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Braid chopping tearing apart social fabric in Kashmir

Photo: Hindustan Times

By Ameen Rather

As the mysterious hair-chopping gets upgraded to a sort of contagion, Kashmir is paying hefty costs to its economy and the social fabric.

Yesterday while I was studying at the Library of Kashmir University, after Maghrib prayer (Sunset Prayer), Faisal, my younger brother, left the reading hall to sit outside on the lawns of the Library. When he didn’t return to the reading hall after a long time, I thought it was unusual. I hurriedly walked out of the Library to the corner of the park, where Faisal was sitting. His head was lowered; his eyes red with anger. I asked him what the matter was. He didn’t answer. Like a mute master of his own slavery, he scrolled up and down the home page of his Facebook account on his phone. What is the matter, I repeated. Without looking at me, he passed on his mobile to me. I saw a video playing on it in which two non-Kashmiri boys were crying, “Hamai choodo. Hum dubara Kashmir nahi aayay gai” (Please let us go. We will never visit Kashmir again).

It’s not been a couple of weeks yet, since I wrote an article on Cafe Dissensus about the philosophy behind braid chopping in Kashmir. The phenomenon of braid cutting of women, usually under mysterious circumstances, has created a crisis in Kashmir. With more than 150 cases reported already, Kashmir has closed literally for three days in protest.

The fear has led to mob violence and instilled lynch mentality. In a bid to scare the choppers away, people are resorting to acts of violence. Invariably, the victims are innocent. In broad daylight, people intercepted a transgender near Tourist Reception Centre, thrashed and abused him. He had come to Srinagar to pray at the Makhdoom Sahib shrine. Rag pickers and beggars are ‘soft’ target of the ‘mob flap’. Their looks and apparel make them more susceptible. The first incident was reported from Gandbal, where a strong mob started to abuse and heckle four rag-pickers. On October 8, 2017, six foreigners – three Australian and one each from South Korea, England, and Ireland – met the same fate, when they were lost in the streets of Rainawari. Travelling from Leh to Srinagar, the group lost their way around 2 am. Their vehicle was stopped at Kanikachi Lati Mohalla. Tasavur Mushtaq writes in a Kashmir Life report on 21 October, 2017: “As the locals saw foreigners, they raised a hue and cry which caused a huge crowd of people on spot turning into an balky mob.” Fortunately, some elders, however, ensured restraint and rescued the tourists and handed them over to the police.

While returning from a Masjid in Danter, Islamabad (Anantnag), Abdul Salam Wani (70), was hit by a young man, believed to be his relative’s son, with a stone on his head, mistaking him to be a braid-chopper. He succumbed to his injuries! In Sopore, four Forest Officers were thrashed by the people mistaking them to be braid choppers. And many more such incidents have been reported in Kashmir.

Two non-Kashmiri youths came to Kashmir to meet their sister, who is married in Gandarbal. On the way to the mohalla, where their sister lived, they lost their way. They were caught and beaten to a pulp by the locals, who mistook them to be braid choppers. Their cries, “We will never come to Kashmir again”, will remain a blot on Kashmir’s heritage of hospitality. In fact, they were the boys in the video Faisal showed me.

“How can we do this? This is not our culture, this is not our legacy. We seem be imitating the culture of mainland India,” Faisal said in a low tone. Such violence against others, who are different, seems to be rampant in India, as when Indian students beat Kashmiri students in India after the loss of Indian Cricket team or when fellow Indians lynch Muslims on the mere suspension of consuming beef or when Indians kill Dalits.

By resorting to such indiscriminate violence, Kashmiris are merely helping our oppressor to succeed in its goal to perpetuate its rule in Kashmir. The Indian forces want to create chaos among us and we easily become its victim. This culture of thrashing and lynching is not the legacy of our leaders. During the NIT (National Institute of Technology) row, we didn’t thrash Indian students even after they beat our students in Kashmir. Instead our leaders called us to treat them as our guests. In 2008, the Indians beat our drivers, burnt Kashmiri trucks but we gave them safe passage for Amarnath Yatra. We arranged food for the yatris stuck in curfews. How can we forget that during 2014 flood we rescued lakhs of Indian labourers and tourists and gave them safe living places even in our mosques, gave them free food and transport to India? Even many a time we rescued Indian soldiers during accidents, floods, etc.

Now how can we become so violent and aggressive that we forget our leadership, ethics, culture, legacy, and religion?

Despite our suspicion of the police and our reluctance to depend on them, the way we are reacting is unbefitting of a conspiracy. Our leadership (JRL) has already suggested ways: to hand over suspected braid choppers to the Masjid Committees, who will properly investigate their involvement or innocence.

Let’s shun this culture of violence and remember the verse from the Holy Quran, Chapter 5, Verse 32:  “…If anyone killed a (innocent) person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land, it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a (innocent) life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind…”

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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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Narrating Care: Disability and Interdependence in the Indian Context’, edited by Nandini Ghosh, IDSK, Kolkata, India and Shilpaa Anand, MANUU, Hyderabad, India.

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