- Workers claim up to 150 affectedBy Faraz Khan KARACHI: One of them saw a man with red eyes. Another said he was slapped. Others said that something grabbed them out of nowhere. By the time a handful of workers fell unconscious at the SM Dyeing and Garments Factory in SITE, mass hysteria had broken loose.
Nine unconscious workers were taken to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and Zainul Abideen hospital on Saturday amid claims that the factory had been overtaken by a jinn or evil spirit. There were claims that up to 150 of them had been affected at the factory which is located near Nauroz Chowrangi in SITE.
The problem started about six days ago at the three-storey building where nearly 1,600 workers come in two shifts. Some of them complained of not feeling well. According to factory worker Mohammad Saeed, everything was alright until they installed a tap on the third floor (stitching department) near a spot reserved for prayers. Eventually people starting spitting paan and gutka there and some people even used it for urination, he claimed.
“I saw a man with red eyes,” said 20-something Nadia from her hospital bed. “The man was calling to me.” She arrived complaining of pains so bad they made her scream. A man claiming to be a faith healer tried to cut her hair at the hospital as a cure, but was luckily shooed away from the staff.
The strange things such as the slapping and hitting and apparitions started to take place on the second and then the first and ground floors. “I have being worked in both shifts for the last five years,” said foreman Shakir. “But I never saw anything like this.”
The workers approached the management over their fears that jinns had been attracted to the spot and were possessing people. The management thought it was just an excuse against working. “The management was discussing dismissing us and giving the work to others on contract,” alleged worker Jehanzaib. Then five of them fainted on Saturday and the numbers rose.
The workers started to protest, which included damaging some vehicles belonging to the factory. The management gave in and called for ambulances. Edhi Foundation’s Abdul Sattar Edhi and deputy provincial speaker Shehla Raza reached the hospital.
“I felt that there are some people who were hired to spread this fear among the people,” Raza said.
The doctors who treated these patients kept reminding them that they were Muslims and hence had no reason to be afraid. “We are here for you,” they said. Dr Sidra told Daily Times that the workers could have developed a temporary neurological condition. Medico Legal Officer (MLO) Dr Yasmin Qamar said that she and her team, including psychiatrists, did not believe the workers were possessed. Blood samples have been taken and sent for testing.
“It could be a case of possession,” said factory owner Shaheen Merchant.
Work will continue at the factory nonetheless. Site SP Ather Rasheed said that the area had a large number of factories in a congested area. Temperatures had also risen over the past few days. The SP said that they had some leads into a dispute between the factory owners and the workers.
Source: Daily Times, 1/6/2008