Braid Chopping: Fear is in the air

Published at October 11, 2017 12:45 AM 0Comment(s)1412views

Akmal Hanan

Braid Chopping: Fear is in the air

Kashmir valley is passing through a difficult phase. The relentless braid chopping incidents have added to the fear and anxiety of the people. Not a single day passes without occurrence of such an incident, neither does a day pass in Kashmir when masses do not stage protest against mysterious braid chopping incidents. Kashmir on Monday witnessed a complete shutdown over braid chopping incidents.

Many studies have revealed that a large section of people in Kashmir suffers from severe anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) due to the violent events people have witnessed in the last three decades. There seems to be no let-up in such events. The latest addition to these events has been the chopping of women’s braids on almost daily basis. This has created fear psychosis among the residents and understandably so. Government’s failure to unmask the culprits has raised many eyebrows and there is growing anger on the streets on the complacency and not prioritizing the issue and putting an end to such shameful acts. It is beyond common man’s perception as how the government with such a massive resources available to it in terms of forces personnel, money and human intelligence – is not able to put an end to braid chopping incidents. If nothing else, the incidents have created mistrust and further alienated people. The unabated braid chopping incidents have also created doubts in the minds of people whether government is in control of things when it came to basic safety and security of the people and whether it is capable to rein-in the criminal elements.

Let’s be clear about one thing, if a criminal is able to cut the braid of a woman and feels nobody, and not even the law enforcement agency can touch him for committing such a shameful act, why would he not consider slitting the throats of people tomorrow instead of braids. The failure of government to put an end to braid chopping incidents or its failure to come up with convincing answers why such incidents are still happening will only encourage other criminal elements to run rampant in the society.

The JK Police has failed to crack the case. Though police announced a reward of Rs 6 lakh for anyone providing useful information about the braid chopping incidents, but so far there has been no breakthrough. Government had also constituted an expert medical team. Their report, provided they have compiled one, has also not been made public. All this is adding to the confusion and chaos in the lives of people who have already been living under constant fear and insecurity. Many in Kashmir are already expressing doubts over government’s resolve to act on braid chopping incidents “as it was successfully changing the narrative in Kashmir from people’s political struggle to people’s security issues”.  Whatever the case, the present government cannot drag its feet out of the issue, and has to come up with some answers. And in the instance that government and the police believe the cases are a result of some “mental disorder”, they will have to come up with a convincing report and evidence.

On the other hand, people need to exercise utmost restraint while dealing with braid chopping incidents.   At least one person has already lost his life in south Kashmir after being mistaken for a braid chopper. Many accused were also thrashed by people only to be found innocent later. A transgender in a veil recently was just lucky enough to escape the crowd’s fury after being mistaken for a braid chopper in Srinagar city. There are hundreds of possibilities that a person, otherwise with no malice, may be at a wrong place at a wrong time and be mistaken for a braid chopper. A person’s death can justify no circumstances in which he or she was killed, that too if the person is later found to be innocent. Caution is the word, here. A crowd can always have some instigators.

Whether, the issue of braid chopping incidents cease in the days to come remains to be seen. But one thing is certain, this can’t run forever. Acts like these only prove counterproductive for the people who perpetuate such crimes. People in Kashmir have been very resilient and have countered similar acts in past. There is also a huge responsibility on community and religious leaders to guide people’s actions in the prevailing situation. There is also a need for medical fraternity in the valley to come forward and inform people about the psychological effects such incidents can have on them. This may prepare the masses better and counter the effects of fear psychosis, which apparently seems to be the motive of braid chopping. 

One also wished the suo-motu cognizance taken by judiciary on the braid chopping incidents. The state and international human rights bodies have also remained silent over the issue. That obviously does not auger well as they make lofty claims and high ideals. There is a tremendous fear in rural as well as urban areas of Kashmir over the braid chopping incidents, and how could it skip the attention of human rights bodies, local as well as international. That’s another tragedy, the first being the braid chopping itself.

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