Kashmir, famous for its saints and holiness, has unfortunately been introduced to a very unholy and exploitive realm of self styling faith healers who exploit people mentally, psychologically and sexually in the name of religion.
In a report published by the Kashmir Reader on 11th July this year, it came to light that Aijaz Sheikh, a self-proclaimed “godman”, had subjected, at least, innumerable children to sexual abuse. This man is also accused of performing unnatural and oral sex with “male children” of tender age, and trust me, when a person reads the narratives of these innocent children who were exploited, it surely sends shivers down the spine (not to forget the infamous Gulzar Peer who was convicted of sexually abusing scores of women in the name of faith healing).
There are innumerable such cases in the state related to these matters that are under the wraps due to the fear factor or blackmailing for the same.
So how do these often aged and supposedly holy men take advantage of people in the name of faith while preaching against vice?
A typical faith healer runs his business through the help of an aide, who works as an advertiser for him bringing people in. The self-styled gurus assume the role of counsellor, offering an answer to the dissonance and stresses of modern life, triggered by high-speed socio-economic transformation, dislocation of communities and the atomization of society.
Starting out as small time preachers from villages and towns in the rural hinterland, these so-called holy men cultivate a relationship with poor locals and over time, they acquire cult status commanding a huge following (and sometimes even political connections) to camouflage their nefarious activities.
They promise the return of estranged lovers, marriage with the person of your choice, children for childless parents, removal of evil spirits and cures for all ailments. The cure is always a few ritualistic prayers and religious text incantations, a practice more commonly known as faith healing.
The scope for abuse of trust is enormous. Often, even the family of the alleged victim prefers the pir’s version to that of a blood relative.
Considered an alternative to medical treatment, faith healing is practised by large groups of followers of many religions – Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism – all with their own variations. Despite being a Muslim majority state, such illicit acts still happen here.
Over time, the practice has become a profitable business, with hundreds of faith healers or pirs exploiting unsuspecting people for money, claiming they have the solutions to everything from a broken relationship to financial woes to black magic. Many fall prey to the silk robes these “godmen” wear believing they are true saviors, and afterwards blind faith takes over. Despite the scandals and the fall from grace, there is no dearth of self-styled “godmen” operating in Jammu and Kashmir.
Mostly, it is the poverty of the people’s or victims’ knowledge about fundamentals of creed that provides the opportunity and fertile ground for fraudsters to thrive in disguise on the name of spiritualism and mysticism. Such people are known to use tricks like hypnotism, mesmerism, magic and so on to con people and make them believe about their supernatural powers.
It doesn’t really matter if these charlatans are hucksters who are out for a buck and do not really believe the nonsense they claim or well-meaning souls who have allowed their human ability for infinite self-delusion lead them to believe that they really do have magical powers to heal. The end result is the same, either way.
The author is a law student at Central University of Kashmir and a regular blogger at huzaifkhanpori.wordpress.com. He can reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org