Hair thieves in India: myth or menace?

Published: August 3, 2017
Sunita Devi says the attack has left her traumatised

Sunita Devi says the attack has left her traumatised PHOTO: BBC NEWS

More than 50 women in the Northen Indian state are reporting incidents where they have had their hair chopped off while they were unconscious, reported BBC.

“There was a strong flash of light that left me unconscious. An hour later, I found that my hair had also been chopped off,” says Sunita Devi, a 53-year-old housewife from the Bhimgarh Kheri area of Gurgaon district in Haryana. She was ‘attacked’ on Friday, and has been traumatised since.

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Reports of such “phantom barbers” have been circulating in Rajasthan since July, and now reports are also emerging from Haryana and Delhi. She says her attacker was an elderly man “dressed in brightly-coloured clothes”.

“I was alone on the ground floor of the house while my daughter-in-law and grandson were upstairs when the attack happened at around 9:30pm,” she says.

Many women have reported similar incidents, some saying they were attacked by women, men, and even in some cases, cats. Gurgaon police spokesperson Ravinder Kumar says that the complaints are being investigated. “These are bizarre cases. We have found no clues at crime scenes, and medical tests of the victims show nothing abnormal,” he said, adding that nobody has seen the alleged attackers.

Kumar adds that police from different districts are coordinating efforts to “make some sense” of these incidents. “Only the victims say that they have seen or felt the presence of attackers. We will get to the bottom of these cases, but until then, I urge people to not believe in rumours,” he says.

One woman insisted “supernatural forces” were involved. Others accused the “victims” of cutting their hair to get attention. Rationalist Sanal Edamaruku told the BBC that he believed that these cases were a classic example of “mass hysteria”.

“There is no miracle or supernatural force behind all this. Women who have reported these cases must be going through some internal physiological conflict,” he says. “When they hear about such incidents, they end up replicating it, sometimes even subconsciously.”

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But Reena Devi disagrees. “I spent years growing my hair and it made me happy. Now that it’s gone, you can’t even imagine my pain. It’s ridiculous to say that women are chopping off their own hair,” she says.

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