October 2017 News

Kashmir On Strike Against 'braid Chopping'

9 October 2017
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: Amid increasing instances of unidentified assailants targeting young women and chopping off their braids, the Hurriyat Conference called for a complete shutdown in the valley on Monday, saying 'braid-chopping' was a government conspiracy to divert Kashmiris' attention from their 'freedom struggle'. Srinagar wore a deserted look as people stayed inside their homes. Commercial activities remained paralysed with shops and business establishments shut throughout the day. Hurriyat members also called for a march on Saturday to protest against the increasing instances of braid-chopping in the valley. After similar cases were reported from other parts of the country, instances of braid chopping being attributed to a mysterious person or persons have hit the valley with a vehemence that has taken everybody from the chief minister down by surprise. Intelligence sources said there was little substance to the rumours. They said these were meant to create panic. Sources said that in the aftermath of NIA investigations against Hurriyat members and the subsequent blow to terror funding, miscreants needed other ways to create an environment of fear among people. As the rumours continue, fear has gripped the valley. Four rag pickers from Srinagar's Nowgam were rescued by cops on Monday after residents attacked them on suspicion of being braid-choppers. On Sunday, growing rumours about braid choppers in Kashmir had led to a full-blown protest, when hundreds of women gathered in Batamaloo area of Srinagar. Police used smoke shells to disperse the protesters. While one 70-year-old man was lynched in Anantnag late last week, on Sunday six foreigners were chased and nearly killed on suspicion of being braid-cutters. Police has until now been dismissing these as rumours. Since most cases have been reported from rural areas, where it is relatively easier to spread grapevine rumours, police have not discredited the theory that the canard was meant to make Kashmiris question law and order in the state. J&K Police chief SP Vaid, describing these instances as myth, sarcastically said, 'I am also looking for jaadu ki chhadi (magical stick) to locate these culprits.' On Monday, police also detected rumour-mongering on social media about capture of braid choppers at Srinagar's Nishat. An FIR was lodged against those spreading the rumour and cops began investigation to identify those responsible for it. Cops also arrested three men for spreading disinformation. Last week police announced a reward of Rs 6 lakh for any information leading to the miscreants fuelling these rumours. They have also set up an SIT to investigate the same.