It is said that those whom the Gods wish to destroy they first turn mad. This is precisely what seems to be happening in the Valley. The latest in the series of ‘Conspiracy Theories’ is the Braid-Chopping frenzy where everybody, from security personnel to the mentally unsound and even foreign tourists are being branded and targeted as clandestine ‘Hair-thieves’!
Many incidents have been reported from the terrorist-infested districts of South Kashmir, could it be a deliberate ploy to create intense fear in the minds of locals? So much fear that they would remain confined to their houses guarding the ‘precious’ hair of their women and leaving the terrorists free to carry on their activities! Fearful minds are easier to control and manipulate.
Kashmir has always been the kind of place where rumours spread fast, people with no other avenues of distraction thrive on gossip and maligning others. Deliberately malicious rumours can be concocted within hours and transmitted even faster via the good old grapevine. Now with WhatsApp, the dissemination process has become even faster.
In 1963, there was an attempt to create communal tension when the Moi-e-Muqqadas or Holy Relic mysteriously vanished from the Hazratbal Shrine. Kashmiris rioted for 17 days until the sacred strand of hair was recovered, just as mysteriously as it had disappeared! At that time too, propaganda was created against GOI and it took skilful handling by the CM of that time before the Holy Relic was restored to its rightful place by the custodian who is said to have filched it. Again, in 1993 Intelligence Agencies foiled the Separatists’ plan to create trouble by using the same modus operandi.
Years later, not much has changed. In fact now that Kashmir is more of a closed society with a single-minded focus on religion, it’s probably easier to mislead people by spreading rumours. It’s like a virtual tinderbox where a rumour acts as the matchstick. Paranoia and fear seem to have gripped simple minds and those who claim to be ‘educated’ have made no attempt to explain away these fears.
Any rational mind would see this ‘Braid-cutting’ phenomenon for what it is, the creation of a diabolically fertile imagination that seeks to make political capital out of a fragile situation. That people can actually be driven to mercilessly beating and killing others over ‘mysterious’ haircuts, would be hilarious but for the loss of innocent lives!
Many of these female ‘victims’ are said to have a history of mental illness which could explain the paranoia and hallucinations. The Rumour Mill is in overdrive and unofficial reports from the Valley claim that these women, who claim to be ‘victims’ of ‘Mysterious Choppers’ apparently lusting for that coveted lock, are actually being paid hefty amounts for cutting their own hair. If this is true, then it is obviously a repeat of the Stone-pelting story.
Several political outfits, including the Separatists, were beginning to feel isolated ever since NIA rounded up the ‘organisers’ of the ‘Stone-Pelting Industry.’ After lying low for a few months, they began scouting for an alternative and came up with the present drama. The script for this ‘Braid-chopping’ story is not even original, it’s a straight lift from what had already been played out in several North Indian States. The Kashmiri Scriptwriters added local masala by bringing in the Security forces as ‘Villains’ and incited local mobs to enact the role of passionate ‘Braid-Rakshaks’, who brashly kill/maim and thrash those suspected of eyeing the crowning glory of Kashmiri damsels! The ‘damsels in distress’ added to the suspense by feigning hallucinations of a mysterious black figure that sprays an unknown substance on them, causing them to swoon and thus be ‘unaware’ of how they lost those precious locks of hair. Meanwhile the Rumour Mill spread details of the ‘Knockout Spray’ being manufactured by no less than DRDO and the ‘Braid-Stealer’ having been sent by ‘Indian Agencies’!
Ever since this sordid saga started, there have been daily instances of people being mercilessly thrashed and lynched. Several tourists have had a providential escape, being saved by the police in the nick of time. Invariably, a frenzied mob zeroes in on a weak, defenceless target egged on by the Ringleaders who instruct them to show no mercy. A 70 year old has been lynched, a mentally-unsound person immolated, an early-morning worshipper who went to a mosque was almost drowned and several foreigners and non-Kashmiris have been heckled and threatened by menacing mobs.
Why is this happening? The finger of suspicion points at those who’ve brought Kashmir to it’s present state while nurturing their personal fortunes and ambitions. Feeling the squeeze after frequent Exposes and drying up of funds, these politicians are desperately trying to claw their way back to significance and will not stop short of anything to achieve their political ends. What is more frighteningly horrifying is that the cycle of violence that began with the killing and hounding out of the Minorities is now making Kashmiris turn upon their fellow-Muslims.
The people in the Valley, deprived of healthy outlets or modes of catharsis, seem to be turning bloodthirsty ‘mob-hunting’ into a game that satisfies their baser instincts. Like in the past, Civil Society has failed to rise to the occasion. Instead of analysing and explaining these incidents rationally, the Elite have chosen to stay mum even while innocent people are being lynched. The journalists, activists and writers who lose no opportunity to jeer at ‘lynchings by Gau-Rakshaks’ are strangely silent when Kashmiri Braid-Rakshaks are fast turning the Valley into a ‘Lynchistan’. Let’s hope they remember that:
First they came for the Kashmiri Pandits and no one spoke up.
Then they came for all the artists & musicians and no one spoke up.
Finally they came for their own And still people looked around and pointed fingers.
Till it was their turn!