A young man called Wasim Ahmad Tantray, who is someone with special needs, was brutally thrashed by a violent mob in South Kashmir's Sopore area, according to reports and video clips posted by Kashmir correspondents. The attackers also tried setting him ablaze on rumours of him being a braid-chopping suspect.
Frenzied mob thrashes & tries to set a mentally unstable man on fire on suspicion of being a braidchopper.Even craziness has a limit pic.twitter.com/5Sh2uKDDy4— Shuja-ul-haq (@ShujaUH) October 20, 2017
#Kashmir - Yesterday a mob tried to drown a man accused of being a braid chopper. Today another mob set a man on fire for the same. Fortunately police rescued both in time. It's not hysteria anymore, it's insanity. pic.twitter.com/OiXHm9tRAP— Rayan (@rayan_naqash) October 20, 2017
As per police the mob tried to run a tractor over the mentally unsound man who was set on fire today. He is in "critical condition" and has been shifted to a hospital in Srinagar. https://t.co/GBcbKNJBlT— Rayan (@rayan_naqash) October 20, 2017
The cell phone video and images circulating on social media have drawn attention to this terrible crime, reminiscent of the lynching of Ayub Pandith, the police officer, in Srinagar earlier this year.
In fact, a number of incidents of violence have been reported from Kashmir over rumours of braid-chopping. A few days ago, an Army jawan was thrashed on similar suspicion.
Tantray, the young man with special needs, can be seen bloodied and helpless, as the mob tries running a tractor on him. Tantray was rescued by Jammu and Kashmir Police. He is in a hospital in Srinagar, and is said to be in a critical condition.
He was mistaken as braid chopper. In other incident a mob tried to drown a suspected braid chopper in Dal Lake, near Hazrat Bal shrine pic.twitter.com/osvKSe7qdK— Khalid Shah (@khalidbshah) October 20, 2017
How did we become such brutes? Does a mentally unsound person, or any person for that matter, deserve such brutal vigilante justice? pic.twitter.com/KdNqae2KOc— Khalid Shah (@khalidbshah) October 20, 2017
Director General of Police of Jammu and Kashmir, SP Vaid, was quoted by a news agency saying this: "A mentally challenged mistaken as braid chopper was ruthlessly beaten in Sopore. He has been rescued by the police. An FIR has been registered and culprits identified."
Earlier on Thursday, October 17, a soldier was assaulted on similar suspicions. As clashes between protestors and cops broke out, the jawan was eventually rescued. According to India Today, "some stone-pelting incidents were also reported from the area".
The rising incidents of lynching across the country, whether on beef rumours, or suspecting someone to be a braid-chopper, point towards a terrifying trend of mob justice and increasing vigilantism.
In Kashmir itself, the lynching of Ayub Pandith, who was keeping peace outside the Jamia Masjid of Srinagar on Eid, and was in charge of the security of Mirwaiz Farooq, the Hurriyat Conference leader, is a case in point.
The upright police officer met a brutal end for doing his job, and showed that Kashmiris in uniform are often seen as traitors or collaborators and face extreme hatred, and potential violence, from fellow people in the state.
After lynching of DSP Ayub Pandith, braid chopping spree has thrown a big challenge for J&K Police. 100 incidents in #Kashmir is phenomenal.— Ahmed Ali Fayyaz (@ahmedalifayyaz) October 13, 2017
While Ayub's murder exposed the widening fault lines within Kashmir, the attack on Tantray exposed another disgusting side of mob mentality. Not given to reasoning or good sense, this descent into pure, violent madness must be condemned.
These despicable crimes against humanity are a blot on India, whether they are committed on a train from Delhi to Mathura, as was the case with Junaid Khan, or on a national highway in Rajasthan's Alwar, where Pehlu Khan was fatally thrashed.
While reports of braid-chopping have sparked protests and agitation in Kashmir, and vigilante groups have been formed to "watch out for suspicious strangers", the climate seems just poised for a crime that has been committed against Tantray or the unsuspecting soldier.
This is what happens when vigilantism overtakes law enforcement and the rule of law goes for a toss.