The fear psychosis

Save children from being victims of this sanctified indiscipline

Javaid Trali
Srinagar, Publish Date: Oct 23 2017 10:54PM | Updated Date: Oct 23 2017 10:54PM
The fear psychosisFile Photo

Autumn is a season of harvest; hopes sown in spring and summer are harvested in autumn. These days, we see our peasants cheerfully harvesting in the vast farmlands of Kashmir. It is a blissful sight to see their hard work paying them off.

The majestic Chinars spew glazing fire through their leaves which paints the otherwise conflict- weary landscape with hues of delight. As the admirers of Kashmir’s beauty have been saying, the place has something to offer in every season.

But then, to our misfortune, every time there are some disconcerting undercurrents to bother and scare us. And in these gleeful autumn days, incidents of braid chopping have spread strange type of hysteria across Kashmir. 

No matter,  whether there are these actual “braid choppers” or it is just that criminal elements in our society have found the climate opportune to commit these heinous crimes against our women, what pains is  the professional political mourners of Kashmir, the separatists and conspiracy theorists blaming the “State agencies” for “terrorising the people.” 

This is obfuscating the actual criminal and providing a smokescreen to the element of crime in our society. Yet I am of the view that police and civil administration have not able to present a clear picture before the public. That has added to chaos.

 For a moment, let’s assume there are these “organised braid cutters” whom the separatist motley believes are operating on the “behest of agencies”; but then shouldn’t the larger societal response to it bother them? Lynch mobs, or braid rakshaks, can thrash anyone at the slightest suspicion of being a braid cutter. An elderly person was killed and countless images of bruised and bloodied men, women, and even trans-genders have flooded the social media. 

Recently police rescued six foreign tourists, who had lost their way in Srinagar, from a frenzied mob which accused them of being braid-cutters. Days later, again two tourists were beaten up. Young men are afraid of venturing out in the evening due to the fear of braid rakhshaks, who are taking law in their own hands to serve “justice” like we witnessed in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh in 2015 and other parts of country. If we loathed that mass frenzy of “gav rakshaks” in other parts of the country, why doesn’t this anarchy concern us? As a society, do we approve random beating and attempts to lynch the “suspects?” What does this tell about us as a society?

Had not the police come to the rescue of the victims and got them out from the clutches of lynch mobs, we could have seen worst! But it’s not only about rescuing, police are duty bound to thoroughly investigate these cases so that the truth comes out.

 There is this important dimension to the issue: Police investigations have found that around 70 % of those who claimed their braids had been chopped were suffering from various psychiatric disorders. Psychological disorders and their associated manifestations occur directly in response to the prevalent social structures and hierarchy of fear, hatred, and distrust. 

In other states, where religious superstition is dominant thread, it was a tantric practice or a mysterious semi human creature. Here in Kashmir where political superstition is dominant, the braid choppers have assumed the role of agency and “psy-ops”, or psychological operations.

Psychiatrists suspect that in most cases the braid-chopping is a form of “mass hysteria” that affects people with pre-existing mental health issues. They are most vulnerable to adopt the idea of their braids being chopped by someone to gain the attention of family members whom they perceive not caring enough.

I personally see this braid chopping hysteria having prodded us towards a burning mental health issues in Kashmir, which unfortunately have been ignored both by society and the governments. We all know about an astounding survey report by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which showed 45 percent adults in the Kashmir Valley may have "significant symptoms" of mental distress while 41 percent of the population is living with symptoms of depression. An estimated 26 percent population lives with the symptoms of anxiety-related disorders while 19 percent people are suffering from post- stress traumatic disorder, the survey found. This survey report should have woken up us as society and also the government. But I agree that neither has!  

 The high number of mental health patients and a huge deficiency, on part of the state, in providing infrastructure and trained manpower to deal with the crisis has been largely ignored. The mental health scenario of the State and Kashmir in particular needs immediate attention of the government. Failing in rising to the occasion would be of disastrous consequences.

 Back to the braid cutting issue, and our typical hysterical reaction to it, we instead of looking for “agency role” and dragging the “State” into every ill we are subjected to, we should take responsibility at least of our response to such issues. Hadn’t we found “agency role” in the government-distributed LED bulbs and also when local cable networks upgraded to digital set top boxes. The list of such incidents is long which have exposed our irrational response as a society. 

As long as we keep on giving social sanctity to disregarding authority and becoming kangaroo courts in ourselves, our social fabric will continue to tatter.  It is a dangerous thing to happen in any civilised society and community leaders across the spectrum must come forward to reign in the fringes instead of going with the flow. If they don’t, they will be ignoring the ominous portents for the future. A mob mentality mixed with a lethal dose of irrationality and distrust for social and public institutions is indicative of a grim present and worse future. 

Public discipline is indicative of an educated and conscious society. Unfortunately the claimants of “sentiment” and “rightful leadership” have been disastrously approving mass indiscipline.   Whatever is happening these days in Kashmir has its roots to the “indiscipline” that has been preached and practised over the years!

We have to save our children from being victims of this sanctified indiscipline, mob punishments and induced hysteria. They are our future. We should leave for them civility to imbibe. That is the calling!


(The author hails from Tral in South Kashmir. Tweets @traluk)

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