Rape of Christian girls in Ferozewala

Ambreen Fatima Six girls of a village near Lahore were gang raped when they were returning from work late one night. These girls worked in a factory on Sheikhupura Road, about 20 kilometers away from their village. Besides them 3 other women (and 2 men) were also in the bus carrying them. Their village Chak 44 is the last stop on the route of one of the buses provided by the factory. On the fateful night of May 3, 2000 the buses left the factory at 11:00 pm. Shortly after leaving GT Road at about 12:30, the bus was intercepted by five dacoits when it slowed down to cross the railway lines. The driver was commanded on gun point to take the bus off the road, well into a slope where the dacoits tied the driver and the male workers and took turns to rape the girls. Two women were spared because of their age and one girl was not touched reportedly because her brother was among the male workers travelling in the bus. The dacoits also searched all passengers for valuables. They released all of them before dawn and fled towards the main GT Road. Subjected to ultimate humiliation, the girls faced another conflict when they reached home. Families of the girls, all Christians incidentally, were not in the favour of registering the case with the police as they feared further humiliation and trouble. “It will be impossible to marry our girls if we make the news public”, they advised each other. What they were missing was that the news would travel nevertheless. However appropriate action by them coupled with an effort by the police could have averted further incidents of this kind. The driver of the bus however brought up the case. Before registering the FIR the police too `opined’ that including charges of gang rape would make life difficult for the girls and their families. Finally an FIR was registered for criminal intimidation and outraging modesty of women. The facts of the case came to light only when a section of the press published the full story and consequently the charges of sexual crime were included in the proceedings. Since then the alleged culprits have been arrested and police is promising to arrest more who appear to be involved. The police has come up with the formula story in such cases of involvement of a girl in the incident. They propound that the whole episode was a revenge taken by an ex-worker of the factory whose illicit relations with one of the culprits were reported to the factory supervisors. All that the police has done here is to play up this possibility to cover the ever-increasing dacoities in this notorious area and its own inability to control the law and order situation. The police dissuaded the victims and their families from including the charge of gang rape because it is a heinous crime and tells badly on the record of the police station. There could have been other considerations before the police which are not going to be discussed here. The most glaring act of irresponsibility is on the part of the factory management. Any factory that observes a routine schedule of 8 am to 10 pm for a single shift is liable to heavy penalties under labour laws. All the workers of the factory and others involved were unanimous in saying that the factory had no fixed closing time. “Sometimes the workers were required to stay at the factory, up all night, into the next day, till 10:00 pm”, one of them said. This happened when the factory had to meet a deadline for an order but usually it would close down at 10:00 pm. Cruel and inhuman by any standards. What is more criminal is that the workers including women had to travel back to their homes at late hours which increased their vulnerability to such horrific incidents as this one. WAR, other human rights organisations and Christian bodies are all trying to help the victim families but their efforts can only be helpful if the families are not misguided into forgiving and forgetting.

Rape of Christian girls in Ferozewala