From the past few months, the incidences of braid chopping have been making the headlines in almost all the major dailies, regional and local newspapers, television, radio and the internet. Suddenly, there is something much more complicated and challenging than the Arushi-Hemraj double murder case.
While the similarity in both the cases is the victimization of women, elaborated media coverage and inconclusiveness about the perpetrator, the difference in the braid chopping incidents is that it is repetitive in occurrence, follows a predictable pattern, and has absolutely every other stranger under the scanner of suspicion.
Over the past months I have read a lot on the incidents, either through a story, editorial, or an opinion. However, it was only a month and a half back, when the first braid chopping incident was reported from Kashmir, then I realized the gravity of the matter. Since then, every morning, there is news on the issue, be it an incident of braid chopping or beating up of suspects by the general public.
While there is fear gripping the valley, there is also an opportunity for the resilient people of Kashmir to overcome this. This is the reason why I keep using the golden terms of ‘self-reliance’ and ‘self-sufficiency’.
Whenever, public has resolved to fighting issues like these on their own, the inevitable has always been a dangerous possibility. The fears turned true when a local man in south Kashmir was lynched by the residents on the basis of suspicion.
By the time people realized he was not the perpetrator, he was already dead. An innocent life was thus lost as a result of people’s response to fight their fear. A couple of gory incidents in the valley and the fear factor was ingrained among the people. These are clear indications of paranoia or fear psychosis.
The state administration, especially the police department has come under immense criticism for its failure to catch the culprits. Opinion makers also went on to say that this is a strategic move by the centre to disturb the normal functionality of the people.
Well, if you connect the dots, you might as well agree to the rationale, owing to the fact that people in the last couple of months have not taken to the streets, incidents of stone pelting seem like a fading memory, and more or less, the “freedom movement” has taken a backseat.
Interestingly, what contradicts this conspiracy theory is that braid chopping incidents were reported months before from the different states of northern India such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, and even Delhi. Apparently, almost all the cases reported, talk about ‘unidentified men’ to be the miscreants.
Some people also believe sorcerers to be behind this. Now mind you, these states are among the most developed, normal functional states of the country. So what does this lead one to believe? Are we making an easy assumption or a logical one?
While the mystery behind braid chopping lingers on, it has had a profound effect on the psyche of the local people, restricting their mobility and making them even vulnerable to easy suspicion. As the fitting words from a column of a local daily put it “There are hundreds of possibilities that a person, otherwise with no malice, may be at a wrong place at a wrong time and be mistaken for a braid chopper. A person’s death can justify no circumstances in which he or she was killed, that too if the person is later found to be innocent. Caution is the word here.” That’s right! ‘Caution’ not ‘Panic’ is the way to go.
What psychology and experience tells us is that a far more number of casualties are a result of panic rather than the act itself. We have seen this whether it is a natural calamity like the Kashmir floods of 2014 or the recent Elphinstone railway station stampede in Mumbai where 23 people lost their lives.
While there is fear gripping the valley, there is also an opportunity for the resilient people of Kashmir to overcome this. This is the reason why I keep using the golden terms of ‘self-reliance’ and ‘self-sufficiency’. When we already know how frail and flawed our administration and police department is, we should certainly deprive ourselves of the disappointment of counting on them. One of the bravest women I know of in Kashmir stays in a double story house all by herself.
When I asked her how she was managing all alone, among all the chaos created by the braid chopping incidents, she answered that she was capable enough not only to protect herself but also to give the perpetrator a sound beating. Clearly we need more such people who believe in themselves and are not afraid of cowards like the braid choppers. Being able to overcome your fears with new improved confidence and courage is one of the best experiences in the world. If we ourselves take control of our lives and start breaking down our fears, then we are capacitated to take on absolutely anything in life.
The author is copy editor with The Legitimate and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org