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Braid-cutting in Kashmir

The most read news published in several daily newspapers and their online editions in last few days has been those of braid-cutting incidents that are spreading from one district to another.

Sep 29, 2017
The most read news published in several daily newspapers and their online editions in last few days has been those of braid-cutting incidents that are spreading from one district to another. Such incidents are not only bizarre acts but they tend to create an atmosphere of panic and terror. Critical view in the form of caustic satire explored some of the underlying elements of these episodes and how the institution called state police has been handling matters. Befuddled by these mysterious incidents, the level of anxiety in masses has shot up. 
The public concern has gained such an importance that local leaders have started pointing fingers at serious lapses in the public safety mechanism. On Thursday, the braid-cutting incident of a fifth standard student, Ifat Farooq, from Bandipora district was reported. The victim narrated that she was grabbed by burqa-clad persons who poured some material on her which left her unconscious. The father of the victim confirmed finding her in unconscious state. Cursory observation reveals a pattern in different incidents with the only motive to instigate fear and chaos. 
Then there are popular theories like it being a conspiracy to ban hijab and burqa, being handiwork of agencies, being public intimidation like that seen before 2013 Kishtwar violence…. Although Public Safety in Kashmir is seen through an entirely different lens, the braid-cutting episodes seem to rack even the best brains at work. Jeopardizing the public safety system in the state is a crime that needs not to be underestimated. In the series of these attacks against the citizens, J&K does not happen to be the first state to register or report the cases. 
A report published on Outlook India’s website more than three weeks ago, on 6 September, stated that the braid-cutting incidents were causing panic in Jammu after similar mysterious episodes were reported in Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and Punjab. The report put the number of braid-cutting incidents reported in Jammu at over 40. From Jammu the panic with the incidents spread to Bhaderwah and Rajouri and from there on to several districts in Kashmir region. Earlier incidents were reported in the first week of August and since then they have been spreading in the northern states of India. 
With the law enforcement agencies clueless, there are many questions raised by the concerned people. The best cure when police fails in such circumstances happens to be public awareness. Even then it leads to a state of mass suspicion and heightened tension, a state that can easily transform into a riot-like situation. Public intimidation cannot be ruled out and unless the culprits are caught and put behind the bars nothing conclusive can be said. Whether there is a bigger motive like to disrupt the sense of safety and public security than a petty crime, needs to be discovered. But a tight vigil happens to be inevitable.      
Rising Kashmir, September 29, 2017

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