Police urged people not to spread rumors about hair-cutting ghosts or witches, authorities said, after at least 15 women reported that someone attacked them while they were asleep or unconscious in a fortnight.
The victims usually find their cut off braids next to them upon waking up in their beds. One of the women said her braids were chopped off by a “black cat” that took the shape of a man, according to the Hindustan Times. Others reported the attacker to be an elderly man, while there are also those who say that a “witch doctor” was behind the incidents.
None of the victims has been robbed or harmed in the attacks, which were first reported two months ago. However, one 65-year-old woman was beaten to death by a mob in Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal, after the locals accused her of being a witch and using spells to cut hair. The bizarre incidents continued after her death. Parents in some areas of the state kept their children indoors after school.
TARGET – NORTHERN INDIA
Sapna Devi, 24, daughter of Bodh Raj was sleeping in a room with other five members of family when ‘someone’ mysteriously chopped off her braid in Teva village of RS Pura.
“We came to know about the incident when she woke up and started crying,” said Bodh Raj father of Sapna.
He claimed that Sapna watched television till midnight along with other members of family and no outsider came in the house.
“We suspect occult activities and some supernatural being involved in this as there was no outsider present in our house during the time of the incident.” he said.
Many of the victims, some of whom had went unconscious after their hair chopped off, awoke with signs of red tridents branded onto their skin.
They felt a terrible headache and lost consciousness, they claimed, and woke up to find their braids gone.
The second incident happened in Mehmoodpur village of Bishanah, where a braid of a housewife identified as Toshi Devi, 45 was chopped off when she was cleaning utensils.
“I lay in my lawn with our three children just 100 meters away from hand pump where my wife was cleaning utensils,” said Bodh Raj, husband of victim.
“The exact time was 9.15 pm, when she screamed and I got up from bed and rushed toward her, she was in pain as someone had pulled her hair but I cannot see anyone around and our gate is also locked from inside,” he said.
“My wife fell unconscious. She doesn’t remember what happened after that but complained server headache,” he said.
“In morning we rushed to the nearby hospital where she the doctors declared her medically fit,” he said.
The incidents have left even the police baffled. Deputy Superintendent of Police, RS Pura Surinder Choudhary visited the spot after he received the information.
“We spoke to the victims and her family members but nobody saw anything,” he said.
“The matter is becoming very complicated, the hair of women had been chopped off and there is no doubt about that,” he said, adding that still they were looking into it but so far “we are not in position to comment beyond this”.
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Copycats and hysteria
The authorities were now “getting complaints from women about this unknown ghost” almost every day, according to police officer Manish Rakesh. Police were treating the assaults as crimes but have no leads thus far, another police official told the AFP news agency.
Medical experts warned against “mass hysteria.”
“From all the available evidence, it seems the women are cutting their own hair either consciously or in an altered [state of mind], likely to seek attention,” said Dr Sudhir Khandelwal, former head of the department of psychiatry at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
“When such a phenomenon happens, there is also a fear of missing out, so other people start copying the original incident,” he was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying.
The latest raft of “braid chopping” stirred memories of a similar phenomenon in 2001, when dozens of people in the Delhi area started reporting attacks by a monstrous black monkey or a “monkey man.” The incident prompted Delhi inhabitants to set overnight watches and traps for the attacker. While the incident was never completely cleared up, the police said that no animal was ever involved. Experts also described the event as mass hysteria.
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Requesting anonymity, a source said: ‘There have been many incidents in which unusual demands are made by the tantriks to the superstitious people who fall prey to them.’
‘It is possible that a gang of tantriks asked some superstitious people to chop off braids to achieve a desired result. And these people must have roped in others to help them achieve the target.
Usually, in such cases, the number that is to be achieved is very high so if any tantrik or a group is behind it then the incidents might go up,’ said another source.
With such incidents on an alarming rise in Jammu, Police has made an appeal to people to not spread rumours related to ghosts or bogeyman.
People headed to temples with a #desiTotka told by a priest and everyone started following in blindly