JEHANGIR ALI | 16 OCTOBER, 2017
Kashmir Erupts in Protests, Demands Arrest of Braid-Choppers
SRINAGAR: Fresh clashes erupted today including in capital Srinagar with police using teargas and lathi-charge to disperse angry people protesting against a spate of braid-chopping incidents in parts of Kashmir.
Clashes broke out between forces and students of Islamia College in Srinagar who staged a protest against braid-chopping incidents. Witness said students staged massive protests resulting in traffic blockade in the area. Later, police used teargas to disperse the students and the college was shut for the day to prevent any escalation.
Violent clashes and protests also broke out in Sopore, the hometown of veteran Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, after a woman claimed her braid was chopped by unknown persons.
Police said the incident, third of its kind in less than 24 hours, was reported from Ningli area where a married woman claimed that her braid was chopped after unknown suspects knocked her unconscious using some spray.
Soon after the news spread in the town, dozens of agitated residents hit the streets and shouted anti-India and pro-freedom slogans while demanding arrest and punishment for the culprits who remain at large.
Police said the protesters resorted to stone-pelting at the vehicles and shopkeepers in Sopore, resulting in a spontaneous shutdown in the town and it’s adjoining areas. “More forces have been sent to the area to deal with a law and order problem and normalcy has been restored,” a police officer said.
Sopore town in North Kashmir has been at the forefront of anti-India protests in Kashmir over the last three decades of political turmoil with Geelani, whose ancestral home is in village of the town, holding significant sway over people.
After having ebbed in south Kashmir where the first strike was dealt in Kokernag in early September, braid chopping incidents are now being reported increasingly in north Kashmir with four incidents reported on Sunday from the border town of Uri along the Line of Control while two incidents were reported from Sopore.
According to J&K Police, over 130 incidents of hair and braid-chopping have been reported from many parts of the Valley since last more than month with most victims claiming that they were knocked unconscious by suspects using some chemical.
The J&K police has formed Special Investigation Teams to probe the incidents. Barring one incident so far, police, which have announced a reward of Rs 6 lakh for information which can lead to arrest of braid-choppers, are however clueless about suspects in all cases.
The scare caused by the phenomenon has prompted young residents in the affected localities across the valley to set up vigilante groups. In a majority of cases, many innocent strangers, including tourists, were beaten up black and blue as vigilante groups mistook them from braid-choppers.
Meanwhile, police fired teargas shells at residents of a locality in Awantipora on Srinagar-Jammu highway who blocked the traffic movement in protest against braid-chopping incidents. The traffic was later restored amid shutdown in the area.
Witnesses said a shutdown is being observed in Pampore town of south Kashmir against braid-chopping incidents with all shops and other business establishments closed in the town.