Mysterious Braid Chopping incidents grip Kashmir after shaking Delhi

After causing panic in Delhi and adjoining states, braid chopping has reached Kashmir. Only here, the resultant “mass hysteria”, as psychologists have described such episodes, has given fresh ammunition to separatists and militants to corner the security agencies.

The Valley reported its first braid chopping in September, about a month after Jammu had reported several similar incidents. Promptly, the separatists blamed the Indian security agencies.

In all, according to the police, 35 cases of braid chopping have been reported from Kashmir so far and 192 from Jammu division.

On October 2, Riyaz Naikoo, field operational commander of the militant group Hizbul Mujahedeen, released an audio statement saying the chopping of women’s braids was aimed at “weakening” the separatist movement.

As to motive, Naikoo claimed that security forces wanted to keep “people away from” the militants, who had curtailed their movement in the last two months, making it difficult for the security forces to trace them. “To trace the mujahideen, [security] agencies have started this new propaganda,” Naikoo said. “Agencies know that now when mujahideen enter people’s homes at night, the people will raise a cry out of fear, exposing the mujahideen.”

Naikoo went further, alleging a grand conspiracy behind braid chopping. “You all know that hair of our mothers and sisters being cut is an Indian conspiracy involving [security] forces and senior officers of the police, the RSS, and the government,” he said, referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Their aim is enmity with Islam and Kashmir. You all know that when a braid chopper was caught in Kulgam, forces fired on people [to free him]. It’s clear who is involved in this conspiracy.”

Naikoo urged the people to catch and interrogate the suspected braid choppers themselves rather than leave the job to the police. “If he is found involved, hand him over to us [militants],” he said. “If that is not possible, get information from him about which agency is behind this and what is their motive. Then punish him yourself so that it is a lesson to others.”

Naikoo declared that he was willing to die defending women against braid chopping. “If I attain martyrdom protecting the hair of a mother or sister, that deal is acceptable to me,” he said.

The militant leader concluded his statement by advising women to wear “Islamic dress” that provides “complete protection” and to not go out unaccompanied. He also asked the people to remain steadfast to “foil Indian conspiracies”.

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