Kashmiris protest against braid-chopping incidents, authorities clueless

Srinagar (2 October 2017): There seems to be no let-up in theincidents of braid-chopping as a dozen incidents of mysterious hair chopping have been reported fromdifferent parts of Kashmir Valley, especially from south Kashmir. Even if Special Investigation Teams (SITs) have been formed to probe the matter, helplines have been established anda cash reward of six lakh rupees has been announced to those who provide information about the culprits, yet  braid-chopping continues unabated.


In a recent incident, braid of a 21-year-old Nageena Bano was chopped off in Chewdara village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on October 1. Bano was alone at her home while her family members were busy in their paddy fields when the incident took place. Locals have been quoted as saying that unknown persons enquired about her father before knocking her unconscious. A similar incident was reported from Bonpora area of Batamaloo Srinagar, October 1, when a woman alleged that unknown persons barged into her house and chopped off her braid. The incident triggered protests in the area.Braid of another young girl was chopped off after she went outside her home to fetch drinking water in Saimoh village of Tral in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, September 30 evening. The girl had reportedly fell unconscious before her braid was chopped off by unknown persons.

Local residents in Wanpoh-Anantnagin south Kashmir blocked the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, September 29,after a braid-chopping incident was reported in the area. The braid of an elderly woman was chopped off (September 28) as she wasreportedlygoing to buy bread early morning. She fell unconscious and then found her braid chopped off. The incident triggered panic and protests. Residents demanded arrest of culprits. Another braid-chopping incident was reported from Khanabal-Pahalgam (KP) road where a 20-year-old girl was allegedly found lying unconscious at her home with her braid chopped off. Women and children in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara took to streets demanding action in the braid-chopping incidents.

In view of braid-chopping incidents reported in the district, Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, Mohammad Younis Malik, September 29, called an emergency meeting of the magistrates, police officers and civil society members to discuss measures that need to be taken up to tackle the situation and to bring the culprits to book. The Deputy Commissioner directed all the magistrates to activate Village Level Committees (VLCs) so that vigil was maintained to check such incidents.

A ten-year-old student, Ifat Farooq, was found unconscious with her braid chopped off on the veranda of her house in Nathpora village in Bandipora district in north Kashmir, September 28.Family members of the girl alleged that the girl returned home after school around 4 pm when some burqa-clad person caught hold of her in the lawn of their house.The report further said that as herfather returned home from the fields, he found his daughter unconscious and saw her braid chopped off.

Many such incidents have been reported from various parts of the Valley where braids of several young girls and women has been mysteriously found chopped during the past month or so. These girls and women have told their families and police that unknown persons cut their braids after knocking them unconscious with some spray.

To speed up the investigation process, SITs have been constituted in every district headquarter of the valley. A reward of six lakh rupees has also been announced by the police and a helpline has been established so that people could “inform and seek assistance with regard to any braid cutting incident.”

Both separatists and mainstream politicians have expressed concern over the growing incidents of braid-chopping in several parts of the Valley. “Braid-chopping is an unacceptable offence and an attack on women’s modesty. Keeping in mind the criminal silence maintained by police, people should act accordingly and expose and unveil agencies involved in this heinous crime,” said Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, September 30. Referring to similar incidents that haunted people in the past, Geelani said, “The authorities while creating scare set ablaze properties and localities during dead of night and people were harassed by creating false impression of ghosts, however all these evil designs failed and were exposed by people.” The spokesperson of Hurriyat (M) led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, September 27, said that such inhuman and degraded acts are committed to create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among women in Kashmir and theelements behind these immoral and criminal activities should be exposed.

Condemning these incidents, CPI (M) leader and MLA Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami urged the administration to gear up for the challenge as mere assurances won’t help. In a statement issued here on September 26 he said that such incidents have created panic among people. “Community leaders, village elders and others must remain vigilant to expose these elements,” he added. In another statement, National Conference provincial spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar, September 28, said,“In the past too Kashmir has witnessed mass scares involving some ‘super natural’ beings meant to scare people and take their focus away from other pressing issues. The fact that braid-chopping incidents took place in different parts of the country does not and should mean that the authorities hide behind the word ‘mysterious’. It’s time for them to be proactive rather than being clueless on the incidents.” Dar alleged that the situation is such that many girls have stopped going to schools, women have stopped venturing out in Kulgam and men prefer to stay put at home to protect their womenfolk for fear of mysterious braid choppers out on the loose.

Braid-chopping incidents were reported from various states in north India before reaching Jammu and Kashmir. Even though police has claimed to have sent samples of hair cut under mysterious circumstances for forensic test, it continues to remain clueless. The first incident in Kashmir was reported from a village in south Kashmir’s Kokernag in Anantnag district followed by Kulgam district.