Trigger warning: graphic references to sexual and physical violence; child rape and child sexual abuse.
I have been trying to understand Aijaz Sheikh’s mind and how he managed to fulfil his penchant for violence for more than 2 decades and how he got away with the crime for so long. Aijaz Sheikh is accused of having raped thousands of children in North Kashmir, as young as 10 years old, in the past 2 and half decades.
I came to the conclusion that it is actually not him who is smart enough to have gotten away with the crime, but the cowardice of the people around him who gave him various lifelines from time to time.
Aijaz Sheikh started his journey as a madrassa student somewhere in West India and after spending a few years there, he was apparently beaten and kicked out of the madrassa for reasons unknown. Given his history of sexual abuse of over 20 years, it is very likely that he was kicked out of the madrassa on charges of sexual abuse.
I wish the madrassa officials had filed a case against him instead of simply kicking him out. I believe they deliberately didn’t file a complaint against him for it would have raised questions about the safety of children and the overall functioning of the madrassa. By kicking him out, Sheikh was actually provided with a chance to start life afresh and sexually abuse more and more children at his convenience.
Upon his return to Kashmir, Sheikh impressed some people with his recitation of the Quran in a village in Handwara and became an Imam. Knowing that there is a tradition in Kashmir where an Imam not only leads prayers in a mosque but also teaches the Quran to children in his spare time, he might have chosen the profession after giving it good thought.
Aijaz Sheikh didn’t lead prayers in this mosque for too long and is believed to have been kicked out of the mosque too. Again, no FIR was lodged and no one dared to file a complaint against an Imam Sahab for it would have brought a bad name to the mosque as well as Islam. Sheikh got another lifeline, thanks to our irresponsible attitudes.
Now, since the doors to both the madrassa and the mosque were closed for Sheikh, he chose to become a school teacher in another village near Sopore. Being a serial perpetrator of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), Sheikh knew which places to go to where he would have access to children. Keeping in mind the nobility of these professions, it is important to understand that we don’t do proper background checks before hiring an Imam or a teacher.
After becoming a teacher, Aijaz Sheikh started keeping students in one after another at his rented place for the night. Parents would feel pleasure and show gratitude for a ‘saint-like’ teacher was showing so much interest in their children. Due to their faith in Sheikh as a teacher, he was able to sexually abuse many of the children.
The sexual abuse inflicted upon children continued to increase. He kept fantasising about raping more and more children until he was exposed by someone and it is believed that the school authorities also kicked him out. Unfortunately, they might have also thought about the reputation of the school and decided against filing a complaint in the police station.
Aijaz Sheikh got another lifeline. His confidence must have been at a peak. He knew all he needed to do in Kashmir was to gain access to children, sexually abuse them and the worst that could happen is that he will be kicked out, allowing him to look for more prey.
Simultaneously, Aijaz Sheikh had floated this theory in the market that he possesses some Jinns who can heal anyone’s problems. However, there was a condition. Unlike other faith healer’s Jinns, Sheikh’s Jinns would not talk to anyone, not even to Sheikh, except pious souls (only young boys) below the age of 14.
By then, people had started bringing children and leaving them for the night at his house. Once Sheikh’s option of going back to school was over, he decided to become a full-fledged faith healer. Given the mental trauma people of Kashmir are living with due to decades of conflict, it wasn’t a big deal for him to guess what people were suffering from.
I remember him giving a tablet (Librosar) to every single person who would visit him in 2002. I got to know in 2016 that Librosar is an anti-depressant tablet. Sheikh would claim that the amulets that his Jinns write are equal to 10,000 mg of normal medicine and hence Librosar is a must to take with his Amulets to neutralise the effect of the high dose of his Amulets.
People kept leaving their children at his house and Sheikh kept fulfilling his ever-growing dirty and violent fantasies. He didn’t spare a single kid who stayed at his house for the night. Some gathered courage and never returned after they were abused for the first time.
Some continued visiting him for years out of fear. The vicious cycle stopped only for 30 days in March 2016 when Sheikh was arrested by the police and later granted bail by one of the judges, thanks to our primitive judicial system for being so kind to even criminals of Sheikh’s standard.
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.”
In short, Sheikh has not only abused our children but our faith and spirituality too. In fact, he has abused the noble professions of teaching and Imamat too.
At present, the case is pending at Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court in Sopore. Two witnesses have already deposed against Sheikh, however, the last 5 hearings couldn’t take place. In the meantime, the government has taken a serious note of the issue and I have been promised by the senior officials in the government that they will ensure that justice is delivered at the earliest.
This statement has been written by a survivor of Aijaz Sheikh’s abuse. For more details on the case against Aijaz Sheikh, there is a Facebook page one can follow, wherein this statement was originally published.
Featured Image Credit: Facebook