Sloping foreheads, narrow faces, suffering mental disabilities – the rats of Shah Dola present a harrowing picture of manipulation and abuse in the name of faith.
A centuries-old tradition of ritual abuse in Pakistan has shamed humanity for ages – and we have continued to shamelessly accept it. Shah Dola was a widely-followed saint belonging to Seherwardi School of thought. He came to Gujrat during the Aurangzeb’s era. As per the contemporary and worn-out abuse myth, Shah Dola was capable of blessing infertile women with children. People from across the country visited the shrine for the cause. However, the incapable women had to pay a price for it by donating their first child to the shrine as the ‘rat of Shah Dola’ or the rest of the children will be born disabled. These children were forced to wear iron caps, infecting their natural growth.
The deformed children are then seen begging on the shrine, ultimately drawing more attention towards them due to their appearance. They are seen in more cities now, being controlled by a mafia, as the manipulated physical growth leads to mental disabilities and incapability to effectively perform any other income activity except begging.
The locals, however, reject these myths and say that Shah Dola was a ‘wali’ and near to the Almighty who never took children from anyone but Allah blessed infertile couples due to him – and it comes as no surprise. Exploitation of people in the name of faith or for the sake of unfilled wants is a rather repetitive pattern of behaviour but no one dares to question it.
The role of these ‘rats’ only restricts to gaining sympathy and influencing people to financially donate hence making it a despicable and loathsome form of child labour which is punishable both religiously and by state.
It is seen as a criminal offence under section 374 of the PPC as Unlawful Compulsory Labour. Forcing children to beg is a direct violation under Section 36 of the Punjab Destitute and Neglected Children Act 2004. The children at Shah Daulah when sent to beg despite their vulnerable state due to microcephaly, hence their rights as disabled and mentally challenged are abused as well.
This practice continues to this day in 2018 – while we continue to deprive these children of their deserved opportunity to live with our silence.
Via: The Nation
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