Srinagar: On Friday at around 7 am, 58-year-old Mehbooba Banoo was walking home after getting a blood glucose test done at a local clinic few blocks away from her house at Kralapora. She had barely walked a distance when two youth got down from a motorcycle and pulled her hair locks. The assailants chopped off her hair and left Banoo lying unconscious on the road. She was later revived by a cyclist.
The incident has left the area that lies on the outskirts of Srinagar panic-stricken. Towards the night, people hit the roads with shovels, iron rods, sticks, and axes asking people to turn off the lights of vehicles and frisking the vehicles before allowing them to pass by.
Such incidents have been more frequent in South Kashmir area of Kulgam, which saw heavy protests last year after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Burhan Muzaffar Wani. However, braid chopping incidents (dozens of them) are now being reported from other parts of Kashmir as well.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has already asked the Jammu and Kashmir Police to probe these incidents and special investigation teams (SITs) have been constituted. The police on Sunday also announced a reward of Rs 6 lakh to help nab the culprits.
"The reward for giving information or assistance in nabbing any person found involved in braid cutting has been doubled to Rs 6 lakh. The general public is advised to call the police on the helpline numbers if they find any suspicious person, movement in their areas. The name and particulars of that person, persons will be kept secret," the police said on Sunday in a statement.
However, the locals allege that the army and the local police are letting go of the culprits caught by the public, thus sparking protests. People have also been sharing images of the culprits on social networking sites.
Mohammad Amin, a resident of Srinagar city area of Nowhatta, which has seen frequent incidents of stone pelting and anti-India protests, said that the braid chopping incidents remind him of the stories of ghosts knocking on people's doors, which had become common in the Valley few years after the militancy started in the 1990s.
"Those ghosts had long nails, we were told. It created a widespread scare," he said, alleging that the state machinery could be behind the "braid-chopping incidents".
"The state police and the army want to reinforce this in our minds that we are not safe in our own place," he alleged.
The incidents of braid chopping, however, have left the state government equally tizzy.
The deputy commissioners have also asked the district officials to remain vigilant. On Saturday, Anantnag DC Mohammad Younis Malik said that in view of the braid chopping incidents reported in the district "an emergency meeting of the magistrates, police officers and civil society members was carried out to discuss the measures that need to be taken to tackle the situation, and to nab the culprits".
"All the magistrates have been asked to ensure their presence at their respective headquarters and ensure that their subordinates also do not leave their stations without proper permission," he said.
People are also staying awake in their localities to ward off the braid choppers. but despite the government measures, it is the mystery behind these incidents that has left many baffled.
At the Kakawaring area of Charar-e-Sharief, 28-year-old Nusrat Banoo's hair was chopped off at 5 am on Saturday when she tried to open the window of her kitchen to throw away stale food. She said that a "hand" grabbed her throat and she fell unconscious. By the time her family members came to her rescue, her hair had been cut off and the culprits had run away.
In Nowgam, on the outskirts of Srinagar, local residents including women hit the streets and raised anti-government slogans, after braids were chopped of a local girl. In an adjacent area, local residents claimed that they thwarted another incident by foiling a break-in of a house.
After these incidents, political parties including the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have sought action.
"The Peoples Democratic Party sees the braid chopping incidents as a direct attack on Kashmiri ethos and a brazen attempt to undermine the universal culture of respect for womanhood," said Sartaj Madni, PDP vice-president.
Published Date: Oct 01, 2017 21:51 PM | Updated Date: Oct 01, 2017 21:51 PM