The braid-chopping panic in Kashmir took an ugly turn on Friday when a 70-year-old man was mistaken as a braid chopper and hit by a brick which led to his death in Danter village of Anantnag district, the police said.
A police official said that Abdus Salam Wani was attacked with a brick when he was heading towards his home after offering early morning (Fajr) prayers. Wani was shifted to district hospital Anantnag and later referred to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Srinagar where he succumbed to his injuries.
The official said that youth in the village were doing night patrolling and keeping a vigil to foil any attempt at braid chopping.
“Since it was still dark, someone suspected Abdus Salam of being a braid chopper and hit his head with a brick,” he said.
A police official posted in the district said that since the family hasn’t come up with any complaint, “we are investigating the matter and will act accordingly.”
The official said that in many cases, residents have been acting on their own against suspected braid choppers, resulting in beating and “harassment of innocents by mobs.”
Meanwhile, the state government imposed restrictions and suspended mobile Internet services in parts of the Kashmir valley, including the city, in an attempt to thwart protests against a series of mysterious braid-chopping incidents.
The restrictions were imposed in dozens of residential areas in downtown Srinagar to scuttle the protests called by three senior separatist leaders.
The separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Muhammad Yaseen Malik, had called for state-wide protests after midday prayers today against the braid-chopping incidents, which they described as “attacks on women’s dignity”.
To thwart the protests, the authorities imposed restrictions on civilian movement in areas falling under the jurisdiction of Rainawari, Khanyar, Nowhatta, Safakadal, MR Gunj, Maisuma and Kralkhud police stations.
The congregational prayers at Jamia Masjid in Nowhatta were also barred while separatist leaders were put under detention.
The authorities also suspended mobile Internet services in Srinagar, Bandipora, Baramulla and Budgam districts and also put the train service on halt after midday.
The heightened restrictions were imposed in the region as incidents of braid-chopping have continued unabated triggering a series of localised protests across the Kashmir valley.
Even as the police have announced a reward of Rs 6 lakh for providing information or assistance in nabbing “any person found involved” in braid-chopping, the number of incidents has increased with several cases reported from Srinagar also.
Meanwhile, another braid chopping incident was reported on Friday in Chattisinghpora village of Anantnag district. Massive protests also broke out at Pantha Chowk on Srinagar outskirts in the wee hours after a woman alleged that unknown persons cut her braid. The woman screamed and informed her neighbours about the incident after pre-dawn prayers.
A witness said that women, children and elderly took to streets and blocked the Srinagar-Jammu highway. “A woman complained that her braid was cut by some unidentified persons. We have registered a case and investigations have been taken up,” said sub-divisional police officer Pantha Chowk, Aijaz Mir.
He said that they persuaded the protesters to allow the traffic on the highway that was later restored.
In yet another incident, a woman at Azad Basti, Natipora also alleged that unknown persons cut her braid. The news spread like wildfire in the area, with youth resorting to massive sloganeering against the government and police.
A witness said that within no time, women and youth blocked the road and demanded immediate arrest of the braid choppers. Police reached the spot and tried to persuade the protesters not to block the road, but some youth resorted to stone pelting, triggering clashes in the area, the witness said.
A police source said that they have registered a case and took up investigations.
Panic also gripped Zafrran Colony area when two women were walking on the road and were allegedly chased by the two youth on a motorbike. A witness said that one of the women fainted on the spot, triggering in panic across the colony.
‘Dont Take Law In Your Hands’
Kashmir range inspector general of police, Muneer Khan said: “Nobody has been arrested in connection with the braid chopping incidents. The criminal elements have started taking advantage of this chaos. They take away gold ornaments of the victims. Besides, people are now manhandling suspects.”
The IGP said that instead of handing over suspects to the police, people thrash them and beat them ruthlessly. “We have decided to book these miscreants under section 307 (attempt to murder) without any mercy for them. They can’t take law in their hands,” Khan told Kashmir Post.
He said that special teams have been constituted that comprise a member from the Social Welfare department, a doctor and police officials from each district who would meet the victims and counsel them.
In another incident, a class 12 student was attacked at around 8.45 am when she was moving in a street in Parray Mohalla area of Sangri, Baramulla. A witness said that said that two youth sprayed her eyes, rendering her unconscious. “Later, her braid was found chopped off,” said a local.
Imam’s Bread Chopped Off
Ghulam Nabi Gorsi, an Imam at Fotlipora, Charar-e-Sharief in Budgam district alleged that three unknown men first beat him up and then chopped off a portion of his beard when he was going to lead ‘Fajr’ prayers. “I was stopped by three unknown persons and one of them hit me in my belly and I fell unconscious. When I gained consciousness, I found a portion of my beard chopped off,” Gorsi said.
Pertinently, the braid chopping incidents started from Kulgam district and soon spread to other parts of Kashmir. The incidents have triggered scare among the people, even as the police constituted special investigating teams to probe the incidents. A reward of Rs 6 lakh has also been announced for credible information on braid choppers.
A braid chopping attempt was foiled at Beerwah town in Budgam where a middle-aged woman was attacked by some unidentified men late on Friday evening, locals said.
They said that the woman was attacked while she was working in kitchen of her house (in ward 5).
“But showing bravery, she fought back and foiled the attempt of braid choppers. She sustained some minor injuries on her face and was rushed to SDH Beerwah,” a witness told Kashmir Post over phone.
Meanwhile, late Friday evening, a woman was allegedly attacked at Darwan Nowgam village at Charar-Sharief. Locals said that she raised an alarm. “Announcements were later made on public address system about the presence of braid choppers in the nearby villages,” they said.
Cooperation Of Victims Must: DIG Bhat
Police on Thursday said that it is not possible to conduct investigations in the braid-chopping incidents without the cooperation of the victims.
Addressing a press conference here, deputy inspector general of police (central Kashmir range), Ghulam Hassan Bhat said that the police have tried its best to into the details of investigation and see how all this (braid chopping) was happening.
“We would require support from the public as there is a human being who claims her hair has been cut,” Bhat said. “We have decided that a lady police officer will be available for examination or recoding statement of these victims.”
In almost 90 percent cases, Bhat, who was flanked by SSP Srinagar Imtiyaz Ismail, said that the police have seen that such incidents have taken place within houses.
“In one of the incidents at Saidpora Noorbagh, we found that the victim was sleeping in her room and her hair was cut. It was said that somebody had come and cut her braid,” Bhat said.
He however said that the police investigation found that a maid was also sleeping in the room and she had cut victim’s braid. “During the questioning of accused maid, she revealed that she was being taunted by victim and her mother which upset her. The accused maid said that she got mentally disturbed and keeping in view the braid chopping incidents she thought it was an opportune time to cut the victim’s hair,” the DIG Bhat said. “This is a recorded statement. In this case we had a small support from the family. In rest of the cases we have not been provided support by victims or their close relatives.”
2 Men Mistaken As Braid Choppers
A police spokesman in a statement here said: “Today around 1900 hours, one more frenzied mob caught two civilians on charges of being braid cutters at Chopan Mohalla, Ishber on Srinagar outskirts. Police timely intervened to save both the civilians, though both were beaten to pulp. The civilians turned out to be Samir Ahmad Khan son of Noor Muhammad Khan of Ahmad Nagar and Tahir Ahmad Beigh son of Ghulam Qadir Beigh of Tulwari , Gojwara.”
Police spokesman requested people not to resort to “vigilantism” and cooperate with the police in this matter.