Victims narrate ‘hysterical’ accounts Non locals face brunt of violent mob
Victims narrate ‘hysterical’ accounts Non locals face brunt of violent mob
Faisul Yaseen / Yawar HussainSrinagar, Oct 22:
Suraya Jan, 16, was among the first victims from Chimmer village of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district who found her braid cut on September 21. She recalls that it was during the broad day light that the door of her maternal grandparent’s home opened suddenly and strands of her hair were cut.
“When I turned back to see who did it, I couldn’t find anyone,” she says. Suraiya only remembers with a lock of hair lying near her.
“I was cleaning my uncle’s room when the door opened and as I looked back there was no one,” she says.
After the incident, locals caught hold of a non-local labourer on suspicion of being a braid cutter and brought him to Damhal Hanjhi Pora police station. A police official of the police says non-local brought in by people was set free after questioning as it was found that he was selling bedclothes in the area.
Since then, police has found no headway in the case while the braid remains in its possession.
A day later, the village witnessed another similar incident. This time the braid of Reenat Nazir was found to be cut.
Her father, Nazir Ahmad Khan says that four unidentified persons barged into their house, dragged his daughter and cut off her braid.
“Electricity had been snapped and I went down to turn on the inverter near the staircase when four unknown persons barged in, dragged me and cut off my braid,” Nazir quoted his daughter Reenat as saying.
Nazir says he was not at home when the incident took place and adds that the assailants had even tried to cut off the braid of his wife when she came to Reenat’s rescue. A week later, Devsar area of Kulgam witnessed three more cases. Kulgam district now tops the list with over a dozen reported braid cutting incidents.
A week back, in Srinagar’s Batamaloo area, 38-year-old Hameeda (name changed) became another victim of braid cutting. Hameeda says she saw a shadow resembling a man’s figure suddenly emerge from behind the tin shed where she had gone to pick up vegetables she had procured.
She says her assailant strangulated her from behind with some rope while punching and beating her ruthlessly.
“In self-defence, I scratched his face while shouting out for help,” Hameeda says. “My voice wasn’t heard by others because of the strangulation by the rope around my neck.”
The Batamaloo woman says she cannot recall anything else as she fell unconscious, only to wake up and find her braid had been cut.
Hameeda’s husband Rouf Ahmad claims that after his wife did not return, he went downstairs and found out Hameeda lying on the floor with a school tie tied around her neck.
Police Station Batamaloo said the family members had not filed any complaint so far.
A few days back, another incident was reported from Mirza Kamil, Hawal area.
A youth, Amir Ali from the area said he saw the braid chopper who had entered their area and was about to catch hold of him when he hid behind a hen shed.
“When I reached near him, he jumped with the help of spring shoes and went on the other side of the wall into a field and ran away from there,” Ali said.
He said the braid choppers were hand-in-glove with the government as the Power Development Department snapped electric supply to the area for 10 minutes allowing him to run away.
A psychiatrist, who did not wish to be named, said he counselled three girls whose braids were cut after their family members brought them for counselling to him. He said during counselling he asked the three girls whether they saw who had cut their braids.
“One of them replied saying the person who cut her braid inside a closed room ran through the wall of her room, the other said the braid cutter turned into a dog and ran away and the third said he was a black cat commando who jumped out of the window and disappeared within seconds,” the psychiatrist said.
Meanwhile, with the rise of growing vigilantism, non-local labourers have been fleeing the Valley.
In Alouchi Bagh area, Pankaj Kumar working on the Jehangir Chowk flyover has decided to leave Kashmir on Wednesday after a local shopkeeper told him that the people of the vicinity had been suspicious about the role of non-locals in the braid cutting incidents.
Non-local beggars are also conspicuous with their absence from Srinagar streets.
The threat of vigilantism has also engulfed auto rickshaw drivers with many avoiding going into the inner lanes of localities, particularly after the sunset.
Bilal Ahmad, an auto rickshaw driver from Zaina Kadal area says he retires for the day at dusk as his father has suggested him not to ply after the sunset.
“Nobody knows who is doing this but we as a people have no sense and never behave responsibly,” Ahmad says.
According to him, the motive behind the entire fiasco could be to bring anarchy in the Valley.
Naseema Bhat, a mother fears for her 13-year-old daughter, who goes out to play in the nearby park in Jawahar Nagar, and castigates the government for failing to curb the menace.
“The government is unmoved and isn’t doing anything while Police has failed to arrest even a single person so far,” Bhat says.
Adding grist to the already burning mill, Police has compounded the matters by playing up the figures of braid chopping incidents and by first announcing a reward of Rs 3 lakh and then doubling it to Rs 6 lakh to persons who help trace the braid choppers.
On the contrary, Police in the winter capital, Jammu, which recently witnessed 280 reported incidents of braid chopping, did not become overzealous over it and helped water down tensions.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir range, Munir Khan says cut braids have been sent to the forensic science laboratories for analysis to ascertain whether any spray had been used on the victims.
He says that the lab reports would find out the tool employed to cut the braids and ensure whether the cut braid belonged to the same woman who had pleaded victim.
The IGP Kashmir says use of sprays on victims was highly unlikely as investigation into similar cases in Jammu region had not revealed any such use.
“A person falls unconscious only when something mixes with the blood and that is why we had asked for blood samples of the victims,” he says. “So far people haven’t been cooperative at all.”
Questioning the claims about the use of such sprays, he says, “What is this spray that makes one fall unconscious is a fraction of a second.”
Khan says people have been more cooperative in anti-militancy operations than in braid chopping investigations.
“Only around 10 percent people have come forward to help,” he says.
Terming the 90 of the 100 cases of braid chopping as nothing but rumours, he says the rest 10 cases were still being investigated on premises like whether braids have been really cut off or not.
“There is a likelihood that some women might have cut off their hair themselves,” he says.
Revealing that all District Superintendents of Police had been asked to make locals aware of the facts of the investigation, Khan says, “There have been different versions of each victim with some saying the assailant had spring in their shoes, others saying they were spotting black jackets.”
Explaining that this was what happens in hysteria, he says that a person in the hysterical state thinks that a rope lying nearby is a snake.
Meanwhile, Police Saturday arrested 68 people in Srinagar and Baramulla for beating up locals and Army men and for spreading rumours.
“We will come down with a heavy hand on rumour mongers and miscreants trying to disturb law and order situation,” Khan says. “The reasons are different and people will be informed about the factual position of each case.”
Seeking to differentiating police from separatists, Khan says he cannot brand each case a result of “mental illness” as it would be like acting in an insensitive manner that, according to him, the Hurriyat was doing
The mainstream political parties too have played their part in creating chaos and confusion among the people with both the opposition trying to score “brownie points” over the government by organising a series of protest demonstrations.
The government on its part has failed to come clean on how these incidents were spreading like a wild fire and in nabbing the culprits, if any.
The two shutdown calls given by the Hurriyat leadership has made matters worse and further spread panic and fear among the people.
For the people, the shutdown calls given by the Hurriyat leadership lends credibility to reports that braid chopping is not hysterical but a matter of fact.
However, both the Hurriyat and the Bar Association, who supported the Hurriyat’s shutdown call against braid chopping, have not come clear on whether their teams have found any cases that indicate that agencies run by the State are involved in it.
Meanwhile, a number of Peers and soothsayers are having a field day with scores of women turning up to them for saving them from the “unseen djinns” cutting their braids.
With confusions confounded, the people are at their wits end to know who is carrying these braid chopping incidents, agencies or djinns, burglars or criminals or whether the victims are suffering from hallucinations or if a mass hysteria has engulfed the Valley.