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Mysterious Braid-Chopping Fuel Army-Civilian Clashes in India’s Kashmir

© AP Photo / Saurabh DasA woman ties the hair of her daughter into a braid as they sit on a cart before evening sets in at a poor neighborhood in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013
A woman ties the hair of her daughter into a braid as they sit on a cart before evening sets in at a poor neighborhood in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 - Sputnik International
While locals suspect soldiers of chopping off braids of women, the state police say they believe it to be a handiwork of anti-national elements trying to fuel further discontent against the armed forces and the Indian establishment in the valley.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — The mysterious braid-chopping incidents in India’s Kashmir region has turned into a grave problem, threatening to rattle the security situation in the already volatile region, with angry mobs assaulting soldiers on suspicion of being the culprit.

On Tuesday, at least five soldiers of the Indian Army were assaulted and stripped naked by angry mobs who were protesting the increasing incidents of braid-chopping. The protests were triggered by reports of several women’s braids being chopped off by an unidentified man in the in Rambagh, Kupwara, and Pulawama area on the previous night.

​The state police had to disperse agitating crowds by lobbing tear-gas shells in Sopore. The violent protests were prompted by a complaint of one Shareefa Begum who alleged that her braid was cut off by some unknown men in Ningli area of the town.

“She was washing her face when the masked men came and chopped her hair. Their language was not Kashmiri. Definitely, they are not local,” a local man in the victim’s neighborhood said.

​More than a dozen incidents of braid chopping were reported in the last 48 hours in the valley. The locals have linked the braid chopping incidents with the prestige of Kashmiri women, fueling further unrest in the valley.

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Meanwhile, the state police say they smell a larger conspiracy behind the braid-chopping incidents. “We are trying to establish the motive behind the braid chopping. It has become utmost important to ascertain the motive behind the culprit’s actions. Once the motive is established, the investigation will become easy,” Muneer Ahmad Khan, Inspector General of Police said in a press conference in Srinagar.

The police have registered 105 complaints of the braid chopping incidents across the Kashmir Valley with 55 cases being reported from the south Kashmir. “There is no cooperation from the victims or from their families. We have started the scientific examination of the cases,” Khan added.

​Earlier this month, locals had killed a 70-year-old man on the suspicion of being the braid-chopper. Last Sunday, six foreign tourists — three Australians, a South Korean, an Irish and a Briton – were allegedly apprehended and interrogated by suspicious locals. The tourists were later rescued by the state police.

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According to a local resident, more than 120 braid chopping incidents have been reported in various parts of the Kashmir in last one month.  All the victims claimed that attackers sprayed chemicals on their faces and left them unconscious. When they woke up, they found their hair had been chopped off. Apparently, similar incidents were reported in Delhi and neighborhood region in July-August this year but after investigations, it was found that most of the women were mentally ill or had been in difficulty for various reasons including family trouble.

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