Braid Chopping: Faith healers take advantage of govt’s failure

Srinagar: With authorities failing to reach out to the victims of ‘braid chopping’ and providing them with required counseling, ‘faith healers’ are cashing in on the opportunity.

Amid the chaos and confusion, faith healers are minting money from the families of the victims on the pretext of treating them, after they developed symptoms of trauma, depression, painting the post trauma condition as possession.

Some of the cases that have been reported from Central Kashmir’s Budgam district are falling prey into the hands of self styled faith healers, after the families out rightly rejected seeking medical help from the concerned hospitals.

A girl (name withheld) from district Budgam’s Beerwah area, whose braid was allegedly chopped off twice, has finally developed symptoms of depression, which includes waking up in the middle of night and re-experiencing the incident of braid chopping, breathlessness and scare of moving out during the day.

“After her braid was chopped off she was quite okay, however after sometime her braid was again chopped and after that she started behaving strangely. She has turned pale, weak and loss of appetite” said Muhammad Afzal, girl’s father. 

Strangely, the family, instead of reaching out to seek psychiatric help, visited a local faith healer, who said that the girl is showing the signs of possession, which need to be treated immediately.

“The faith healer said that she was possessed by some other worldly creatures and she is not in a need of any medical help, but spiritual healing is all that she needs,” he said.

The family has, as of now, spent not less than 25 thousand rupees and there still is no improvement in her condition, she, as per the family, continues to remain in the same condition with the symptoms of depression only aggravating with each passing day.

When asked that why has not the family taken the girl to the hospital to seek out psychiatric help, he said “I would have taken her to the hospital, but people talk about it in a different way, like she has turned insane and that’s why she is seeking psychiatric help, plus, I was not, and I still am not mentally prepared for that,” he said, adding that I believe that she will improve under his (faith healers) care and supervision.

Medical experts, since the day one have been warning of severe consequences if the authorities failed to reach out the victims of braid chopping, to study the pattern and provide counseling to them, however, half hearted measures taken up by the authorities is leaving the issue as it is.

The case of the girl in Budgam may not be the only case, experts say, there can be many other cases where the self styled faith healers are taking advantage of the situation and are minting money.

“This is only going to turn the situation ugly as they (faith healers) are in no way going to take them out of the trauma. They will only be taking an undue advantage of the situation,” a mental health expert said.

Pertinently, the authorities have formed several teams in various districts across Kashmir to study the braid chopping incidents, but as of now the teams have not been able to come up with any findings, given the fact that the victims are not coming forth.

Authorities till now, have also failed to reach out to the victims. They are just waiting for them to come out and seek help, which is, as per experts, providing a window for faith healers to take an undue advantage of the situation.

Health experts, while calling out to the authorities to start a campaign to reach out to such victims, are also advising people to be cautious of such elements and not to fall prey to their (faith healers’) gimmicks.

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