The braid-chopping wave, which started as a few stray incidents in Delhi and Haryana, and then spread to Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and other states, has really taken chaotic and violent hold of Kashmir.
Women have reported being approached by a pair of masked men, having something sprayed into their faces that makes them fall unconscious, and waking up with their braids fully or partially lopped off. As Scroll.in reports, resident don’t seem to believe the reactions to it are “mass hysteria”, as it’s being referred to in the media, but a planned and systematic method of humiliating women.
So far, the reactions to the stories of braid choppers in Kashmir has led to massive protests that shut down Srinagar, Maisuma and other towns, saw trains services cancelled in southern Kashmir on October 9th, and mobile internet services suspended on October 6th. Since around mid September, hundreds of people have actually been attacked by fearful residents, and last week, a 70-year-old man was lynched on suspicion of being a braid chopper.
Villages in Kashmir have formed night patrols, and mosques have issued public warnings. On October 9th, police had to “rescue” six foreigners from angry locals in Nowgam, who had captured them on suspicion of being choppers. Since September 20th, Eastern Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district has banned the entry of outsiders without police registration into the area for two months because of public fear over braid choppers.
No one has been caught so far, and forensic labs can offer no explanation. Rumours, however, abound, from whispers of ghosts and malignant spirits, and the involvement of the military. Some reports also say that braid chopping has become a method of “settling scores” with people attacking business partners and stalkers.
When you read the accounts of the women themselves though, you do feel that there’s something sinister going on here. Conflict areas are indeed different from other parts of the country, and operate at a heightened level of violence, fear and reaction. It isn’t that hard to understand why a case like this would blow up and magnify in a state like Kashmir, where multiple state and non-state actors are invested in the community being constantly afraid.