Many women in Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have reported their hair being mysteriously chopped off.(Burhaan Kinu/HT File Photo)
Many women in Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have reported their hair being mysteriously chopped off.(Burhaan Kinu/HT File Photo)

Woman lynched in Jharkhand on suspicion of involvement in braid-chopping

Women have reported waking up to the sound of scissors, spotting black cats, and seeing ghosts and shadows. Some claimed they found portions of their hair chopped off.
By Saurav Roy | Hindustan Times, Ranchi
UPDATED ON AUG 19, 2017 08:20 PM IST

A mob in Jharkhand allegedly lynched a woman on Saturday on suspicion of her involvement in chopping off a local girl’s braid, the second such death this month because of a mass hysteria that has gripped north India.

Police said villagers in Sahibganj district’s Radhanagar attacked a group of four beggars – including the woman and a nine-year-old boy – roughly a week after a local girl’s braid was cut. They pelted stones at the woman, said to be in her late 40s, and others on suspicion that they were involved in witchcraft. The boy is critically injured.

“We have beefed up security in the area. For now, superstition seems to be the cause of the attack, we are still investigating,” said Sahibganj superintendent of police P Murugan.

He said an eyewitness informed police, who spent an hour trying to control the mob. By the time the victims were rushed to the hospital, the woman was dead.

Earlier this month, a 60-year old Dalit woman was allegedly lynched in Agra after villagers thought she was out to cut the hair of sleeping women. This came after hundreds of reports of women’s hair being mysteriously chopped off in Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab since June.

Women have reported waking up to the sound of scissors, spotting black cats, and seeing ghosts and shadows. Some claimed they found portions of their hair chopped off, and others reported falling unconscious with fear.

Such deaths are common in superstition-struck Jharkhand. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the state has witnessed the maximum incidences of witch-hunting in India in the past five years. Here, occultists and sorcerers often call the shots in the hinterland and over 15,000 women have fallen prey to superstition-triggered attacks by now in the state, say activists. The state registered 32 murders related to witch hunting, which was highest in the country in 2015, revealed NCRB data.

Police suspect many people are taking advantage of the mass hysteria around braid chopping to mask crimes. On Saturday, Jharkhand Police said an unidentified person chopped off a woman’s braid and threw her twin infants in a well to seek revenge and project the murder as a paranormal activity in Dumka district.

Thirty-year-old Sawanti Sahu, a resident of Shikaripara in Dumka, about 300 km from capital Ranchi, was possibly drugged before her hair was cut and her children were thrown in the well on Friday afternoon, police suspect.

Dumka superintendent of police Mayur Patel Kanhaiya Lal said that about three more such incidences were reported from parts of the district wherein women’s braids were chopped off and they were brought to hospital by their family.

“None of them were found genuinely ill. It was just the fear of a paranormal force that possibly made them fall unconscious,” said Kanhaiya.

The investigation was on in Sawanti’s case and the culprits would be nabbed soon, he added.

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