and there were false cases filed against him , a case of stealing a cow and eventually a murder case in 2011 that happened in Nagarparkar while he himself was in Hyderabad. Veerji has ample witnesses proving this fact. from 2011 to 2017, Veerji has attended around 143 court hearings, spending money on travelling, lawyers and giving so much time of his life to an accusation that is clearly false. There is an international demand the Veerji Kohli be released from Hyderabad central jail with all charges dropped and Veerji being completely Free of any and all criminal charges that have been alleged against him. Veerji Kolhi is innocent. His work has brought an impoverished community hope for a better future . Veerji is an inspiration to his community. His Freedom and Leadership are necessary for the continued protection of the indigenous people of Sindh, Pakistan.
Zemira Eli Natan
International Unity for Freedom and Equality