Most attractive boy was picked after every session of forced group sex: Survivors speak up against Kashmir maulvi
About 60 km away from Srinagar is a tiny village that is a living nightmare for countless children. This is Mondji, near Sopore town, where a self-styled faith healer has been accused of raping scores of minor boys on the pretext of summoning jinns to drive away evil “nazar” from his so-called patients.
The Kashmir police have booked Aijaz Sheikh, called Maulvi Sahab by locals, under Section 377 of the state’s Ranbir Penal Code and filed a charge sheet in court. Absence of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in RPC has prevented access to justice for children who have been sexually abused. Mail Today spoke to Sheikh and his relatives who said he was being falsely implicated in the case by a family who had taken money from him and not returned it.
The accused is married and has three children, including two boys and a girl.
“My elder brother is a pious man and he is being framed. Every Sunday, his followers swarm at his house seeking his blessings so that he would not have a single minute to speak to you,” said Aijaz’s elder brother, requesting anonymity.
When Mail Today met Sheikh, he said, “I am innocent. You do not even have to trust me; you can ask anyone in the village and you will get the idea of the reputation I hold.”
While responding to a question about the jinns he claims to have, and how he heals people, Sheikh said he only gives taweez (amulets) to people to treat them and not any kind of medicines. “If I had them (jinns) then, I would have them now too,” said Sheikh who met Mail Today in the court. According to the victims, the Peer was approached by his followers to get rid of their problems ranging from love life to business to health. They alleged that he claimed to have jinns under his control who would only speak to a male child below 14 years of age.
STRATEGY TO TRAP
His followers would ask around and relatives would readily send young boys to stay with the accused.
“He had a strategy to trap us. He would trap us in guilt and use it against us. We were put through uncomfortable questions. He would ask us if we ever got physically intimate with a girl or if we like someone.,” a victim, who is now an adult, told Mail Today.
“His favourite question was if we masturbate. What do you expect from a 14-year-old kid? He would humiliate us to the core for sinning and being the cause of the problems of our families. He would use the guilt to sexually exploit us,” he added. “A lot of people ask us why we did not come forward before. We were children who were vulnerable, scared to the core. Deep within, we were battling if we should fight the assault or succumb to it,” he said.
“It has taken us several years to come out of the trauma. Being men, we are not allowed to be vulnerable or timid. We have the burden of maintaining our reputation of the entire gene pool,” he added.
This reporter met several victims who, after the abuse of several years, have finally come out to fight. They said in court that they were told if they revealed the incident to someone, they would be vanished by a ghost or devoured by jinn. “I met this Peer at a mosque and I was quite impressed the way he read prayers,” said a follower of the the Peer of many years.
“His aura was attractive. I learnt about his alleged healing powers and approached him as I was facing problems at work.” “Believing him, I sent my innocent nephew to him and later unknowingly pushed another nephew into this nightmare. Last year, I got to know about his evil act and it angers me. These people take advantage of people’s innocence and exploit children.”
The court granted bail to the accused after he contended that he needed time to prepare for his defence. His counsel, Bashir Ahmad Mallah, told Mail Today that the case is in the initial stages of trial. The court is scheduled to hear the case again on September 27.
Peer Aijaz Sheikh has indeed left indelible scars on his alleged victims. Speaking to Mail Today, the rape survivors recall chilling tales of abuse, fear and pain inflicted upon by Sheikh, who has been accused of raping minor boys in Kashmir on the pretext of warding off evil by summoning jinns .
The alleged victims of Sheikh, known as Maulvi Sahab among locals, were so naive that some of them even thought that they would get pregnant and for years lived in the fear of having contracted sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some of the rape survivors have reportedly developed medical complications after being sodomised.
The victims alleged that they had no choice but to quietly follow the Peer’s directions as their families had blind faith in him. Sheikh is currently out on bail and the next hearing of the case in scheduled for September 27.
RAPE SURVIVORS SPEAK UP
Here are some of the quotes from the survivors of Sheikh’s abuse:
“One night, there were around 10-11 children at Aijaz Sheikh’s house. He forced us to rape each other until early morning. He was watching us and then decided to rape the boy, whom he deemed to be the most attractive.”
“I was sent there for almost 3 years and was sexually abused more than 500 times. I had intestinal bleeding and developed rectal ulcers and other medical complications with time.”
“I remember pleading with him that I can’t do it because I had a fever. He then changed his mind and made me perform oral sex on him.”
“The reoccurring flashbacks can be so painful at times. It is like watching a movie in HD with your eyes closed. You can’t do anything about it. You can’t run away from it. It is your mind showing you the worst nightmares of your life. The harder you try to stop it, the more frustrating it gets.”
“There was a time when I really started hating men with long beards. It would remind me of Aijaz Sheikh’s abuse. His beard would touch my shoulders and neck while he would rape me. It has taken me a long time and plenty of courage to overcome that trauma.”
“During my first counselling session, I ended up crying for hours. I had never thought that the pain and trauma inflicted upon me would be so deep. I could tell my counsellor was having an equally tough time dealing with my trauma.”
“I was lying naked next to him and he asked me to turn around. He then started touching my backside with his penis. After a while, he asked me in Kashmiri, ‘be hyeka thok lagaewith’ which means: Can I put some spit on your anus? I was dumbstruck and too traumatised to say anything back to him. He put some spit on my anus and inserted his penis. He did it with all his brute force and for a second I felt like the soul left my body. I still remember him saying, ‘kinh chun parwaaye godnik phir chu Lagaan’ which means: It is ok, it hurts for the first time.”
“I remember Aijaz Sheikh telling me to close my anus while he removed his penis after having come inside of me. I used to think that it is important to close my anus, otherwise my intestines would come out. So I would try my best to close it as much as I could. He would moan and later praise me for being a brave boy.”
“One night my friend and I were compelled to spend the night at Sheikh’s house and he shocked us both by forcing my friend to penetrate me. He had no choice, and neither did I. My friend penetrated me and I felt like dying with shame. It still haunts me even after 17 years. But, we haven’t uttered a word about this out of fear of what Sheikh may do to us through his Jinns.”
Interestingly, the Peer’s alleged abuse dates back to the time when he used to teach Quran and Arabic in a school. “I was in Class 4 when I met the Peer. One day he took me to his leisure house in Dangerpora. He would tell his followers to bring a child aged 12 or below, and let the child to spend the night with him. When I was there he told me that I had to sleep in his room, for which I would get money. Soon I found his dark side. He would rape me while pretending to be possessed by jinn. But one day, he mistakenly exposed himself to me and then I realised that I was being abused. I got angry on hearing this and gathered courage to threaten him,” said an alleged victim, who was also his student.
SURVIVORS SHOWING SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
Mail Today also spoke to the psychologist who is counseling some of the rape survivors in this case. She said these victims have shown symptoms of depression, anxiety, guilt and fear.
“It is not just their physical health, but even their emotional and mental wellbeing have been deeply impacted. The incident has affected their desire to live.” While the matter is in the court, the absence of a child protection Act like POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) has devoid the victims of the sensitive approach to deal with such cases. According to child rights’ activist and advocate Anant Asthana, a special law like POCSO is the need of the hour in Jammu and Kashmir to help child victims of sexual offences in availing support from authorities, immediate compensation and a stringent criminal justice system for speedy trial.
“Good thing in POCSO Act is that it not only takes in account the vulnerabilities of victims but also takes cognisance if criminals are the persons who hold authority, influence or dominance over the child in any manner. May be not the entire POCSO Act but a substantial part of it, which strengthens a child victim of sexual offence, must be legislated in J&K. It brings in focus that victims of sexual offences can also be a male child and it is as horrendous as rape of a female child.” Asthana said not only a special law but also an independent and strong state commission for protection of child rights in J&K is very essential. “In fact, we need to think of bringing a law better than POCSO because circumstances of children in J&K are much more difficult and complicated. We need to pay more attention on aspects of maintaining absolute privacy of children, more effective measures for protection of victims and witnesses and increased financial allocations for rehabilitation of victims of sexual offences.”