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11 more women claim hair ‘mysteriously’ chopped off, doctors blame mass hysteria

What is happening now is quite similar to the monkey-man hysteria. No one saw the creature whose description varied from person to person.

india Updated: Aug 03, 2017 23:16 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times
hair chopping,hair cutting,mass hysteria
Women claimed that they fall unconscious and after waking up discover their hair has been chopped off.(Representative image)

A day after a 60-year-old woman was killed in Uttar Pradesh on suspicion of cutting off people’s hair and 11 more women complained of braids being chopped off in Delhi-NCR on Thursday, psychiatrists blamed mass hysteria as panic spread.

Police, too, have requested people not look at these incidents as a “supernatural phenomenon” or work of a ghost.

“From all the available evidence, it seems the women are cutting their own hair either consciously or in an altered sensorium, likely to seek attention,” said Dr Sudhir Khandelwal, former head of the department of psychiatry at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Altered sensorium is a medical condition characterised by impaired consciousness or inability to think clearly.

Mass hysteria is not new to India or Delhi.

In 2001, Delhi went in panic mode over “monkey man”, with people claiming to be attacked by a kala bandar (black monkey). Some even ended up injured, said Dr MS Bhatia, head of the department of psychiatry at Guru Teg Bahadur hospital.

What is happening now is quite similar to the monkey-man hysteria. No one saw the creature whose description varied from person to person.

This time, too, women and girls’ hair are cut when they are unconscious. Two months since the first incident was reported in Rajasthan, no one has seen the mysterious Scissorhands.

Some women say it was a cat that turned into a man, other talks of an elderly man and there are others who believe it to be the work of a witch-doctor.

Each woman has a different story to tell but they are all afraid and many have been left traumatised.

“Such hysteria is more commonly seen in women and mostly the reason is domestic stress,” Dr Bhatia said, adding the victims may not be aware of what they were doing or have any memory of it later on.

People could even be doing it consciously.

“When such a phenomenon happens, there is also a fear of missing out, so other people start copying the original incident,” Dr Khandelwal said.

He suggested that psychiatrists or psychologists evaluate the women who have complained of being “attacked”.

For now, police are trying to stem panic.

Deputy commissioner of police (Outer Delhi) MM Tiwari on Thursday said he was his shocked when his eight-year-old daughter asked him to shut doors and windows of their home.

“If a child who lives with a police officer can start believing in such falsehood, what can be expected of children? Are we replacing the scientific temperament of our children with such beliefs?” he said, requested media not to give a “supernatural” twist to incidents of hair chopping.

Since July 30, women from four villages in outer Delhi have complained find their hair cut when they woke up.

Delhi reported nine more such “attacks” on Thursday. Four of the victims -- three teenagers and a 37-year-old – were family. They said their hair were chopped when they were sleeping and there door locked.

An 18-year-old in Greater Noida found her hair cut in the morning while a 45-year-old woman in Gurgaon said her braid were chopped off by a “black cat” that took the shape of a man. Two incidents were also reported from Punjab.

First Published: Aug 03, 2017 23:08 IST