By Ameen Hussain Rather
The Indian State, drunk on chauvinism and Machiavellianism, knows no ethics and morality when it comes to exerting its control over its dominion. India has been scrupulously adhering to the canons of Italian political theorist, Niccolo Machiavelli, who in his celebrated work, The Prince, writes, “it is better to be cruel than merciful” or “honesty is not the best policy”.
Despotic India has mastered the Machiavellian statecraft. In The Prince, Machiavelli justified that the state, to maintain its power, can go for rampage, executions, marauding, manhandling and create fear-psychosis among the masses of acquired territories. Such principles of coercion are perfectly adhered to by the Indian intelligentia/Army/Police.
From rapes to disappearances, tortures to fake encounters, crackdowns to illegal detentions, pepper gas to pellet guns, nocturnal raids to tear gas shelling, mass blinding to mass killings, the Indian state has used every kind of tactics to suppress the determination of Kashmiri people.
In the mid-90s, when the armed insurgency was at its peak, people of Kashmir were exposed to the trauma of nocturnal harassment and torture for the first time. There were incidents of intruders barging into people’s houses, harassing them, and in some cases even beating the household members to pulp. People called the nocturnal intruders ghosts, popularly known as bhoot or dayan. While chasing ghosts, the ghosts either disappeared near security camps or entered into a camp. When people assembled outside the camps, the forces resorted to aerial firing to disperse the crowd, and some of them even claimed to have caught a ghost. On unmasking, it turned out to be a person associated with some agencies, which confirmed the belief that the government forces were responsible for creating panic among the people. These ghosts were mostly believed to have been unleashed by them to create a sense of fear among the people to harass them and to break their sprit. Generally, it was believed to be one of the strategies of the government forces to counter the insurgency. Veteran Kashmiri journalist, Yousuf Jameel, reported some of these incidents at that time: “There was some basis to the fear psychosis and there were some concrete incidents that happened in those days.” (Kashmir Life, October 28, 2013).
This time braid cutting appears to be employed with a similar purpose. So far more than 60 cases of braid cuttings have been registered in Kashmir. From a 55-year-old lady to a class 6 student, hundreds of women have been attacked till now. From bedroom to kitchen, washroom to reading room, from south to north, villages to towns, Kashmir has turned into a chaotic place. Women do not feel safe even inside homes; males have to escort women from one room to other in the same house. The whole populace of Kashmir has been made victim of chaos, fear, and depression. It is done with the purpose that people will mistake armed insurgents as braid choppers and will deny them shelter. In Ashmuji Kulgam, while going to bed in her room, a woman was made unconscious and her hair chopped off by some people. In Dailgam, Islamabad, a class 10 student was returning from bathroom, when some unknown people chopped off her hair in her reading room. On 1 October evening, a young girl from Saimh village of Tral went outside her home to fetch water. She fell unconscious before her hair was cut off by some unknown persons. Twenty year Nageena was alone at her home. Some unknown people enquired about her father before knocking her unconscious; her father, along with other family members, was busy at his paddy field. A neighbour found her unconscious with a chopped braid. On 2 October, a woman from Batamalo Srinagar was found with chopped braid. She alleged that some unknown people barged into her house and sprayed something on her face, leaving her unconscious. There are many more examples of such incidents.
In Chimmer, a far-off village of Damhal Hanjipora in Kulgam, a braid chopper surfaced in the village. When people tried to chase him away, army men too surfaced and helped him escape. Like in the 90s, fake ghosts were rescued by the army. At many places, after chopping off the hair, braid choppers escaped by jumping through windows from the second storey or jumped across tall fences. This clearly indicates that these intruders are not common people, like Biharis or others who suffer from malnutrition. Rather, it appears that these could the work of people, who are well-trained like the commandos, who barge into houses through bunkers, windows, and doors and escape with ease by jumping, running, etc. So far not even a single braid chopper has been arrested. In the nineties, nothing was ever proven, no one was arrested, and no proper conclusions were reached. The ghosts eventually subsided. Then the police invented the story of walnut thieves; this time they are making up stories of lover-hater, sane-insane, etc. It appears that this is an attempt to set the state-sponsored braid choppers free.
The presser man of the police department, IGP Khan, who spends more time at press conferences than working on problems, said, “During investigations, it emerged that 70 percent of those who claimed their hair had been chopped were psychiatric patients, while the rest ranged from jilted lovers to those with enmities and other personal problems.” This is as if the association of psychiatric patients have decided at once to create law and order problem in Kashmir. Either the police are really ignorant or they have chosen to turn a blind eye to reality. We know that the police are hiding the reality under the guise of SITs, helpline, award, reward, and investigation. This has been the legacy of police to deny the state’s involvement in human rights violations in Kashmir, whether it be in the case of Kunan-Poshpora, ghosts, unmarked graves, Chattsinghpora massacre, killing of Sameer Rah, Tufail Matoo, last year’s molestation of a Handwara Girl, etc.
The Indian state has used such cruel tactics in the past too to break down the spirit of people of Kashmir. This is an attempt to crush their right to self-determination. However, people with determination have fought off such attempts from the state. This time, too, the people will win this psychological warfare with jest and zeal.
Ameen Hussain Rather is a student of Law at the University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He is interested in defending human rights.
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