A man presenting himself as a Gold Medallist Doctor from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi approaches vulnerable members of Kashmiri/non-Kashmiri families, gains their sympathies by playing as an orphan, asks them for money, lures their sisters and daughters, before vanishing. Now in custody, his sleazy skeletons are tumbling out like never before.
As a conman, his victims remember him for his soft-faced cunningness. Even when some of them tried to expose him, they soon found him threatening to leak their intimate photographs on the internet. It’s this sleaze through which the man has able to lure and loot many families in and outside Kashmir.
After maintaining the ritualistic “what-will-society-think” silence, some of his victims mustered enough courage to beckon Kashmir Women’s Collective (KWC), a group of women raising and fighting for women’s issues in Kashmir.
As one after another victim began voicing their trysts with the man, it seemed that Kashmir had its own Natwarlal.
But unlike that notoriously famous Indian conman who repeatedly sold Taj Mahal to gullible foreign tourists, this Kashmiri conman had repeatedly sold his fake AIIMS medical degree to lure his victims.
The conman calls himself Dr Umer Qureshi from AIIMS and commands respect. His real name is Mohammad Shafi, and he lives in Repora Lar, Ganderbal. His neighbours call him Shaf-e-Kandur, the name revealing his baker background.
How did this baker manage to arrange three Aadhar cards—under the name of Umar Qureshi, Shafat Ahmad and Shafi Bhat—remains a matter of investigation, but a quick fact-finding about him in his native place reveals his modest family background.
Even his classmates remember him as a mild-mannered boy hardly having any con features. That’s why some of them couldn’t believe it when his cover was blown.
Shafi, who studied up to class 10th, has on his Facebook profile shared pictures of him with doctors in Operation Theatres. It seems one of his tricks to dupe people.
Beyond this virtual campaign, in real life, his victims recall his remarks, with rapt clarity: I’m in a rush, I’ve a surgery today, I’ve a meeting today, or there’s an emergency in the hospital. He would make sure that people notice his white Apron, stethoscope and laptop.
“When he first approached me, he asked me to wash his Apron,” says Aafreen (not her real name), one of Shafi’s many Kashmiri victims.
He would get calls with names flashing as Dr Ishfaq, Dr Anil on his phone. They were all fake. He would answer the calls and keep it on the loudspeaker. “Yes please, remove the pipe. I will come check the patient in the morning,” he would say.
“The person on the other end of the phone would be no Doctor, but his friend. We did not know it then that he was a cunning conman so we suspected nothing,” says Aafreen.
Even before Aafreen could know his reality, he managed to take more than Rs 12 lakh from her.
“He was introduced to us by a known person,” she says. “Unexpectedly, he started calling me Mummy and my husband as Papa. My daughter became his sister and my son, his brother.”
The wily man from Lar even invited Aafreen’s family to Delhi on pretext of getting her ailing family member checked by his ‘seniors’ in AIIMS. But when the family visited Delhi, he took them to a private hospital, where they had to spend around Rs 10,000 per day.
My seniors are out of town, he had told the family in Delhi, and I cannot trust the young doctors in AIIMS.
“It was all so unexpected,” Aafreen continues, in a thoughtful manner. “I thought that after seeing so much distress in my life, God had sent me help. I could not comprehend it that a con has come to further trouble it.”
Shafi would call Aafreen and video chat with her family on a daily basis. She would treat him like her son. Everything seemed fine, until one fine day, he asked for money.
“He told me that he needed a huge amount for pursuing his post-graduation in Surgery,” Aafreen says. “When I asked him to take it from his sisters, he said that he was at loggerheads with them. He pressurised me so much that I had to visit the bank.”
After a top banker suggested her that Shafi could go for an education loan, Aafreen called him up and made him to speak to the bank official. He hung up and couldn’t answer the repeated calls.
“He finally called back after 6 pm,” she says. “He ultimately pressurised me to take the money from the bank. Some days later, he took more money for his books.” And soon, he snapped all communications with Aafreen.
In Delhi, he had once taken her family to a flat where another family lived. “He told us they (the family) stayed in his flat and that he feels happy to have someone around as his sisters paid no attention to him, despite being on a ‘good’ position,” says Aafreen, who later learned that the flat actually belonged to the Hindu family staying there.
Later when Aafreen’s son hurt himself in Delhi, Shafi injected Tetanus into his body. It failed. Such was her faith in Shafi that she ended up scolding her own son for not staying in a correct posture. But, it wasn’t his fault.
“He told us Aafreen was his mother,” says Dinesh (not his real name), member of the Hindu family with whom he stayed in Delhi. “He would speak to them in Kashmiri. How would we know he was lying to them! He would take my Car and drive them around in it. We also sympathised with him as he said he was an orphan who was in need of a family. The irony is that he had even told them that the car was his own.”
In Delhi, Shafi even got a clinic constructed with the help of Dinesh’s acquaintance. The clinic is locked now.
“Everyone in the society knew him as a doctor and would be impressed to see so many people respecting him,” the Delhi man continues. “Basically, he had fooled everyone around him. He had conned many people over here, taking money in Lakhs from them.”
But when Shafi didn’t return Dinesh’s money, he decided to verify his identity. After learning that he was a conman, he beat him to a pulp.
“I don’t know how he arranged lakhs of my money in just two hours,” Dinesh says. “He was even in a relationship with my cousin. Luckily, she had not let him click any pictures. He had told her he will change his religion to get married to her. Actually, he was double-timing my cousin with another Muslim girl in Delhi.”
Due to Shafi’s exploits, Dinesh says, Kashmiri doctors in Delhi have become symbols of suspicion for him and his extended family now. “After all,” he says, “he was getting calls from them.”
Shafi’s slyness to introduce and establish himself as a doctor before looking for vulnerable women in the family has already ruined Dinesh’s family. “After he approached my younger brother’s wife, she started picking fights with us,” he says. “He badly manipulated her mind. I’ve this regret that my younger brother who was my life does not live with us anymore.”
Back home in Kashmir, one of his Kashmiri victims had learned that Shafi is habitual of maintaining a file of private chats with women, a copy of which lies with his sisters in Lar.
“When we went to his home,” the victim says, “his father refused to own him up, despite being his direct beneficiary. When we confronted his family, they called him. He asked them to throw our file on our face. On seeing the intimate pictures, they were left red-faced.”
Finally, Shafi’s exploits came to a halt when one of his victims approached KWC. The victim had earlier lodged a complaint at Repora Lar, Ganderbal Police Station, following which he had to spend three-days in a police lockup, from November 26, 2017.
“On November 29, an official agreement was reached between me and that fraud that he will return the money in three instalments. But, he failed to keep his promise and was on a run from that day,” she says.
Last month, as the campaign against his sleaze started building up, he was caught and put behind the bars. But the police fear that he might manage to walk out.
“In that case,” says Latief Ali, SHO Lar Police Station, “he might prove very dangerous for the society.”
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