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Uttar Pradesh: For ‘ghost-barber’ victims, panic prevails over reason

Mass hysteria has gripped Braj and Rohilkhand region as incidents of mysterious braid-chopping continue unabated.

lucknow Updated: Aug 08, 2017 16:31 IST
Chandan Kumar
Chandan Kumar
Hindustan Times/ Bareilly
Braids chopped,Bareilly,Gost barber
In all the cases, women found their braids chopped off mysteriously and some of them also fell ill. (Sachin Saini/HT Photo)

Rehnuma Khan, 12, a student of Class 4, was sleeping on a bed in a cramped, low-roofed room of her house in Subhash Nagar area of Bareilly.

Her younger brother Yusuf, 8, was sleeping beside her while her mother and other siblings occupied two other cots. There were seven people in the room but no one is sure as to when Rehnuma’s hair was chopped off.

“Meri bitiya subah-subah apne baal dekh ke rone lagi. Kisi cheez ne uske baal kaat diye (My granddaughter started crying after seeing her chopped hair. Something cut her hair),” said Kaisar Jahan, 62, grandmother of Rehnuma.

The incident that took place on August 3 was the first case of mysterious hair-chopping in Braj and Rohilkhand region. Five other cases came to light on the same day.

People have applied turmeric and henna on their gates to avoid attacks. (Sachin Saini/HT Photo)

In all the cases, women found their braids chopped off mysteriously and some of them also fell ill.

In Mojampur village of Badaun, about 80 kilometres from Bareilly, a woman, Somwati, 32, had to be hospitalised after her braid was cut mysteriously.

The incident took place at around 11 am on Thursday. After finding her hair chopped off, Somwati fainted and was rushed to the community health centre.

In another case, Tabassum, 22, a resident of Bisauli town area in Badaun district, was sitting alone in a room at around 4 pm on Thursday (????) when she realised that a part of her braid has been chopped off by someone.

“When I turned around I saw a cat sitting near my hair. She disappeared as soon as my mother entered the room,” Tabassum murmured from behind her red veil as her mother caressed her.

She complained of uneasiness and nausea after the incident and was admitted to a private hospital.

Initially, the local police did not play attention to these incidents but when the news reached Lucknow, teams rushed to the affected areas to take stock of the situation and collect evidence. The mass hysteria soon grabbed media attention.

“After the incident in our village, we didn’t sleep all night. Everyone prayed to Allah for the safety of women and children,” said Mohd Munaf Raza Khan, a resident of Mojampur village.

Apart from prayers, villagers have started using others means to protect themselves. They are dipping their palms in turmeric and leaving its impression at the entrance of their houses to ward off evil.

In the absence of turmeric, people are using henna, black paint or soil. Some people have fixed twigs of neem on the doors while others are putting green chillies, lemon, garlic and onion in their houses.

The more cautious ones are applying ‘mahawar’ or ‘aalta’ (red dye) on their hands and feet. Women have started tying their hair in tight buns and covering it with ‘dupattas’.

Residents of Banna Devi area of Aligarh, 132 km from Bisauli in Badaun, have also adopted various means to save themselves after a teenage girl’s hair was chopped off on Thursday evening.

Reena Kumar, 16, a resident of Illiaspur locality near Aligarh, was alone at her house when she found a bunch of hair near her feet.

“I don’t remember much as I was terrified,” she said when asked how she could identify her hair in the dark.

“She is just a child, how much can she remember,” her elder brother chipped in before she could finish. He added people were terrified after the incident.

Ironically, mass hysteria rules the roost in the region where the incidents have done maximum damage.

Barely 110 km away from Aligarh, an elderly woman was lynched by a group which branded her a witch on the suspicion that she was involved in hair chopping incidents.

Police said Maan Devi, 60, a resident of Mutani in Agra, lost her way and reached another part of the village. Her son claimed she had weak eyesight and was returning home after attending the call of the nature.

Some people claimed she was a witch behind chopping of women’s hair and beat her up. She was taken to the hospital where she succumbed to injuries.

The post-mortem report mentioned myocardial infarction (heart attack) due to physical shock as cause of her death. Police have charged two men with murder and have arrested one of them.

“She (Maan Devi) belonged to Jatav community and her attackers were Baghels. Her death has pitched the people of one community against the other,” said Sumesh Singh, a member of the village panchyat.

“Bhoot ke chakkar main gaon main ek ko bhoot bana diya. Isse bura kya hoga,” he rued.

First Published: Aug 08, 2017 16:31 IST