Many people like us (PLU) have been left either bewildered or would rather not take seriously the ugly disclosures emanating from the arrest of Theatre Age's Zulfiqar Khan. Thankfully, I am not one of them.
Our family was associated with his NGO since its inception. We had been contributing newspapers/empty liquor bottles regularly and household goods on occasion. Our family, including my late mother, visited Theatre Age in Sector 24 sometime in 2007-2008 to donate a new stereo system. We blessed Khan repeatedly. Undoubtedly, Khan's achievements were substantial towards the cause of forgotten street kids.
However, in 2013, I woke up one morning to find Kanwarpal and two of his associates at our door. Kanwarpal is the complainant to the police, whose efforts led to Khan's arrest. In turn, Khan alleges Kanwarpal fell out with him over money sharing and had, therefore, an axe to grind.
Anyways, Kanwarpal told me in 2013 that they had broken off as a small group and set up a fledgling NGO, Education First. He narrated a tale of sordid events transpiring in Khan's inner circles. Not just sodomy, he told me of corruption and unbridled nepotism. That cops were shielding Khan as he enjoyed clout and VIP links. I asked him for evidence, but Kanwarpal handed me a list of allegations. I guided him to prepare his case diligently, gather evidence that would stand scrutiny in a court of law, and then come back to me so that I could report substantiated allegations in the media.
I also took the decision, right then in 2013, to stop donating to Khan. We were the first of the families, along with that of Divya (1225, Sector 19, Chandigarh), to shift donations to Education First in 2013. As an investigative reporter, I had smelt a rat in Khan's set-up, though I did not have the means then to set up the proverbial mouse-trap!
However, my act to shift donations greatly alarmed Khan and his relatives. They rang me up repeatedly pleading innocence. One of Khan's nephews even landed up at my house to get me to change my mind. I refused. Khan kept sending his pick-up van to our house. I did not entertain his employees. This desperation heightened my suspicions.
Kanwarpal told me in 2013 that another family (Kanwaljit Singh, 240, Sector 9, Chandigarh) had shifted donations to Education First and that Khan's men had adopted similar tactics and even assaulted Kanwarpal at that house when he went to pick up 'raddi'. He had filed a police complaint then against that assault.
Time glided by until June 27 this year, when out of the blue, Kanwarpal rang me up. He said he had gathered evidence the way I had suggested. He wanted to meet me. I gave him a morning appointment the next day, but he did not turn up. That evening he rang me up, but I could not respond to the call as I was preoccupied. He did not ring up again, and I also lapsed by not ringing him back.
A few days later, the fury of the Khan storm broke out in the tricity media. Kanwarpal told me later that after our meeting failed to materialise, he had joined up with a group. The group had reviewed Kanwarpal's approach and decided to approach the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights rather than approach the media first, that is me. The irony of Khan shielding his face with a newspaper as the media hounded him at the court hearing on July 13 is such a powerful metaphor for the rise and fall of the 'raddi king's raj'.