‘Braid Chopping’ Attacks on Women in Kashmir

Katherine Hewitt
Impunity Watch 
Reporter, Asia 

SRINAGAR, Kashmir – Women in Kashmir are facing an attack of a new type- ‘braid chopping.’   Masked perpetuators attack women and then proceeded to cut their hair.  These types of attacks have happened both public spheres as well as private homes.  Within the past 2 month over 200 women reported such abuses.

A women with her chopped hair. Photo Courtesy of Farooq Khan.

The attackers spray some type of chemical in the women’s faces before chopping their victim’s hair off.  Many women are knocked unconscious in the process.  The chopped hair is not stolen by the attackers.

Attacks such as these have also been reported in other Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana.  Even New Delhi, the capital, has seen similar cases.

Women reported the events to the police.  The region’s police say that these incidents are being treated as a crime.  There is a $9,000 reward for information on the culprits.

However, they believe that the police are not following up in an appropriate manner.  The police response impedes women’s empowerment.  Despite there being a high reward for information, many local police do not take the complaints seriously.  They accuse of the women of hallucinating or having a history of mental illness.  This response breaks down a woman’s credibility as well as not reassuring her of her safety.

Women have begun to gather in the streets to protest.  One such demonstration ended in stones thrown at the Indian Police.  Vigilante groups have also formed in some villages as a response mechanism.  There is a real fear of being accused of being a ‘braid-chopper.’

These attacks cause fear to grow among the female population in Kashmir.  Women are afraid to go out in public or be left alone. The fear caused by the attacks takes away the women’s peace  of mind and independence.

Additionally, the attacks degrade the women.  Kashmir is a typically conservative Muslim territory.  Women tend to not cut their hair and keep it covered as doing otherwise is dishonorable.

For more information please see:

Al Jazeera – ‘Braid-chopping sparks fear and unrest in Kashmir – 12 October 2017 

The Guardian – ‘Braid Chopping in Kashmir sparks mass panic and mob violence – 11 October 2017

USA Today – Mysterious ‘braid-choppers’ are drugging women and cutting off their hair in India – 17 October 2017

Author: Katherine Hewitt

Katherine Hewitt is a first year Masters of Arts in International Affairs candidate in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. She is pursuing a concentration in Peace, Security, and Conflict. Her interests lie in ethnic conflicts, particularly in the Post-Soviet Sphere. She expects to graduate in December 2018.

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