Healer or Quack: Litmus Test For a Detained Kashmiri ‘Doctor’

At a time when doctors are facing public ire in Covid-designated wards of Kashmir, a ‘medico’ landed in a police net over his alleged quackery. But his patients are vouching for his innocence and healing.

By Malik Nisar

MUNGAM, Wagoora – Barely a week back, this placid pastoral pocket in district Baramulla was mainly known for being the Markaz of Tablighi Jamaat.

The roving ‘god men’— sweet-smelling ittar, carrying sleeping bags, and sporting skullcaps and beards—would arrive in droves from different parts of the valley and elsewhere for religious gathering.

Even as that distinction remains, the village is now getting attention for “fake doctor” Hilal Hajam, 26—whose residential clinic was lately stormed by cops.

Once his ‘cover’ was blown, the “resident neurology”—sporting glasses and beard—was taken out as captive in the village bordered by hillocks and navigated by rivulets. FIR number 77/2020 was registered against him, under section 429, 419 (cheating) and 486 (forgery of document) in Police Station, Kreeri.

The news shortly fared on social media where the detained “doctor” was termed as another quack thriving on the innocence of the simpletons — some of whom continue to believe in the ‘daste-shifa’: hand healing.

‘He’s an angel’

But Hilal’s patients are shell-shocked, as if sky has fallen on them. They’re unable to make peace with the so-called “blown cover” of their “god-fearing” healer who “can’t do anything wrong” in life.

“Until yesterday,” said Syed Adil, a local villager, “the detained doctor was no less than a messiah for us. He used to treat people free of cost. He doesn’t deserve such a treatment.”

These people are equally aghast over circulation of what they call the “fake news” about Hilal.

In some reports, Hilal was termed as a Class 10th pass-out, who operated from many local clinics.

“My father was suffering with Hepatitis and was unwell from many years,” said Abdul Majeed Dar from neighbouring Kalantra village. “We took him to Jammu for treatment, but he showed no sign of improvement.”

Few months before, Dar continued, the patient was brought to Hilal. “And you won’t believe,” he said in an ecstatic voice, “within a month, my father fully recovered.”

But Hilal, Dar said, wasn’t initially ready to treat his father.

“He agreed after I requested him,” he said. “For me, and for many people whom he treated, Hilal is an angel. He can’t be fake!”

However, the reasonable lots term this ‘blind devotion’ on part of Dar and his ilk, as a stark sign of some ‘tribal mindset’.

They argue that lawbreakers don’t necessarily carry daggers to trouble the community. “Sometimes,” said Saleem Ahmad, a local villager, “they just need a fake identity to take people for a ride. And that’s what this doctor has been doing here.”

But then, Hilal’s admirers seem to surpass his adversaries.

“Hilal used to cure patients with care and compassion,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat, a pharmacist in Mungam. “I’m running medical shop from last twenty years, but I never heard people complaining about this doctor.”

Chase and Capture

It was a human intelligence which alerted cops about the uncanny medico practicing in Mungam a week ago.

“We got the news from our sources that a fake doctor is operating in the area,” Ather Parvaiz, SHO Kreeri, told Kashmir Observer.

“So, we followed him for four days, and arrested him in his house.”

Hilal's home where he used to practice

During the raid, the officer said, police found medical books, stethoscope, and many things related to medical profession.

“We also found the resident and experience certificates in his possession,” SHO Parvaiz said.

“I gave him lot of time to prove his professional credentials, but once he failed to provide any proof, we had to arrest and register an FIR against him.”

But even cops are vouching for Hilal’s ‘clean record’.

“Nobody is saying he was operating any commercial clinic, but if tomorrow any untoward incident had happened, who would’ve been responsible?” the officer said, adding the “detained doctor” was practicing from last one year.

“As the investigation is on, we’re still verifying those documents. Everything will come out once the probe ends. But, so far, what we know is, this man was also operating the Facebook page in the name of Dr. Hilal.”

Murmur and Meeting

Inside the police station, I heard a whisper about the “detained doctor” being on fast.

“He [Hilal] is from Hajam caste, the clan of real Hakeems,” one person said. “And it’s because of that, his treatment was working.”

I managed to talk to Hilal in a cop canteen.

“I’m not fake,” Hilal told me. “I’m the final year student in Al-Ameen Medical College Bijapur, Karnataka. My internship is not completed yet, so my documents are pending. I was not given time to prove myself. How can I prove my credentials in two days, that too, in lockdown? I’ll take legal action against all those who defamed me. A few newspapers carried the news that I’m just Class 10th pass-out, and that I’m operating many clinics in the area. Just show me one clinic and bring one person whom I have charged anything. I never told anyone to come to my home for treatment. They compelled me to do so. I also created Facebook page in 2014. If I was wrong, why didn’t police register complain that time against me?”

But when Kashmir Observer contacted Dean Office Al-Ameen Medical College, Bijapur, he countered the Hilal’s claims.

“We’ve no such student enrolled in our college from Kashmir,” said Dr. Saleem A. Dhundasi, Dean of the college. “The claims of the so-called doctor are baseless.”

Hopeful Home

But back home, Hilal’s family remains hopeful about his ‘innocence’.

“We’re poor people,” said Bashir Ahmed Hajam, Hilal’s elder brother. “You can see our house and its condition. I firmly believe that my brother will get justice because he has not done anything wrong. He has not charged a single penny from anyone. He would only heal the patients after compelled to do so by their family members. He doesn’t deserve dungeon for his healing touch!”

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