Kashmir valley's mysterious braid-chopper has left the valley in a state of flux. People are scared, women are sleepless but the Jammu & Kashmir Police has a different story to tell.
Speaking to IBT, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of North Kashmir's Baramulla District, Imtiyaz Hussain, said " This is nothing but mass hysteria, which has been wrongly propagated in the valley. There are few militant groups and some Pakistani elements who always find ways of instigating unrest in this region."
Imtiyaz also said, "The rumors spread in Kashmir valley, over braid chopping are baseless. Separatists and Hurriyat leaders are also taking advantage of the situation and blaming us, the security forces. We have been trying to counsel people in the valley over the braid-chopping for a long time now."
What about the cases reported? Hysteria?
Referring to the complaints of braid-chopping by a number of women SSP Baramulla added: "Doctors have clearly stated in reports that the victims showed no signs of physical struggle & did not have any injuries."
This 'Braid-chopping' goes beyond Kashmir. In a quest to uncover facts about braid-choppers in Delhi, in July, the police commissioned experts from the Institute of Human Behavior and Allied Sciences to study the phenomenon.
The same institute had researched complaints about a monkey-like creature attacking masses in the national Capital in 2001. The study had concluded that the entire episode was a case of 'mass hysteria'.
Meanwhile a report submitted earlier in August, by former head of the department of psychiatry at New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) states that "From all the available evidence, it seems the women are cutting their own hair either consciously or in an altered sensorium, likely to seek attention," said Dr Sudhir Khandelwal.
The Kashmir's braid-chopping hysteria took an ugly turn when a 70-year-old man suspected of being the culprit was lynched in South Kashmir's Anantnag District.
Reward doubled (for what?)
This gets confusing when on one hand the police call it mass-hysteria and on the other, double the reward for any inputs from civilians, on braid chopper(s) from 3 lakhs to 6 lakhs.
Also, reports suggest that the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, has directed the Director General of Police, Dr. Shesh Paul Vaid to form special teams to track down the culprits in different districts of Kashmir.
Meanwhile speaking to Danish Manzoor, Executive Editor, IBT India, the DGP J&K, Dr. Shesh Paul Vaid said, "The situation is under control as of now and we are investigating the matter. Teams have been deployed in different regions of the valley to keep an eye on any notorious activities in connection with braid-chopping."
Observing the series of braid-chopping rumors, the Bar Association Anantnag, Kashmir, led by its President Advocate Fayaz Ahmed Saudagar submitted a memorandum to the Chief Justice over the unabated braid-chopping incidents across Kashmir.
Braid-chopping incidents reported across India:
Earlier in August, a 23-year-old woman, identified as Meena Rani, a resident of Chandu village in Sangrur district of Punjab, reported of her braid chopped, when she woke up at night.
An 11-year-old resident of Bharu village in Gidderbaha of Muktsar, reportedly said that her brother informed her, of her hair being chopped, as she woke up in the morning.
Sapna, a resident of Chaunsar Basti in Bathinda, reported of falling unconscious when she went to her washroom in morning, upon gaining consciousness, her hair was chopped.
In July, Sunita Devi, a resident of Ashok Vihar phase-III area in Gurugram reported of a strange-looking man in his 60's, tried to attack her in her house. She added, "I fell unconscious and when I regained consciousness, I found myself lying on the floor and my braid was chopped off." However, the police have no clue over the incident still.
"I'm feeling scared," said another victim Aseena after her braid was chopped.
Another incident in July where a woman, Manisha from outskirts in Haryana said that "My mother and I had gone to the jungle to get fodder. She says she saw a person for a few moments and lost consciousness."
ON August 11, Manjura Bibi (35) and her nine-year-old daughter Reba Khatun from Fatehpur village in West Bengal reported of their braids been chopped mysteriously while they were asleep.
In August, a 45-year-old woman from Salempur Jat village claimed that her braid was chopped off under strange mysterious conditions.
A ninth class student reported that her braid was chopped while she was returning from tuitions.
These braid chopping incidents have one thing in common, that is most of the victims fell unconscious on the spot and later found their braids chopped. In some regions, the victims and their kin also say that was some evil-looking creature doing all this.
Assumed to be braid-chopper(s); innocents victimized
In the latest update over mobs assuming innocent people to be braid-chopper(s), a group of five foreign tourists were rescued by locals and the police in Kashmir.
"The group of foreign tourists was returning from the Ladakh region when a group of Kashmiri youth mistook them as braid choppers and held them up in Rainawari area. However, some locals tried to rescue the tourists and called the police," said a police official, adding that a police team reached the area immediately and rescued the group.
Two men were beaten badly by the mob furious over braid chopping incidents in the valley. Samir Ahmad Khan and Tahir Ahmad Beigh were assaulted in Ishber's Chopan Mohalla in Srinagar. Sources said that timely police action saved their lives.
In an incident of mob thrashing, on October 7, a mentally unstable man was mistaken to be a braid chopper and was thrashed at main market Kangan in Ganderbal district of Kashmir. Witnesses said the man was moving "suspiciously" with a handbag and was mistaken to be a braid-chopper by the people. Police reached the spot later and rescued the man.
Similar incidents of violence have been reported from most of the areas in North India, but the numbers are increasing in Kashmir specifically.
Form all the recent braid chopping instances in the region, the police says it is not clueless. They say that in most of the cases, the medical examination of the victims has revealed that they have fallen prey to mass hysteria, an anxiety which has now become a reality for them.
Picture this case:
"Today at about 1500 hours Police Station Ganderbal received an information that one lady namely Bokthee (50), wife of Abdul Karim Dar of Check Duderhama has been brought to Sub District Hospital Ganderbal by her family members alleging braid chopping attempt by some unknown person," a police official from Kashmir said.
"Upon this Ganderbal police swung into action, rushed to spot and started verification of the incident. However, upon thorough verification it came to surface that the incident is a clear case of hysteria and result of fear psychosis," said a doctor examining braid chopping victims.
"As per doctors of SDH Ganderbal there are no signs of hair chopping, no signs of any chemical spray or any kind of anesthesia material upon body/face of the lady, no injury on the body, however, it's a case of anxiety/hysteria," he added.