After Black Monkey arrives a ‘Phantom Barber’. That is the new mystery in India. A phantom barber is unleashing terror on poor ladies in villages. Many women across different age-groups, particularly belonging to lower socio-economic strata, have reported that their braids have been chopped by some invisible force that has unleashed its terror on women’s hairs in India….writes Mr Gurjot S Kaler

India is a deeply religious country where myths, beliefs, traditions, religions and superstitions change as patterns in a kaleidoscope depends on the nature of the habitat. Since ages, Indians have been fascinated by the spooking tales about ghosts, souls, paranormal beings, haunted spirits, black magic, etc which are passed on across generations.

These days, a new phenomenon of a mysterious ‘phantom barber’, which has caught the fancy of the populace in the country. The story was first splashed in north India, wherein the braid-cutting of womenfolk by some unknown imaginary cat-man has been vividly described by the victims themselves.

Many women across different age-groups, particularly belonging to lower socio-economic strata, have reported that their braids have been chopped by some invisible force that has unleashed its terror on women’s hairs in India. In most of these cases, women felt a pain in their head, became unconscious and then woke up to discover that their braids had been sniffed off.

One striking similarity is all these cases has been the lack of a credible witness to record the braid chopping incident of the victim sufferers. In fact a 65-year-old lady in Mutnai village, UP, was assaulted as a result of rumour-mongering  and allegedly beaten to death for unverified account of her rumoured indulgence in witchcraft and chopping other women’s hairs. This has raised the due alarm bells in various quarters of the society’s activists and government corridors about the severity of the incident that threatens to snowball into a country wide rage if it is not tackled soon enough.

Many rationalists though have dismissed it as an attention-seeking illusionary behaviour of the women victims who are thought to be suppressed by their domestic pressures, patriarchal environments, or have been described as suffering from repressed emotional desires, depression, internal psychological conflicts etc. Some of the logic-seeking mindsets have even deliberated the phenomenon of braid-cutting to be self-inflicted by the victims themselves and a case of mass hysteria whereby people sub-consciously tend to copy a given behavior and then attribute to supernatural forces.

Whatever may be the truth or not behind the prevailing unusual chopping of hairs of women, it is certainly bemusing as well as surprising-cum-shocking to know that such a thing or incident seems to be happening as is being widely reported in various newspapers and prime time TV shows. Even more interesting to note is the fact that the 21st century India which aspires to be a world power in technology and science based explorations, still subscribes to many of such ideas which are inexplicable by way of reason, logic, scientific rationality, reliability or validity.

Nobody seems to offer any plausible explanation for the current braid chopping story doing the rounds; there seems no satisfactory answer to the genuine questions like as to why someone (let’s assume a spirit or an occultist or ‘tantrik’ for the sake of assuming) would revenge upon women’s hairs and what satisfaction would it provide to the perpetrator or which kind of worthwhile goal this braid-cutting act seems to accomplish for the wrongdoer.

However, people have conveniently succumbed to the superstitions of putting turmeric and vermillion hand-prints on the walls of their homes, hanging the neem leaves, lemon and chillies at the prominent places on their doorways, indulging in ‘hawans’, use of ‘gangajal’ (sacred water) and ‘paath-puja’ as well as burning of cow-dung cakes at homes in order to ward off the evil spirits or negative energies.

One feels compelled to remember a similar ‘Black Monkey’ hysteria situation that had erupted in 2001 when people reported to being attacked by a monkey man; the claims which turned out to be false later on. Similarly, year 2006 also witnessed hundreds of people traveling to coastal areas to sample seawater in Mumbai that suddenly “tasted sweet.” Even in the past like in the mid-90s, lakhs of worshippers had become glued to the craze of statues of Gods like Lord Ganesha drinking milk. Similarly, there have been many other incidents which have defied any meaningful explanations like the red rainfall in year 2001 which created chaos and panic amongst the dwellers in the coastal regions of Kerala. Also, a mysterious flying object named as ‘Muhnochwa’ by the locals in rural areas of Mirzapur, Chandauli and some parts of Varanasi in July 2002 was depicted as emitting beams of red or green lights, and gave electric shocks and injuries to persons who came in contact with it.

No scientific explanations have been forthcoming till now in these various cases of panic driven mischievous rumor-mongering by miscreants. But gullible people have been made to believe and indulge in supernatural tricks or ways to counter the ill-effects.
Believing anything without any solid base can be termed in simplistic jargon as superstition and it definitely amounts to obstruction to progress. The only way to overcome such superstitions is by inculcating, developing and promoting scientific temper, rational outlook, humanism and spirit of inquiry as envisaged by our Constitution whereby it has been listed as one of the Directive Principles of State Policy under article 51-A (h) . Whereas some people vociferously advocate the passing of stringent laws to check the spread of superstition like passing of the Punjab Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Pill, 2017, the real progress can be expected only when the change comes from within the people and community. One cannot push scientific thoughts and logics down the people’s throats but these should be amicably spread through community programs, educational drives and enlightening scientific lectures to dispel the assimilation of age-old myths, concoctions of rumors and gossip mills.

Let us wait and watch as to how the mystery of ‘phantom barber’ unfolds in the coming times. Till then, on a jovial note, let us protect our own hairs lest we cut a sorry figure later on. Just one wish! It would be a yeoman’s service to the nation if rather than the innocuous braids, the problems like poverty, corruption, unemployment, dowry, intolerance and terrorism etc could also be magically chopped off by the unfathomable ‘phantom barber’.

Jaipur: Women sip sugarcane juice to beat the heat in Jaipur, on May 27, 2017. (Photo: Ravi Shankar Vyas/IANS) by .



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