Scores of women throughout South Asia have been having their hair cut off against their will in what has been colloquially dubbed "braid chopping," often after being attacked and drugged before the hair is removed.

The attacks were particularly popular in the Northern states of Rajasthan and Haryana as well as in New Delhi whereby there were at least 50 reported cases, where women often have braided hair which seems to be a target for the perpetrators. More recently there have been at least 40 instances in Indian-administered Kashmir with the majority of victims have being minors under the age of 18 and tending to come from poor families.

Who are the perpetrators?

Very little is known about the attacks at the moment, with no clear or obvious motive and it is unknown whether it is an individual or a group which is responsible.

The vast majority of the time, women were unconscious whilst the braid-chopping occurred whilst those who were not, never saw the culprits, with many of them saying that they were wearing masks.

Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti said in recent Twitter comments that this was an attempt “to create mass hysteria and undermine the dignity of the women in the state,” in a subcontinent whereby gender-based violence is already rampant and on the rise.

What is being done?

Locals have been critical of the lack of an explanation from officials and videos of angry relatives holding cut braids have been widely shared across social media platforms which, in turn, has led to the creation vigilantes.

These are made up of groups of men armed with iron rods and knives who patrol the streets looking for potential suspects.

In one tragic case, a 70-year old man was falsely accused as a braid-chopper and was killed, while in a further tragic case, police said they rescued a "mentally challenged" individual who was also falsely accused by a mob who attempted to set him on fire and run him over with a tractor.

This lack of response may be due to concern from officials that allegations could cause further unrest in Kashmir, which has experienced an insurgency since 1989 by rebels seeking independence from India, or a union with Pakistan.

Some pro-independence supporters have suggested that the attacks are part of a conspiracy by the Indian government to undermine the independence movement.

However, police in the region may simply still be seeking a motive for the crimes and have offered up to 600,000 rupees (£7,000) for information about the culprits and have also arrested approximately two dozen people thus far on charged of spreading rumours and assault.

In Haryana, Rajasthan and New Delhi authorities also treated the incidents as crimes but psychiatrists were also brought in to investigate but doctors at Kashmir's sole psychiatric hospital, The Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital in Srinagar said that they had not been called upon to study the cases.

The under-pressure. the Kashmir government says only that the “motives behind these attacks” are being investigated.