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'Braid-chopping' sparks fear and unrest in Kashmir

'Braid-chopping' sparks fear and unrest in Kashmir
From Al Jazeera - October 12, 2017

Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir - A wave of fear has gripped Indian-administered Kashmir after a series of "braid-chopping" attacks that have resulted in protests across the region.

At least 200 women in Kashmir have reported being attacked by masked assailants in the last two months.

The women claimed the attackers sprayed chemicals on their faces and left them unconscious. Upon waking up, they found their hair had been chopped off.

On Sunday, masked attackers cut off a woman's braid in Srinagar, sparking angry protests.

The 35-year-old victim said she was attacked after she responded to someone knocking at the gate of her house. Her husband - an auto-rickshaw driver - was not home at that time.

"One of the masked attackers grabbed me by my hair from behind and sprayed something on my face," the victim, Gulshan, told Al Jazeera.

"I screamed loudly before fainting. I assumed it was my husband, but."

Gulshan was unable to finish off her sentence. She started shivering amid inconsolable sobs, sitting on her bed as she relayed Sunday's events.

Hussain Ahmed, a neighbour, was the first to respond to Gulshan's screams.

"I saw her face had some sort of liquid on it and her eyes were fluttering," Ahmed said. "We tried contacting the police several times. Nobody answered our calls or came for help."

A week earlier, Sami Reyaz, 32, of Srinagar's Baghat neighbourhood had met the same fate.

"I was holding a dustbin when two people came through the main gate of our house," Reyaz said.

Like other victims, she was also rendered unconscious and her braid was sliced off.

"When I woke up, I found they had left my chopped braid near the entrance before fleeing."

The first braid-chopping incident in Kashmir was reported on September 6, when a schoolgirl, Naira Nazir, was attacked.

Such incidents have also been reported across the north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana, as well as the capital, New Delhi.

Earlier this month, a senior police official told local media he has sought details of over 1,500 incidents, as well as history of victims from these states "to get to the root of the issue".

Government sources said police has registered more than 40 First Incident Reports against alleged braid-choppers and rumour-mongers in Kashmir.

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