Srinagar: A young girl's braid was chopped by unidentified persons in south Kashmir last night, in one of nearly two dozen incidents reported over the past two weeks that have created mass hysteria across the Valley.

Deputy Superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Aijaz Ahmad told The Citizen the victim had gone out of home in Saimoh village of Tral last evening when unidentified persons sprayed some chemical on her face due to which she lost consciousness.

“When she regained consciousness, her braid was chopped. The matter was brought into our notice by her family after which a police party was dispatched to the spot,” he said, adding that no arrests have been made so far.

Since last two weeks, incidents of braid chopping are being reported on almost daily basis, especially from the volatile south Kashmir areas, the epicenter of the last year’s uprising against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.

While braid chopping incidents were first reported from North Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, the first such case in the Valley was reported from Kokernag village of south Kashmir. Since, the incidents are being reported from central and north Kashmir as well.

In nearly all cases, the victim girls and women told their families and police that some chemical was sprayed on their faces due to which they lost consciousness. When they regained senses, they found their braids chopped.

Authorities are clueless about the perpetrators of the attacks with the J&K police setting up helplines to report the incidents while Rs 3 lakh reward has been announced for anyone who provides information or helps the cops in catching the perpetrators.

Also, the J&K Police has formed Special Investigation Teams in every district headquarters of the valley to take up such cases and to speed up the process of investigation even as no arrest has been made so far.

However, the residents of the affected areas are not satisfied with police assurances. In many cases, the residents have accused the security agencies for carrying out the attacks on females themselves or providing shelter to the perpetrators.

“When they (government forces) can nab and kill militants in a matter of hours during encounters, why aren’t they able to catch the braid choppers? Last week, villagers caught hold of a perpetrator but the Army took him away,” Abdul Gani Hajam, a resident of Kulgam where at least three incidents of braid chopping were reported, said over phone.

“These vile tactics are meant to divert our attention from the ongoing freedom movement. They have tried such measures in past and failed. This time too, they will bite the dust as well,” he added, referring to the incidents of ‘bhoot’ (ghosts) that terrorised people of the Valley in early nineties.

On two occasions, the Army and police had to resort to aerial firing to disperse protesters who claimed to have caught the alleged braid choppers who were later taken for questioning by forces. However, no arrests have been made so far and the veil of mystery continues to terrorize the population.