Srinagar, May 24: The arrest of a self-styled godman on charges of sexual exploitation of young girls in Kashmir has exposed a sordid tale of his victims being lured into a web of deceit at his shady ‘seminary' with the help of a dozen male and female employees.
Gulzar Ahmad Bhat was arrested by police on May 21 after four minor girl students of his seminary accused him of sexual exploitation at the institute in Khansahib area of Budgam district.
The questioning of Bhat is going on and efforts are on to nab his accomplices, police sources said today, adding it is suspected that many more girls could have become his victims over the past 10 years.
Quoting the statements of the girls, the sources said the fake godman would systematically lure girls into the trap on the pretext of purifying their soul and used to cast a spell before allegedly carrying out sexual acts with them.
One of the victims, a 16-year-old hailing from south Kashmir, alleged that she was raped by Bhat after she completed the two-month course at the institute.
“After 25 days of the completion of two month course, I was called by Bhat to his room “hujra-i-pak” (the purified room) through one of his woman accomplices. When I entered the room, he started to recite something and I was numbed. I could see everything but was unable to do anything as I had lost control over my body,” the victim told police.
The sources said the fake godman used to take a pledge from the girls to keep the happenings inside the room a secret.
“He used to take a pledge from us not to speak to anyone about what happened inside the room. He used to say that we are one and this is the real guidance,” another victim said.
The godman, who was one of prominent faces of a new Sufi movement in Kashmir, would tell the victims that whichever part of body of the girl he would touch, would not burn in hell fire.
The victim said Bhat tried to convince her that she was married to him spiritually.
The sources said the urge to imbibe religious teachings drove the girls to the seminary.
“I was studying in class 10th but failed in two subjects in the board examination. I thought it is better to study at the seminary for religious teachings till I could take the examination again. I had an urge to learn about the religion,” one of the girls told the police.
After the sexual exploitation, the sources said, the girls told the police that the women employees of the seminary used different tactics to ensure secrecy in the matter.
“When out of the room, the woman working at the seminary, whose number is over 10, used to approach the girls and asked them not to divulge anything to anyone,” the sources said.
The sources said that according to the girls Bhat was an illiterate and used the services of his brother, Mushtaq, to learn the holy verses of Quran and the saying of the Prophet.
The sources said the girls claimed that they tried to raise their voice against the exploitation but were forced to keep mum.
They said the girls had named 11 women while recording their statements and several men who used to help Bhat to run the seminary spread over a vast land valuing over Rs two crore.
Senior police officers are tight lipped about the investigation of the godman.
“The investigation of the case is going on and it is premature to say anything right now,” Senior Superintendent of police, Budgam, Uttam Chand said.