By Javeed Ali
I was browsing through my Facebook profile on my laptop. Its timeline from a long time has been displaying videos, images and contents of alleged braid chopping incidents in Kashmir. It has been over one month these views keep flaunting in front of you once you login to any social media app. The chapter started on September 04, 2017 and like a wild fire it has spread all over the Kashmir valley. Every now and then we see alleged braid choppers being held and beaten to pulp. But so far nothing concrete has come out who is behind this stratagem.
As my mind was revolving around the braid chopping incidents, I heard the noise of footsteps through our lane. It was over 12 midnight and when I peeped out of the window, I saw a middle aged man attired in Phiran (Kashmiri gown). It was an unusual thing as we reside in the area where movement of traffic and people gets curtailed before 10 in the evening. His appearance was shabby and he was looking weirdly around the surrounding. As my mind was already engrossed in the unabated braid chopping incidents in Kashmir, I straightaway suspected him as braid chopper. Without wasting any time, I gestured to him, “Tohe kya chu yepaeer karaan? (What are you doing here?)”. Before he could utter anything, one of my neighbour who had already got on to the terrace of his house screamed, Braid chopper! Braid chopper! Within a flash, the whole horde of neighbourhood was on the ground. They caught hold of him and started enquiring about his uncommon presence in our territory. He was terrified and scared. Everyone was asking him queries and they started beating him before he could utter anything. He was punched, kicked, smashed, smacked, thumped, knocked, slammed and even abused. The ruthless and merciless beating caused him grievous injuries. He was bleeding profusely and broke down with tears trickling down his face. His clothes were searched but to our utter surprise there were only few pieces of cigarettes and no tool, blade or scissors were found.
My all attempts to protect him from beating and listen to his version failed completely as he was badly overpowered by the huge group of people of our vicinity. In the meantime, police vehicles arrived and they asked to hand him over to them. The people declined to hand him over to police and started chanting slogans suspecting him as Army worker. They pelted stones on police vehicles but police burst tear smoke shells and took him forcibly in their vehicle. After that everyone started making bizarre stories surrounding the incident as is common in Kashmir.
The next day, respectable and trustworthy elders of our area went to the police station to enquire about the fate of the alleged braid chopper. They were shocked to know that the person whom we had beaten barbarously is a mentally retarded patient of our nearby locality. He was now admitted in a hospital. His family members were present there with the medical documents which confirmed that he is suffering from stress and depression since last 20 years. They were crying bitterly along with the mentally challenged person whom we had suspected as braid chopper. Doctors attending him claimed that he will take time to recuperate from the bad injuries inflicted on him by our brutal beating.
This is one instance where we have beaten an innocent person just because we are facing the case of mass hysteria as propounded by the psychologists. An unruly mob roughed up foreign tourists when they had lost their way which had sent out an undesirable example to the world contrary to the fact that we are known as best in the hospitality with the guests. In Shallabugh area of Ganderbal, a group of 3 non-local tourists and guests of a local scribe were severely beaten and thrashed by locals as they mistook them as braid choppers. Their vehicle was also damaged and later on they were rescued by police. In another incident, two men were inhumanely hammered in Wakoora area of same district when they were collecting donations for a Yateem (orphan) trust.
In one of the disheartening incident, a 70-year old person was stoned to death in Anantnag on the suspicion of braid chopper. At some places rag pickers, Bihari labourers, transgender, lovers and drug addicts were also badly beaten just because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Attack on the modesty of women is unbearable and same cannot be allowed to happen in our society. Braid chopping is an ugly scene which has made inroads in Kashmir after it previously occurred in different parts of the world and across the India as well. So it has to be looked from the broader perspectives rather than through the contours of the prevailing conflict in Kashmir. After braid choppers hit Delhi in July, the police commissioned experts from the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences to study the phenomenon. The same institute had researched complaints about a monkey-like creature attacking people in the national Capital in 2001 and concluded that the entire episode was a case of mass hysteria. It means when a fear or threat real or imagined spreads to a large number of people through rumours or narratives so much so that many of them start reporting similar symptoms. A former head of the department of Psychiatry at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) reportedly told one of the news agency, “From all available evidence it seems that the women are cutting their own hair, either consciously or in an altered sensorium, likely to seek attention”. One more psychiatrist added that braid chopping could be the result of depression or stress ailments of women folk. Only time will tell us what is the exact cause and intent of this braid chopping scenario till then we should avoid believing in conspiracy theories.
We should not pay heed to rumours as there are many mischief and rumour mongers who always play pranks for their amusement and fun. Social media is helping these pranksters. It creates fear psychosis which badly impacts the behaviour of human souls which in turn makes him or her the victim of mass hysteria. There may be genuine incidents of braid chopping but we should not blame it on any group or party without having any authenticity. We should not use the violent ways to protest against what is still a mystery. A 5-year old boy Sibti Hyder of Gangoo was injured at Pahoo, Pulwama when he was hit by a stone on his head. What was his fault? Was he involved in braid chopping? Why are we becoming the nation of vigilantes?
Last year rumour mongers got almost whole Kashmir populace on the streets on the rumour that polio drops caused deaths. Moreover, we should never forget the killing of Asrar Dar of Maisuma in 2009 who was killed by his friends on the love tangle and then his killers had protested violently for three days in Maisuma area and had blamed police for the killing. It was only after the investigation done by police which had revealed that the friends who were protesting against his death were his real killers. Furthermore, in the same year one of the relative of JKLF chairperson Mohammad Yasin Malik who was an auto rickshaw driver was strangulated to death by the robbers. At that time too, the blame was put on police for his death. Later on, investigations carried out in his death unraveled his killers as the robbers who had robbed him in his auto and strangulated him to death.
So we should ponder that giving unnecessary attention to rumour mongers is severely damaging our business and day to day life. There are so many business hawkers who are fearful to go to any region these days fearing they might be suspected as braid choppers. Even relatives and friends don’t visit to their respective relatives or friends. Few days ago a youth was beaten ruthlessly in Kakapora area in Pulwama when he was visiting to his aunt on his motorcycle. Where are we heading. The world will laugh at us if they will come to know about our ridiculous acts. The media fraternity needs to play an important role. They should not circulate anything without verifying the authenticity of incident. Moreover, we should not believe in rumours like holy scripts as there are many elements who are propagating rumours to serve their own motives. Let’s all confront this menace without targeting the innocent beings and most importantly we should prevent the spread of rumours which has badly impacting the life in Kashmir.