Sopre: Sopore: Aijaz Sheikh, a self-styled faith healer and godman, must have subjected at least thousands of children to sexual abuse, claims one of the victims. Mutayib, now 34 years old (name changed to protect the identity of the victim) alleges that Sheikh has been sexually abusing children for over two decades.
Hailing from Mundji village, near Sopore town, the faith healer has been accused of raping scores of minor boys on the pretext of summoning jinns to drive away “evil eye” from his gullible victims. Police have already booked Aijaz under Section 377 of the state’s Ranbir Penal Code and filed a charge sheet in court.
“Let’s assume he has abused children for only 20 years. A minimum of five to seven children used to stay at Sheikh’s house for the night – usually on Thursday and Saturday nights. If we assume only five children were sexually abused by him every week when a minimum of more than 10 children would spend nights there, it means a minimum of 5000 children have been subjected to sexual abuse by him in the past two decades,” the victim told Kashmir Reader.
Mutayib’s ordeal began in 2002 when he was raped by Sheikh at his sister’s house for the first time and two more times at his house in Mundji.
“Sheikh had floated a theory at that time that he possesses some supernatural powers (djinns), which can cure any disease and solve any problem. However, he would tell people that his djinns only speak to children aged below 14 years. My uncle, who had suffered huge losses in business, took me there because Sheikh had promised him a solution to all his problems with the same condition that he will have to bring a child below the age of 14 years to speak to his djinns,” Mutayib noted.
Clueless about what was being done to him, the victim, now, recounts the ordeal.
“I was raped three times and twice he wanted me to rape kids who were younger than me on two different nights. I remained silent because I didn’t have the courage to speak up. When Sheikh raped me in 2002, he manipulated me into thinking that it was my fault that I was raped. In addition to that, he threatened me that if I ever reveal how he subjected me to sexual abuse, his (so-called) djinns would not only destroy my life but my family too. Moreover, in a society like ours, the social stigma attributed to rape victims is so huge that it is impossible for a child sexual abuse survivor, especially a male survivor to speak up.”
A child’s father filed a complaint against Aijaz Sheikh on March 2, 2016, after his son had told him that Sheikh has subjected him to sexual abuse for more than 50 times in the past four years.
“This was the turning point and I immediately approached the police, met this kid and later managed to meet more victims of Sheikh’s abuse. Some agreed to come forward and record their statements, while others despite being ready couldn’t because their families didn’t support them,” Mutayib added.
He has a word of caution for parents. “In a society like ours, it is the victim who has to bear the burden of shame rather than the perpetrator. Unless this mindset is changed, our children will remain silent and keep suffering in isolation. The onus should be on teachers and parents to teach children about ‘safe touch’ and ‘unsafe touch’.”
The case is currently in the trial stage and the prosecution witnesses are being called one by one to testify against Sheikh. So far, one victim and two witnesses have testified against Sheikh. “However, only one hearing out of the last 10 hearings took place. A couple of times it the hearing didn’t take place because of strike, a few times the judge was on leave and a few other times Sheikh didn’t show up on the hearing date.”
Confident that justice will be done to him and countless others who have been raped and abused by Aijaz, Mutayib concluded, “Although the case has been delayed for too long and the whole process is painful in itself, we won’t give up.”