By M.J. Aslam
India has been in the media spotlight from May /June this year, not for any socio-economic-scientific achievement but , for mysterious braid chopping of women. Dozens of incidents of hair cutting of women have been reported from sub-urban areas of Punjab, Haryana, Gurgaon, Delhi, Rajasthan & UP. Few of these strange but sporadic hair cutting incidents have also come in from West Bengal & Maharashtra. Police in all these States is totally clueless & tizzy about the motives and the people behind it. Albeit, in a country like India which has a world fame for its superstitious beliefs and practices, it is not any surprising to see the different types of theories of witch-craft, ghost, monkey-man, cat-woman, Tantriks, God’s wrath, or other supernatural involvement in these incidents being freely floated by those who are known for fishing in troubled waters of others.
Some Indian psychologists & psychiatrists have attributed it to “mass hysteria” of which, they claim, India has a history. Their further claim is that the women do it themselves either consciously or in an altered sensorium just to seek attention.
Police have been seeking help of the people to reach to the bottom of these bizarre happenings in many Indian States. In one case of Delhi sub-urban area, the police claimed to have resolved the riddle when it reported that it was a “prank” played by 14 year old brother & young nephew on a 10 year old girl. Another police version was that the cases of braid cutting have been generally reported from “rural areas” & not urban areas or cities of the affected States. They further claim that the affected areas & families are invariably socio-economically very backward and that no such incidents have been reported from well off families or “working women” or “posh colonies”.
Whatever the reality behind these grotesque incidents of braid chopping in said India states, whosoever is involved in it , whether “vicious gangs” of drug peddlers or addicts, there are certain facts that outshine the darkness of “mystery” surrounding them . These facts are that there is a widespread scare spread in the society and the affected women are traumatized & & the women in general feel paranoid and worried about their safety including their much loved braid which overwhelming women in this part of the world still want to grow & maintain over a period of decades as a symbol of beauty & womanhood.
The menace of braid chopping has reached J & K too. First case of it was reported from North Kashmir’s Bandipora District . It has also been reported from Doda & Bhuderwah areas of J & K. However,the dozens of incidents of hair cutting of females in “unconscious state” forced upon them by the perpetrators of the crime by “sprinkling ” some kind of “pepper or powder” have been reported from South Kashmir Districts . Like their counterparts in other States of India, J&K police so far has expressed shown its helplessness to bring to book the people responsible for this coward and condemnable act that has swept valley like an epidemic.
Police have announced cash reward of Rs.6.00 lacs for any one providing vital information that leads to arrest of the perpetrators of this evil act against women. That apart, in Kashmir, certain unique developments have taken place in the present scenario of unabated incidents of braid chopping. Firstly, in some areas like Kulgam locals recently claimed to have caught red handed the people who had chopped hair of women & before they could hand over them to police, they allege,”army men” , all of a sudden, appeared from nowhere , and took the “apprehended men” with them without handing them over to police. Secondly, the locals further allege that the police also appeared at the scene & shot some fires in air to disperse the protesting mob. Thirdly, there seems to be apparently some “deep rooted conspiracy” behind the daily occurrence of incidents of braid chopping in Kashmir which has reached Srinagar City too. In its latest spree of detestable incidence, on 4th October 2017 , in Srinagar city, two braid chopping cases have been reported from Bemina and Khanyar areas . In Bemina the locals claimed that they apprehended two braid choppers “with arms and ammunition” and gave them to the police for necessary actin under law. The two men nabbed by locals of Bemina area were OGWs (over ground workers) of the “militants” whose escape was facilitated by the locals and that they were not the persons involved in the heinous acts, the police said.
Under the prevailing lawlessness in the valley , women folk is highly scared even in their homes and reluctant to venture out. In some cases gold armaments have also been reportedly snatched from the women in their unconscious state.
It has also been reported in the print and electronic media that “non locals” hands have been found involved in the commission of heinous acts of women braid chopping in JK. However, it cannot be dispensed with that without local-help , non locals cannot dare do it in Kashmir . Acting on these media reports, the District Administration of Doda has banned entry of non-locals into the territorial limits of the district. A SIT has also been constituted to probe into this menace & report to the Administration. In JK , the local people have at their own been sensitising the residents about the incidents of braid chopping & stressing on them to remain vigilant to thwart attempts at these incidents in their localities. People in many villages are stated to have become extra-cautious to protect the honour & dignity of their women by keeping night-vigils in their localities . The people in many areas of Kashmir hold spades, shovels, sticks, knifes, axes, etc, at night, to safeguard & protect their women & crush any braid chopper if found indulging in such horrible acts.
The question that in this entire scenario pops up in mind is that since braid chopping started outside JK in early May-June this year & continued till September, how it found its way in J & K during August-September 2017 when no more incidents of it are reported there now? Was it done outside JK by some “agencies” to make people believe in”superstitious narratives” that are in the present political landscape of India freely sold among common people to garner support for some hidden “agenda” of forcing outdated “age old superstitions” on common gullible masses of India ?
After witnessing huge backlash from media & other social groups against it, was this “menace” directed by some “agencies” purposely towards J &K where the “atmosphere” is ripe enough to create & add new “dimensions” to the fear-psychosis that the Kashmiri population, especially women & children, are already undergoing since decades? It may not be out of place to recall to our minds that in early 1990s the Kashmiri homes , especially in Srinagar, would open door to “mysterious” knocking by some “dain/witch” to find only that the “mysterious door knocker”, clad in black head-to-toe robes with long-spike- like nails, would immediately run away from the door, the moment it was opened , and to be driven away in some “gypsy/vehicle” parked outside the house of the victim, never to be seen again. Is it mystery or ploy only the locals know the answer better than non locals as victim knows how he became victim?