Braid cutting incidents in Kashmir turn into security nightmare; Hizbul, Separatists spark protests against govt

The frequent incidents of braid cutting in Kashmir pose a new security challenge for government forces, who are already struggling to prevent mob attacks. Those protesting against the government over the incidents have even resorted to stone pelting on the police and army.

People have also taken to carrying out night vigils as separatists and militants blame the government agencies for such incidents. Over 45 braid cutting incidents have been reported across the Valley in the last month or so.

In an audio clip released by Riyaz Naikoo, the top commander of militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, he has blamed the government agencies for incidents. “The hair of our mothers and sisters are being cut. This is a conspiracy of the government agencies. They want to evoke terror among people,”

“Security agencies have failed to trace the Mujahideen. Now they expect people to raise a hue and cry (alleging that) the Mujahideen go to houses late at night (to chop braids)… this will expose our movement and help agencies to trace us,” Naikoo said. “But the conspiracy of the enemy will be foiled.”

He said that the braid cutting incidents were an attack on the honour of people of Kashmir and asked them to rise up against this.

Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani said in a recent statement that the culprits “carrying out the braid chopping incidents are roaming freely despite the presence of armed forces, CRPF, BSF, army and police personnel”. “The attack on the dignity of women is unbearable and no sane person can ever tolerate this inhumane act.”

As the police has failed to curb the incidents, people are now taking to the streets in protest. In Nowgam and Kralpora area of Srinagar, where two incidents of braid cutting were reported earlier, people took to streets and protested against the police and government.

On Tuesday, a police party faced public protests as they went to arrest a youth in the braid chopping case in Delina area of Baramulla in North Kashmir. Also, a case was registered by the police on Tuesday in the Pattan area of Baramulla for raising a false alarm about the involvement of two labourers, Maroof Ahmad Taas and Mohammad Jan Raina of Kalaroos.

Police intervened and rescued the labourers. Preliminary investigation revealed that the duo were labourers and lived in a rented accommodation in Pattan, provided by the local contractor. A first information report (FIR) was lodged against the rumour mongers, who have been identified. One person was arrested. A senior police official posted in Budgam said, “It is turning out to be a major law and order problem for us.”

Protests and shutdowns were witnessed in Seer Hamdan area of Anantnag on Tuesday as an army patrol was pelted with stones, who retaliated by firing shots in the air. Residents had blamed the army for rescuing a braid cutter.

Local residents of Brakpora in Anantnag had also beaten up a person, suspecting him to be the braid chopper. He, however, later turned out to be a thief and a drug peddler. After he was handed over to the police, it was found that he had already been facing cases of smuggling of narcotic substances. The police has, however, faced flak for the lack of any breakthroughs in the cases.

Opposition National Conference and Congress have termed the incidents as “inefficiency of the government”. The police, however, claimed that they have already arrested a youth from Baramulla in the braid chopping case. The arrest was made on Tuesday as some local people of Delina area raised commotion over the suspicious movement of the boy. They ruthlessly beat up the boy, who was in the area to meet a girl, before he was taken into police custody.

Inspector general of police, Kashmir range, Muneer Ahmad Khan, said that they have arrested the youth and the investigation in the braid chopping incidents was going on.

Deputy inspector general of police, north Kashmir, Vidhi Kumar Birdi, said that the police had arrested Nayeem Ahmad Malla of Watergam area in the braid chopping case. “He was going to meet the daughter of a local resident of Delina when people caught him. We later sent our police team to the area and arrested the boy,” he said.

After protests by the locals, the police party was rushed to the spot from the Delina police post. However, as they saw the boy being beaten up ruthlessly by the people, they tried to rescue and arrest him but the policemen were attacked. They had to lob teargas shells to disperse the mob. A senior police official said, “the boy was being beaten mercilessly when police intervened to rescue him. Large numbers of miscreants attacked the police party as well but somehow the boy was rescued from their clutches by firing teargas shells to disperse them.”

Later, Malla was treated for the wounds that he had received. A police spokesman said that strict action would be taken against those spreading rumours about braid chopping. “Strict legal action will be taken against miscreants breaking the law in the name of braid chopping. People are requested not to fall prey to rumours and it is reiterated that strict legal action will be taken against attention seekers in the garb of braid chopping. Besides, rumour mongers and mischief mongers will also be brought to book, who take advantage of the situation to disturb the peaceful atmosphere,” the police said in a statement.