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The Mystery of Braid Chopping and Measures to be taken for Victim

The Mystery of Braid Chopping and Measures to be taken for Victim
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Dr Muhammad Muzamil Kumar

With the increase in hair chopping incidents, everyone in Kashmir is dancing on the edge of mystery. Such incidents are shaping up into a hardest Sudoku and there is urgency for the hair splitting analysis of the same. The enigma started in the northern states of India and reached Kashmir like a monsoon.
Since its onset, the upset masses have been casting clouds of doubt on so called agencies. One of the senior citizens narrated that in past our eyes have been scratched, today our hairs are being chopped and tomorrow our ears will be turned turtle thereby indirectly attributing the incidents to the government forces. He then went on to recount the days when the assumed nocturnal creatures or Bhoot and the infamous Rattchoor or blood-stealers were in the limelight for creation of fear psychosis.
Unlike other regions neither the supernatural forces nor any occult gang is held responsible for the mystery. From a decision making perspective, the masses are making use of availability heuristic – as per which we judge the probability of events by how quickly examples can come to mind and we make decisions based on the knowledge that is readily available in our minds rather than examining all possible alternatives. This heuristic is used by our brain without us even realising it and in many, though not all cases judgements are seen to be accurate. It also prompts us to be cautious to protect ourselves while in distress.
As per a comprehensive survey carried out by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in 2015, 45% of the population in Valley shows symptoms of significant mental distress and 19% show symptoms of probable anxiety. In such a sensitive environment, there is an urgent need to check the hair chopping incidents. The establishment of help lines and fact finding committees by the administrative bodies is necessary but not the sufficient step in this regard. Until the real culprits are not taken to task, administration will be viewed as nightmare dressed like a day dream. No doubt it is a herculean task, but definitely not the impossible. Every criminal leaves substantial evidence on the basis of which he can be reached. There is no such thing as being clueless as if the invisible eccentric scientist – Griffin, mentioned in the story “Foot Prints without Feet” by H.G.Wells, is responsible for all this bewilderment.
At the same time, there should be a strategic community effort grounded in signal detection theory to catch hold of the hair choppers. As per this theory four things (Hit, Miss, Correct Rejection and False Alarm) are important elements of any investigation, not only sensitivity but also specificity matters. To quote an example, if the members of a community correctly nab the hair chopper on the basis of credible information, it will be considered as a “Hit”, in case they fail to do so, it will be considered as a “Miss”, as is the status quo. Likewise, if someone is seen as culpable of chopping, on basis of mere suspicion but after proper enquiry proves to be innocent and is set free flawless, it will be considered as a correct rejection. In the same way one has to be very careful in not attending the false alarms, a thief has to be differentiated from the braid cutter. These four parameters are easy to understand but difficult to apply in the environment we are living in but then proper planning and organised community efforts can ensure the same to a large extent. On way to resolve the mystery, we shouldn’t forget to provide the psychological first aid (PFA) to the victims in the form of practical care and support, assessment of their needs and concerns, comforting, making them calm and protecting them from further harm. Worthy to mention here that PFA is not something confined to the professionals only, nor does it fall under professional counselling but anyone who has contact with the distressed can provide it. As per a guide for field workers released by WHO in 2011, not everyone who experiences a crisis event will need or want PFA, so we should not force help on people who don’t want it, but make ourselves readily available to those who need support.

Author is Assistant Professor in Department of Psychology, University of Kashmir and can be mailed at

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