The 'Devilish' Peer

I am deeply appalled and sickened by the shameful acts of the disgraced faith healer, Gulzar Bhat who tarnished the chastity of scores of young girls. His arrest on charges of sexual exploitation of young girls has exposed sordid tales of his victims being lured into a web of deceit at his religious school. This is very shameful for all of the Kashmiris, because the world is quickly moving into the 21st century, and we are still trapped with old belief systems and hold ignorant beliefs in Peers, Babas, Tabiz, and Black Magic.

Peer also called saint, guide, and teacher is supposed to be a very noble person, and Kashmir is famous as the land of Sufis and mystics. Nevertheless, in today’s world, a new breed of fake Peers has mushroomed because off their greed and lust, and they take advantage of those who are innocent and naïve. The sex scandal of this magnitude has tarnished the image of not only Sufis /Peers, but also of Kashmir for many years to come. It was just a week ago that we came to know that the disgraced peer- Gulzar was an out-of-control sexual predator. Since then, new and even more disturbing details have come out about this sordid affair. Religious seminaries are supposed to be the safest places for young girls, as parents have a sense of trust in them. Unfortunately, the girls become innocent prey to this fake peer. Rapes by peers are not uncommon in India/Pakistan, but for some reason, people ignore it because of ignorance, twisted belief systems, and lust for immediate gratification and quick rewards.

Gulzar Bhat was working as a carpet weaver, but left the trade and switched to more lucrative faith trade-Peer. He created a religious seminary to teach “pure Islam”, and called it Fatimah-al-Zahra (RA) Institute, named after the Prophet Mohammad’s (SAW) daughter Fatimah. This devilish peer seemed to have a very organized modus operandi of luring girls into the trap on the pretext of purifying their soul.  He would then allegedly carry out sexual acts with them. The so-called seminary advertised in print and on cable, and organized seminars to lure girls into his deceitful trap. He would require a pledge from victims not to speak to anyone about what happened inside the room. He convinced victims that they were married to him spiritually, and any girl he would touch would not burn in hell fire. He allegedly had a group of women who would cover up his heinous acts by brainwashing the victims, and convinced them not to divulge anything to anyone. These acts were not possible on his own, as Bhat was illiterate and had no real knowledge of Deen. 

Equally appalling is the lack of response from the administration and mainstream politicians, given the gravity of this problem. On the other hand we should give credit to some circles and organizations for highlighting the issue. The unfortunate victims of this scandal will have emotional scars, which will result in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other emotional issues. Unfortunately, there is no system in place to deal with it in Kashmir. There are reports that these afflicted young girls may have been sent for sexual activity to various locations, and other bureaucratic and political circles. Questions are already being asked about the relationship Gulzar had with a few of the state’s top bureaucrats. It is unfortunate that so many close aides of Gulzar Bhat are still on the run. Investigators have irrefutable proof that the so-called center was not a religious seminary or school, and that it was actually a brothel. There were no classrooms, no syllabi, and no curricula in the center of any kind.

We need an immediate and full investigation of not just Gulzar's actions, but the actions of those around him who may have aided and abetted the “Brothel house” atmosphere at his so-called seminary and hold them accountable. We need to get to the root of this problem, and the only way we can accomplish this is for the Omar government to set up an independent commission to disclose the depth of the issue, and make decisions regarding punitive action for those involved. This commission must discover whether there was any nexus amongst the bureaucrats and/or politicians, as such connections are common in Kashmir. The independent commission can help restore faith in the community and give some justice and dignity to the victims so they can restart their shattered lives. The commission would also recommend steps the social, moral, and religious organizations can take in this direction, and guide the administration in offering psychological and financial assistance to victims of abuse. Most importantly, this commission would make recommendations and provide some level of insurance to prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again.

Unanswered questions for immediate consideration include:

•Who all are involved in this sex racket?

•What was the source of the funding for this devil?

•Why have the accomplice of the fake peer not been arrested?

•Are their other similar seminaries or institutions in the state.

•What was the role of local Auqaf committee in establishing the ‘seminary’?

•Where was district administration when these things were happening?

•Why did the Ulema and religious leaders belonging to these areas not raise their voices against this nefarious activity?

•How was it possible for him to carry on his vicious activities freely for years?

•Why are politicians of these areas silent?

When organizing the independent commission, the key word to keep in mind is “independent”.  The members of this commission must be completely innocent of any relationship or involvement with anyone involved in the scandal.  Their findings must be derived from honest investigation of the facts, with no influence from anyone.  The integrity of the investigation and the commission’s findings are crucial.  The rights, reputations, and lives of the victims will definitely be affected by the results.  And, the perpetrators of this scandal and crime must be revealed and punished, regardless of their bureaucratic or political clout.

The author is a Physician of Kashmiri origin based in USA and can be reached at [email protected]

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