While coming back from work, I got in to a Sumo. I found a seat beside a nonlocal young boy. He too was travelling back from work, which I came to know later. While we both were on our way back home, a middle aged lady in a very unusual way asked this nonlocal boy “Why you guys keep chopping braids?” On listening to it others in the sumo bursted into a laughter. The boy, in shock and awe, replied “What makes you think I am a braid chopper?”
The braid chopping chaos in Kashmir these days is such, that even our own family members may be mistaken as braid choppers in the dark. Anyway another traveler in the same sumo added to this somewhat strange and funny discourse by saying that “a women has recently died of braid chopping”. I was shocked to hear it. I got curious of knowing the details and nervously asked him, “Where?” he replied” I don’t know, I just heard about it” I again asked “who told you?” and “have you seen such news in any newspaper etc” He again replied “I don’t even remember who told me about it but I have just heard of it”. When he was not able to bring any logical coherence into his breaking new, I got the clue that it was just a rumor.To encounter such a conversationfrom a common man (probably less educated) is quite normal. However I was surprised with a somewhat similar experiencesomewhere else,which raised many question in my mind.
Few days before I visited university of Kashmir. I found many dashing and young students and probably scholars holding a sit-in near humanities block against braid chopping.I was going towards university cafeteria and I happened to pass by it. The participants had posters in their hands which read as “save our dignity” “stop braid chopping” “We stand united” etc.A young and confident student (boy) was delivering speech at the front and also leading the sloganeering. While I was passing by, I received a call and I started talking on the phone. The participants in this sit-in started sloganeering towards me “drop the phone and join in, drop the phone and join in” I smiled at them and decided to join them and have an understanding of the whole thing.I asked the boy who was leading them, “Has anybody here done any study regarding braid chopping?” he replied, “no”, I asked again,“does anybody know the exact number of braid chopping victims in Kashmir and their demographic information” He again replied “no”. I continued “has anybody here recorded a case history of such a victim”. Again the answer was “no”. I further inquired “have you gone through any study regarding braid chopping? This time he replied in affirmative. I asked “what you found in that study” He replied that many doctors from Institute of mental health and neurosciences Kashmir,have found mental illness as one reason for such incidents (that the victims actually chop their braids themselves because of psychological problems). I asked one more time, “Do you believe in such a study?” He again replied “no”.
A Stormy thought process started in my mind. The students have not studied fully about braid chopping phenomenon, have not conducted any research study, don’t believe in the studies of others and here they are reacting to braid chopping incidents with a protest. How can such a response solve any problem? But yes it may be good for a Facebook post. Regarding the posters like “Stop braid chopping” I asked one last time to another student there“to whom this is addressed?” he replied “of-course police and administration”. I inquired “do you believe in police versions and government statements” he replied “no”.I was simply awe-struck. The whole conversation reminded me of the Sumo incident. However this time my inner voice said something like this: “our intellectuals too!”
The problem in our society is that without any basic understanding of the phenomenon, we simply we jump the gun.Without any basic credible information of the problem how can we solve it? And have we made any attempt to understand it? Why don’t we understand that our reactions might be reinforcing braid chopping incidents and thus keeping it going?
Many mob reactions like beating up of innocent people in the name of “braid chopper” have happened. At many places police had to use tear gas shelling to save the alleged braid chopper from lynching. Nonlocal tourist have beenmistaken as braid choppers. One person has died when assaulted on suspicion of being a braid chopper.To add to the funny chaos people now fear vising relatives, participating in marriage ceremonies and taking morning or evening walks, that they may be labelled as braid chopper.
Now there are many theories regarding braid chopping. I don’t accept or refute any. However I do take the position that I don’t know. At least I am not presenting a false theory. My only point is that lets first study, investigate and understand all this mysterious phenomenon and then decide about a rational and reasoned action. I am expressing this opinion only with the intention to contribute towards the solution of braid chopping chaos. I have no sympathy for braid choppers and believe me I am not a braid chopper too.
Imran Khan, M.Phil in Psychology, Presently working a Teacher in School Education Department.