October 2017 News

Braid Chopping Incidents Taking Political Turn In Kashmir

5 October 2017
The Economic Times
Hakeem Irfan

Srinagar: Hundreds of people protested in the Khanyar area of downtown Srinagar against the braid chopping of a 32-year-old woman, which reportedly took place on Wednesday afternoon, a development that is assuming frightening proportions in the Kashmir Valley. In less than a month, for instance, more than 80 such incidents, or several such attempts, were reported from different parts of the Kashmir Valley. The maximum cases - around 30 - were reported from Kulgam district, where it started on September 14. The braid chopping incidents which were first reported from different states of north India travelled to Jammu, where more than 120 incidents were reported, and things are getting worse. In Kashmir, the issue could snowball into a major political crisis if the government fails to provide any conclusive evidence about the alleged culprits or the conspiracy if any behind these incidents. With the credibility crisis that the government and its institutions face, locals have started blaming 'intelligence agencies' and even the 'police' for these incidents. 'Like the ghosts of the '90's, who were actually troopers out to scare population, the government is using the old trick to push people into fear psychosis again. But this time, it may not work,' said Ghulam Muhammad Dar of Khanyar, who participated in the protests. Hurriyat leaders have also expressed concern over these incidents and organized a protest march at Jama Masid in Srinagar. They alleged that the braid chopping incidents are 'an attempt to outrage the chastity and dignity of the women of Kashmir' and 'government is shielding the criminals'. 'They want to push every household into perpetual fear to ensure that there's a psychiatric patient in every household of the Valley,' said a Hurriyat leader, while addressing a gathering in Nowhatta on Wednesday. The J&K Police has already constituted Special Investigation Team to probe these incidents and also announced a reward of Rs 6 lakh to anybody who can give leads on the braid choppers. J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti also assured stern action against the culprits. These incidents have created fear among the female population, who are scared to step out of their house and some have even stopped attending schools in south Kashmir. At some places, locals have caught 'innocent people' suspecting them of being the culprits. For example in Delina Baramullah of north Kashmir, locals thrashed a boy suspecting him to be a braid chopper. He revealed to police that he was there to meet his girl friend. In Srinagar, two women who gate crashed into a wedding late afternoon to relish Wazawaan were also caught on suspicion of being burqa clad braid choppers. In Kulgam, locals blamed Army of rescuing an alleged braid chopper after locals managed to get hold of him. They held the protest against the government for many hours. 'We have made good progress in the investigations and identified some offenders who were involved in the incidents. There's an angle of personal enmity emerging in some cases. But, in many cases the victims have not identified any offender. In some cases there are stories of people saying the attacker turned into a duck or a dog. So, this is a tricky investigation,' SSP, Kulgam, Sridhar Patil, told ET. Many police officials termed the incidents as 'mass hysteria' and claim that many victims have not been able to provide an exact sequence of events, which haven't really helped the investigation process. The government has also decided to constitute a team of doctors who will visit the victims and record their accounts to help them and the investigations. 'There is a stereotypical pattern to these incidents, but we cannot conclude until all the victims are examined. However, announcement of a reward by the police has already sensationalized the issue. In a conflict zone, no angle can be ruled out,' said a psychiatrist, who works with the Government Medical College and Associated hospitals.