KASUR: Until 2015, teenage boy Dawar’s (name changed) life was a bit normal in their village Hussain Khanwala of Kasur district. He was studying in a vocational training institute, while his family would work on their farm.
Then the media broke the child abuse scandal, and the fact that Dawar was among the sodomized boys, was not a secret anymore. The secret, which earlier only Dawar’s family and the tormentors had shared for almost three years.
The media coverage and ensuing litigation of the scandal has changed the lives of Dawar and his family altogether.
The scandals involved dozens of children of the locality who had been raped and blackmailed by some local youths for years.
Dawar’s family has migrated to Lahore in a rented house where the boy has mostly turned into a virtual recluse.
“We’re always in the fear that our neighbours will come to know about our connections with Hussain Khanwala,” Dawar sighs.
He says soon after the media coverage of the scandal, the villagers and friends would taunt him. Now, the boy with his father visits Kasur courts on hearing.
Other than Dawar’s family, seven other families of the rape complainant children have also left the village for other destinations they do not want to disclose.
Another boy, whose name also appeared on the list of the raped children, says wherever he goes the scandal chases him.
“Since 2015, I’ve never visited my college where I was a second year student then,” he says.
He said society refused to accept him; the college fellows avoided him; the villagers taunted him while some relatives cut off ties with them.
After the scandal came to the limelight, police sprang into action.
Since 2015, the families of the complainant children have been trapped in litigation.
“Litigation has been consuming our resources and time,” said a grey-headed man, whose son had allegedly been raped and blackmailed by the gang from 2013 to 2015.
He said the rapists had earlier taken away their gold ornaments and Rs300,000 through blackmailing. Now, lawyers’ fees and visits to court had put them under financial duress.
Another complainant said he had to leave his job in a Lahore company in 2016 for his colleagues came to know about his haunting past and started making fun of him which often ended in scuffle.
Now, he is doing another job, where his colleagues only know him a resident of Pattoki.
Not only the abused complainants’ families, other villagers also felt the heat of the scandal.
More than 10 families have left the village due to its bad repute, said a shopkeeper of the village market.
“I also want to leave the village but I cant afford,” he said.
This correspondent collected data on the alleged abused boys and found that most of them had left education.
One of the boys is a vendor in a central Punjab city. Earlier, he would run his family’s convenience store in the village after school.
Another boy, who was a grade 9 student in 2015, now bakes breads at a hotel in Raiwind with a new name. The family of a 10-year-old abused boy migrated to Lahore where they work as domestic help.
Of more than a dozen cases registered into the incident, few accused had been convicted, but the abused children and their families have yet to lead a normal life.
A shopkeeper in the village said that Hussain Khanwala used to be a centre of business and civic activities for several surrounding villages but, after the scandal, the village market, consisting of over 200 shops, presents a deserted look.
“It’s not the same lively village anymore,” he said.
Affected families told Dawn that soon after the scandal, several government functionaries and civil society activists had thronged the village promising justice, rehabilitation and future opportunities for the families. “Nothing better happened since the breaking of the scandal. In fact, how the media, government and civil society used the incident for their interest is also a scandal,” said one of the complainant boy’s elder brother.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017