Kashmir: Braid cutting, a serious offence

Views from Srinagar

Akmal Hanan

BRAID cutting incidents have created an atmosphere of fear across Kashmir Valley. The frequency with which these incidents are being reported now is a cause of worry for common masses. These mysterious incidents that initially were reported from south Kashmir have recently spread to north as well as central Kashmir. Despite the assurance of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti that the government would expose the faces behind these revolting incidents as well as assurance from the police top brass, no arrests have been made so far. In the absence of any concrete action or headway to crack the case, CM’s assurances have proved to be mere ceremonial talk.
The CM on Monday told local press that government was trying its best to crack the case. Since then more incidents have been reported across the valley. This signifies that even CM’s words have little impact on ground as the people behind this shameful act are undeterred.
The JK Police department initially had put a reward of three lakh rupees for anyone providing information about the incidents. Under immense pressure for failing to apprehend any, the reward money was recently raised to rupees 6 lakh. The police has also formed a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to investigate the incidents. But so far, there is officially no confirmation of any arrests made in this connection.
Agitated people have been joining the streets to protest against these incidents. People at many places also clashed with police over latter’s failure to curb the incidents. There have also been serious allegations that “armed forces” were providing cover to persons indulging in braid cutting incidents. There have also been reports making rounds that people in some cases succeeded in apprehending the culprits but they were later rescued by the forces personnel. There have also been allegations about police taking the custody of the culprits apprehended by people, but later denying to have arrested any such person. Government on higher level would need to come clean on the issue, if it is serious in instilling a sense of security among people. Police have on their part linked these incidents with those happening in the rest of India and have also expressed concern that there was a chance “separatists and militants” might use the incidents to their advantage.
In early 90s, Kashmir witnessed similar kind of incidents, where in the dead of the night people used to wake up to the mysterious banging on their doors and windows. Those days a narrative was being propagated, that some ghosts were on the loose who punished people for “their sins”. At that time also people had succeeded in apprehending some masked men involved in the act, who the people later said were rescued by the forces personnel. Who were these people and who were behind these acts of creating fear among the people officially never came into public knowledge. The present incidents of braid cutting in Kashmir seems to be a similar phenomenon being repeated to harass and subdue common masses.
Braid cutting incidents were also reported in other states like Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi. Some psychiatrists in Delhi had attributed this phenomenon to “Altered Sensorium”, a medical condition characterized by impaired consciousness or the inability to think clearly. “From all the available evidence”, Dr Sudhir Khandelwal, former head of the department of psychiatry at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said “it seems the women are cutting their own hair either consciously or in an altered sensorium.”
The present circumstances in which braid cutting incidents are happening in Kashmir, it seems there is deliberate attempt from some quarters to carry out such shameful acts in Valley to create a sense of insecurity among people, especially the womenfolk. It is highly unlikely that altered sensorium will suddenly run rampant among women in Kashmir. But at the same time there should be no doubt among people, that the incidents are no handiwork of ghosts, neither is it any supernatural phenomenon. The act is being repeated in Kashmir to create fear psychosis and insecurity among people. It is primarily the government’s responsibility to unmask the people behind these acts, and unmask them whoever they are.
The CM has also directed for constituting a team of medical experts to look into the braid cutting incidents. The government is duty bound to make all the investigations necessary in a time bound manner to expose the people behind the crime. Government can ill afford to let the probe run indefinitely, if it wants to gain back some of the lost public confidence. Government and the state Police also owe an explanation to allegations about the persons who people thought were behind these acts and were apprehended by them and in certain cases handed over to police. Braid cutting incidents can in no circumstances be taken lightly as the crime also involves the modesty of a woman. What the government does in next few days to curb and punish the culprits will determine the seriousness of government on the issue.

—Courtesy: RK

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