August 4th, 2017

A hair-raising story from India

In a land of what is very often the weird and wonderful, this developing story is distinctly weird.

For the past 4 or 5 days, reports have been coming in from various areas of northern India, of women finding their hair has been cut off, usually while they are asleep or unconscious.

It’s not that their hair is being stolen to make wigs, because it is always there, on the floor next to them, when they wake up.  It appears that most of the victims “fall unconscious” or “fall into a faint” and then when they regain consciousness, their chopped-off hair is lying next to them.

Crazy stuff.

You could (sort of) understand chopping off hair & stealing it if you need it for something or other, but to cut it and leave it there…

Ignoring muttering of mass hysteria from the police and the papers, I still find myself intrigued by this story.

I first read about it on the 1st of this month, in my morning paper.

“Mystery chopping of braids stumps Chhawla” said the headline and went on to describe how residents of Kanganhera village near Chhawla are, and I quote, “seeking divine intervention” after 3 women found their hair had been chopped off.  All 3 had complained of splitting headaches, which they were sleeping off, and when they woke, they all found their hair had been cut.  From feeling that someone was tugging at their hair. to seeing a cat enter the room and transform itself into a woman who then pounced on her, all the women had one thing in common.  Fall asleep, wake up with their hair cut off.

The police pronounced themselves baffled, amidst theories ranging from thieves to pranksters (SUCH a lovely word) with one interesting theory – occultists.  I quote the Times of India here:
“Police are still searching for answers. They suspect that a group of occult practitioners from a Gurgaon village may be drugging the women and then chopping off their braids.  They feel that the gang may be trying to divert attention from their illegal activities.”

Sounds a fair assumption, but… (& I quote, all from the ToI):

“Police have surmised that the miscreants use some spray to make their targets unconscious.  However, all three victims have claimed that they were sleeping with doors locked from inside.”


The next day brought another crop of stories.

“Panic among women in Delhi and neighbouring states increased on Tuesday with at least 15 more victims reporting that they found their hair mysteriously chopped.”

There were stories of a woman with big teeth approaching, before the victim fell unconscious.

A 30 year old was “taken to hospital after she sensed someone pressing on her throat and snipping off her locks.”

And so the stories went on, and interspersed in all this were a few fascinating nuggets – “Meanwhile, three men dressed as women tried to enter a house in south west Delhi’s Kanganhera (me – that’s the village in the first day’s report, remember?) on Tuesday.  Villagers caught them and handed them over to the cops.”

Now let’s look at things from a different perspective.  That of the police.  Beyond trying to damp down the incipient mass hysteria, how do the cops handle incidents like these?

And this is where I learned all kinds of things I didn’t know.

    1. The senior superintendent of police in Mathura “charged anti-social elements with trying to create panic.”
    2. And this is the fascinating one – “It’s hard to imagine what shape the prosecution can take, but since scissors have been used, the Arms Act will apparently be invoked.”

Now I couldn’t actually find a specific reference to scissors in the Arms Act, although I did look, but I imagine if someone uses a sharp-edged item like a pair of scissors, intending to do harm, then that would apply.

Sociologists weighed in about the significance of hair, but while the pundits theorised, the hair-chopping continued…

The next day’s story was of a woman who went to the bathroom, and when she didn’t come out after a while, her husband went in, found her unconscious, hair chopped.

And now, here I am, away from Delhi,  out at the farm, in rural Haryana and what do I see in the local rag, “The Tribune” but this headline:

“Now, braid cutting incidents reported in Karnal, Panipat.”

A school girl wakes up to find her hair has been chopped off, but she sounds quite sensible, does young Harbhajan – “I am not afraid but shocked” she said’.  Good girl.

In another village, where a woman fell unconscious and yes – woke up to find her hair cut – the villagers have started a night vigil.

And so it continues.

There surely can’t be ill-intentioned occultists all over northern India?  I imagine there’s a certain amount of copy-cat-ism but whatever is going on, it’s a truly weird story.

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