On braid-cutting

Psychological war or just a political stunt!!

If we dissect the present braid chopping ploy it seems to have succeeded in its agenda of creating an atmosphere of extreme fear and helplessness among the people mostly the rural folk.

In Kashmir we are in the middle of a conflict and unrest, so expecting rot from any of the warring groups is not surprising. A seven-decade-old issue—an offshoot of the bloody partition, catalyzed more forcefully for the last two decades has exposed this tiny homeland to all kinds of distress and sufferings. So, by that standards braid chopping is not that big a deal, but as it has hit our honour and dignity, we feel shaken. Nevertheless, the present crisis is not the first of its kind. A few years back witches were making rounds in the valley. But that fizzled out quickly because of poor planning and timing. We have also faced attacks on our dignity and distinctiveness way back in the late sixties and early seventies when widespread fire incidents mostly in rural areas frightened the entire valley. The whole administration of that time remained clueless and never succeeded in bringing the culprits to book. Interestingly, a particular socio-political organization with insignificant presence in this part of the country was then designingly named to be behind that fire weaponry and to make the situation more complicated the organization was accused of kidnapping small children for organ trade (that is at least what I was made to believe then by the elders who innocently became part of the rumor mill). Gullible Kashmiri people, as usual, took it for the truth and the politicians succeeded in their game plan to divert the public attention and opinion from their failures. But it was peacetime then and the episode passed without leaving any permanent mark on the psyche of common people.

At present the situation is different! During the last more than two decades, we have suffered a lot. We lost people, property and now our pride (read dignity) seems to be under severe attack. With its arrival in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district, the braid cutting menace has now spread its stealthy tentacles far and wide into northern and central parts of the valley during last more than a week, leaving many Kashmiri women without their much-cherished braids and deeply hurting their self-respect. And most unfortunate part of it is the administration is yet to move efficiently in this matter! Unable to know what to do and how to do. No doubt it is a unique situation of law and order but the administration has to come out of the self-imposed inertia and move beyond the routine prize-money, hotlines and SITs (special investigation teams). Regrettably, in the middle of all this fear and chaos, several innocent people while being at the wrong place at wrong time got thrashed by angry mobs who took them for braid choppers. If not handled properly the braid cutting outbreak will lead to anarchy!

If we dissect the present braid chopping ploy it seems to have succeeded in its agenda of creating an atmosphere of extreme fear and helplessness among the people mostly the rural folk. Who get benefited out of this chaotic situation? It is a psychological war—a war of nerves against the Kashmiri people with a sinister plan of creating a situation of fear psychosis coupled with battered dignity and thus weaning them away from their egalitarian thought of empowerment and emancipation. And this serious act of demoralizing general masses by victimizing their women that too in a comparatively conservative society is a serious attempt at introducing a sensitive war in this turmoil torn state. Political agendas and ramifications of braid cutting cannot be brushed aside and ruled out. Many political sections from all shades and sides fearing damage to their political constituencies over the period of time are desperate to reclaim their political turf at any cost. In the absence of robust and vibrant political ideologies and thoughts and with ever-changing public support Kashmir politics has changed for worst and politicians are out to embrace any shortcut to power bothering least about values and beliefs. Failure of nabbing or even having a clue of braid choppers in this era of efficient communication and strong intelligence network leaves many unanswered questions that will haunt us and our otherwise efficient administration for decades to come. At the end of the day, braid chopping seems to have achieved both political as well as emotional targets and unfortunately, the sufferers are poor Kashmiris, either way!