If doctors at Kashmir's only tertiary neo-natal and child care hospital are to be believed, then something abhorring is happening to hundreds of newborn toddlers of the Valley at the hands of 'faith healers'.
A two-year-old child from Ganderbal in northeastern part of the Kashmir
valley born with a Down's syndrome (mentally and physically challenged) has been admitted in the hospital with at least 13 burn scars of 1 cm each in his abdomen caused by cigarette bits.
And the cruel act has been inflicted on the child by a so called 'faith healer' in front of his parents, doctors treating the child quoted the family members. Dr Abdul Rashid, registrar of GB Panth Hospital in Srinagar told the Hindustan Times that the child was first taken to a faith healer by his parents before coming to the hospital.
"Though suffering from Down's syndrome from birth, he had cough and fever along with convulsions when brought to hospital on Tuesday. When we examined him we found multiple cigarette burn mark on his body. He was in pain," Rashid said. "We got suspicious and enquired from the family of the child who first denied but ultimately revealed the cause," he said.
The official said the practice was a known thing for the doctors working in the hospital. In the remote town of Kangan from where the family hails, many visit faith healers to seek cure to their health problems.
"These types of cases keep coming to the hospital. There are such people living in Jammu and Kashmir who consider a burn mark inflicted by a faith healer to have spiritual effect," Rashid said.
"If we quantify the cases, on an average around four such cases are treated in the hospital every month," he informed.
The doctors believe that most of the families in these type of cases are from the economically weaker strata of the society. "Although it is not a rule but most of the families with such cases belong to Gujjar and pahari communities," Rashid said.
While the family of the Ganderbal child was not ready to talk over the issue, the doctor said they had no regrets. "They have blind faith on these fake Pirs (faith healers), which have neither any legal approval nor any religious sanction," he said.
The doctors said most cases go unreported as nobody complains to police. "If we inform police of these cases, we believe the parents will stop coming to the hospitals to treat the burn wounds increasing the danger of infection and poisoning," the doctor added.
Minister of state for Home, Sajad Ahmad Kitchloo told the Hindustan Times that he would be directing for a proper investigation in the issue. "It has come to my notice and I am going to take concrete action after ascertaining the magnitude of the problem," said Kitchloo. "And those cruel people should take note that such brutal acts won't be tolerated," he added.
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