Are hair at­tacks just mass hys­te­ria?

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

NEW DELHI — A scare has gripped women in north In­dian states fol­low­ing mys­te­ri­ous in­ci­dents of women hav­ing their braids braid cut off while sleep­ing, po­lice said on Satur­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the grapevine among women a hair-cut­ting “ghost” is roam­ing Ut­tar Pradesh, Haryana, Ra­jasthan and the na­tional cap­i­tal Delhi, lay­ing its hands on braids of women. So far more than 50 women have re­ported that they woke up to find their braids chopped off.

With the num­ber of re­ported in­ci­dents ris­ing, the In­dian po­lice has been strug­gling hard to solve the mys­tery of who — or what — is re­spon­si­ble.

Most of the vic­tims told their rel­a­tives and po­lice that they fell un­con­scious and woke up to find their hair gone. The women be­lieve that some su­per­nat­u­ral be­ings are be­hind the in­ci­dents.

So far there are few clues for the po­lice to go on and peo­ple have been urged not to spread ru­mors about hair-cut­ting ghosts or witches. Mean­while, three new in­ci­dents were re­ported in Ut­tar Pradesh on Satur­day.

The panic-stricken women were taken to hos­pi­tal and their rel­a­tives showed the chopped hair to doc­tors and lo­cal me­dia.

“Most of the vic­tims have found their cut­off braids next to them upon wak­ing up,” a po­lice of­fi­cial told Xin­hua News Agency. “Some of the vic­tims said the at­tacker was an el­derly man, while oth­ers say they have seen a black cat and witch car­ry­ing out the at­tacks.” None of the vic­tims has been harmed or robbed.

“We have recorded the com­plaints, but so far we have no leads to in­ves­ti­gate,” the po­lice of­fi­cial said. “At the crime scenes there are no clues and vic­tims are per­fectly all right with­out any ev­i­dence of hav­ing suf­fered an at­tack.”

A 53-year-old woman Sunita, liv­ing at Bhim­garh Kheri of Gur­gaon dis­trict in Haryana, told me­dia she wit­nessed a strong flash of light which left her un­con­scious. “Al­most an hour later, I re­gained my con­scious­ness to find my hair had been cut,” she said.

On Wed­nes­day evening, a mob lynched a 65-year-old woman in Ut­tar Pradesh’s Agra dis­trict af­ter brand­ing her a witch re­spon­si­ble for the at­tacks. The el­derly woman was go­ing to the fields to re­lieve her­self, when the mob ruth­lessly at­tacked her and beat her to death. So far no one has been ar­rested.

“Panic has struck the en­tire lo­cal­ity be­cause of the hair chop­ping,” Atul Mishra, an Agra res­i­dent said. “There is a pal­pa­ble fear here and we lock our doors im­me­di­ately in the evening.” The au­thor­i­ties de­scribe the in­ci­dents as “mass hys­te­ria.”

“It is a sort of hys­te­ria and some­what sim­i­lar to the in­ci­dent of mon­key-man at­tack that gripped Delhi some years back,” said Aparna, a so­ci­ol­o­gist.

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