Christian Dairy Farm Worker Shot by Employers Fights for His Life in Hospital

A 17-year-old Christian youth, Sandeep Masih, son of Sabir Masih, was critically injured by gunfire in Jagowal village near Nowshera Virkan, Gujranwala. The incident, which occurred on July 1st, has highlighted the dire circumstances and discrimination faced by the Christian minority in the region.

Nowshera Virkan, a town west of Gujranwala, is known for its rice-growing villages. Jagowal, one of these villages, has about 15 Christian households. Most of the Christians here work as labourers for Muslim landlords, engaging in menial tasks such as feeding animals, cleaning, and caring for crops. Instead of a salary, they are often compensated with wheat, rice, or milk.

On the day of the incident, Sabir Masih recounted that around 1 PM, Muslim boys Rashid (son of Shakeel Ahmed), Sufiyan, and Shani (son of Aslam) took his son Sandeep and cousin Faisal to put pesticide in the fields. While Faisal and the others began working, Sandeep, who has a lung condition, sat outside the fields, unable to participate. This angered the Muslim boys, who then called Sandeep into the fields and demanded he help. When Sandeep explained his health condition, they began beating him severely. The violence escalated when Sufiyan, also known as Shani, pulled out a pistol and fired at Sandeep. The first shot missed, but the second hit Sandeep near his left shoulder, close to his heart, exiting below his shoulder bones.

Sandeep fell unconscious on the spot. Fortunately, Rana Yusuf and Shahbaz, who were passing by on a motorbike from Hafizabad, witnessed the incident. The assailants fled the scene, leaving Sandeep in critical condition. He was rushed to THQ Hospital Nowshera before being transferred to Gondal Hospital in Gujranwala for further treatment.

Due to the immediate need to save his son, Sabir Masih could only file a First Information Report (FIR) the following day. The FIR was lodged under sections 324 and 34 TP at the Nowshera Virkan police station. Despite this, the perpetrators remain at large. Sabir has called upon the Christian community for support, highlighting their impoverished state. The family's plight is further illustrated by the testimony of Sandeep's aunt, Kubra, who works on the same dairy farm. Kubra explained that their financial situation is so dire that she hasn't been able to visit her nephew in the hospital. She also mentioned the lack of pastoral support in their village, with a pastor visiting only two or three times a month.

This tragic incident underscores the harsh realities faced by Christian labourers in rural Pakistan. Despite owning houses, they live in abject poverty, working under oppressive conditions with minimal wages. The attack on Sandeep is not just a personal tragedy but a stark reminder of the systemic discrimination and violence that marginalized communities endure.

The Christian community in Jagowal and neighbouring areas are now rallying for justice and support for Sandeep's family. This incident has also sparked calls for greater protection and equal rights for religious minorities in Pakistan. As Sandeep fights for his life, his family and community hope for justice and a future where they can live without fear and oppression. The local authorities are urged to take swift action to apprehend the culprits and ensure the safety and rights of the Christian minority in Nowshera Virkan.