- 40 braids chopped off in Kashmir Valley in 2 weeks
- Young men being beaten up by self-styled vigilante groups
- All this is diverting from plans to handle terrorists, say top cops
"I had come to meet her. I am not a braid chopper but people caught me and dubbed me as braid chopper. They beat me ruthlessly," said the 18-year-old.
In the last two weeks, nearly 40 women in the Kashmir Valley have found their hair grabbed and chopped off, often while in or near their home. Most of the cases took place during the day or in the evening, according to the police, which says the women have refused, despite filing complaints, to offer details of the attack or clues that could help identify the offender.
Six lakhs is now being offered as a reward for any information on the braid-chopping, blamed by separatists and locals on security forces who they say are using the forced hair-cuts as an intimidation tactic. To prevent panic and misreporting and self-styled vigilante groups who have begun rounding up and attacking people they randomly identify as the attacker, mobile internet services were cut off in the Valley for over 5-6 hours today as protests were held by separatists after Friday prayers. However, it is likely to be restored by evening.
The police say the "mass hysteria" has begun affecting anti-terrorist operations. "It is a huge disadvantage for us. Our resources, our manpower, and our all time is now focused on tracing these cases. Whereas our anti-militancy operations, our intelligence gathering is suffering - and suffering very badly" said Kashmir's Inspector General of Police Munir Ahmad Khan.
In August, an epidemic of "braid-chopping spooked villages in and around Gurgaon near Delhi. Some villages held special prayer sessions to ward off evil spirits and began patrols to protect their women.
None of the victims were harmed in any physical way or robbed.