The Sociology and Psychology of Hair and Braid Cutting in Kashmir

What happens when something central to a woman’s identity and sense of self like her hair is attempted to be assaulted upon in a society riven by political conflict? The answer is that fear, insecurity , disquietitude and an all pervasive hysteria descends upon and grips the entire social fabric. This is precisely what is happening to and in Kashmir these days. The mysterious but serial and widespread incidence of braid chopping of females has had Kashmir in the vortex and crucible of deep fear and insecurity. Kashmir is on the edge, so to speak. Certain quarters have attempted to explain the phenomenon away by attributing it to a cult like neurosis or psychosis which when triggered assumes intense proportions. But, this is amateur psychology disconnected from context and based on academic case studies. While what follows is largely inferential, but the phenomenon of braid cutting in Kashmir, the effects of which are now felt across and in the vitals of society, cannot be a figment of imagination. It appears to be real and so are the fears and the insecurities thereof. The question is why?
The answer lies in the nature , position and identities ascribed to women , especially in traditional societies. This is key and central. Women are held to be the repository of honor , status and the central figures around which homes and hearths are developed around. Touching or assaulting, even tangentially, the honor or well being of women amounts to assaulting the gravamen or what is held by a given society as the fundamental component of its self esteem or honor. Assault or attack the esteem of women in a traditional society, the fundamental instincts of this society are aroused. From a psycho-analytic perspective, the male folk of this society feel vulnerable and helpless and this feeling generalized insecurity pervades homes- the places where people feel most secure( generally speaking). The feelings of helplessness and vulnerability then generate anger and…

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