Instances of Sihr or witchcraft have not been rare occurrences, but when ingredients of black magic and voodoo surfaced from the hallowed Eidgah graveyard, it numbed one and all.
In the wee hours of a recent summer morning, some faithful returning home after dawn prayers saw something suspicious in Eidgah area of Srinagar. A couple was standing in the middle of the graveyard. Their untimely presence and uncanny behaviour in the resting place of the revered created curiosity in the group led by a cleric. But what they saw upon reaching the spot made their heart skip a beat.
A woman was standing with a voodoo doll in her hand and the man was digging a small hole beside a grave.
“We understood their malicious intentions,” recalls the mosque cleric. “It’s a shame that our spirituality is dead to the extent that we resort to such an evil practice as black magic.”
But what the bunch saw and then stopped, has now become a new normal in Kashmir.
Social media routinely witnesses graphic pictures and videos of the abhorrent practice. Dolls pinned with iron nails, fish and offals of other animals with amulets sewn in them and talisman written with blood are seen at graveyards, construction sites, riverbanks and public parks.
And sometimes, these amulets meant to create a crippling effect on a person are found at some unusual and surprising places—like in the story of Rehana.
The dark secret in the sole
One day after finishing a hectic school day, Rehana, a middle school teacher was resting in the staffroom when a piece of paper fell from the sole of her shoe. When she opened it she was baffled to see that it was Sihr.
“I felt like the entire year since my marriage was full of visits to doctors for my never-ending backache,” Rehana recalls the silent agony that many Kashmiris endure in the name of some nagging ailment. “But after I found this piece of paper, I immediately called my husband and went to a spiritual healer.”
The spiritual healer confirmed that the paper was full of inscriptions used in black magic. Even though Rehana was treated medically she says can never get over the thought that someone whished her pain and suffering.
Rehana details her harrowing mental agony. “Events like these have a lasting impression on one’s mind.”
While Rehana could never know the person who wanted to plague her life with sihr, Numan was shocked to know about his “tormentor”.
Buddies who shared a bond
Sameer and Numan were inseparable since grade one. Both were seen at each other’s place all the time—playing, studying, eating, and pulling pranks on each other. Some people even thought of them as brothers. Apart from being best friends, another string that connected them was the absence of mothers in their lives.
Their friendship strengthened over time. Together, they studied and looked for jobs, but failed in achieving the same. So, they decided to start a business. Numan was good at it and trained Sameer.
“He was never a completely healthy child, but now he was ill more often,” recalled Tahira, Numan’s elder sister. “It didn’t affect his daily life, so we didn’t take it seriously.”
With time, however, Numan’s behaviour got more peculiar. He used to cover the mirrors in the house saying—Sameer keeps an eye on happenings here through these mirrors. “I thought Sameer was pulling a prank on him and Numan being a sensitive person was taking it seriously,” said Safia, Numan’s younger sister.
Due to his erratic behaviour, he was taken to a medical psychiatrist, who ruled out any serious condition.
“He kept suffering like this until one day he left his workshop in an anxious, nauseating and confused state of mind. On reaching home that day,” Safia continued, “I panicked seeing his condition. It took me a few minutes to calm him down and then I took him to a physician.”
Upon reaching the clinic, the doctor confirmed that Numan was medically fit and suggested some tests to further monitor his condition.
The family was advised to take Numan to a spiritual healer too.
Numan’s family believes it was his friend who had “used witchcraft to nab the entire business”. The suspicion grew further when they confronted the person following which he “disappeared all of a sudden.”
Spending money in lakhs on his treatment, and after four tiring and restless years, Numan’s family is still waiting for their old son to return as hale and hearty. “That Sihr has left an impression on my soul,” Numan said, “and it will never leave me. I have to live with it for a lifetime.”
Due to rampant nature of these cases, the pulpits vocal about morality and vice are now being called out for their silence on these matters.
A scholar’s call for Friday sermon
Amongst those questioning the silence is Bilal Ahmed, a religious scholar from Srinagar. He reckons that people engage in black magic to appease their egos and competitive natures. It’s the duty of religious leaders, he said, to condemn such heinous deeds.
“Religious scholars have failed to instil morals in people and help them see the adverse repercussions of such practices,” Bilal said. “It is a social problem, just like other social ills that exist in society.”
But while the scholar wants pulpit’s intervention in checking witchcraft, many spiritual figures with massive following are simply passing the buck.
“Resorting to witchcraft means consigning your grave to hellfire,” said Abdul Rehman, a Srinagar-based spiritual healer. “And who would want to open an account in hell!”
“I won’t deny that such practices don’t happen,” Rehman continued. “For some money, people can do anything, even ruining their hereafter.”
Scholar Bilal says that the only solution to this alarming issue is that people need to simplify their lives and not make everything a matter of competition. “Kashmir is a spiritual place,” he said. “But our Peervear’s spirituality is fading. We’ve to navigate back there.”
But then the growing instances of witchcraft are making this transition very tough, especially when someone’s love becomes a torment.
A dark attempt at divorce
When Romaisa married the love of her life after a long fight with her family, she thought she would finally have peace. But little did she know that her dream-come-true was about to turn into a nightmare. Both their families were against the wedding and the anger and frustration of the groom’s family was meted out to Romaisa in the form of black magic.
“I was restless in my new home and had constant headaches,” Romaisa recalled. “Initially, I thought I was just having a hard time acclimatising there but then I started seeing a shadow that wouldn’t even leave me. I never really had my mind inclined towards these things and shrugged off the possibility.”
Romaisa says she and her husband sought medical help. But after roaming from one clinic to another, she says she found amulets in her room following which she found a spiritual healer through a friend and immediately went there. She says it has helped, but she still sees that shadow sometimes.
It’s for this harrowing reason that the Imam of Eidgah decided to nip the evil in its bud before it would grow to haunt another innocent life.