Even as police investigation continues, over 50 cases of braid-cutting have been reported from northern India within a week, costing a woman her life in Uttar Pradesh, where the locals branded her as a “witch”.

Within a matter of 24 hours—between Thursday-Friday—Delhi-NCR alone registered over 30 cases of braid-cutting incidents.

The police in the region has received calls from Faridabad, Palwal, Hatheen, Gurgaon, Firozpurjhilka, Greater Noida, Ghaziabad, Meerut etc.

According to the police in these areas, it is unlikely that an outsider is responsible for such incidents, given the frequency with which these have been taking place.

In Delhi, the areas which have reported braid-cutting are Najafgarh, Kanganhedi, Ranhaula, Kapashera, Rohini, Jafarpur, Palam, Nihar Vihar, Begumpur and Mayapuri.

Delhi Police received over 20 calls on a single day, but many complainants refused to file FIRs or be part of the investigation.

The police is now focusing on two major possibilities—either the women themselves are responsible for cutting their own hair or somebody known to them is creating the mischief.

A common factor among instances across the city is the excruciating headache experienced by the women who faint and upon waking up, discover their chopped braids.

Yusra, a resident in Meerut village, said, “Nobody I know has been victimised, but the rumour is everywhere. Elders have advised us not to step out of the house unless it is absolutely necessary. We are keeping our heads covered and it is scary to constantly feel under threat of the unknown. Everybody says that it is some kind of supernatural evil spirit which is causing all these incidents.”

Various theories among residents of Delhi and Gurgaon are largely based on superstition. Gunja, a domestic worker in Delhi, said, “We believe these incidents are true. Why would any woman cut her hair herself so ruthlessly? If there are humans involved, then police should be able to catch them. Evil spirits can cause harm. So far, only braids are chopped and the women faint and recover later, but what if something more serious happens?”

Villagers across North India, where such cases have taken place are finding solace in superstition. Kumari, a resident of Jafarpur, said, “We are using turmeric and chillies outside our home to ensure that no evil spirits cross our threshold.”

Meanwhile, police is not buying into the theory of a witch or an evil spirit behind these incidents and is relying on hard facts that do not hint at any supernatural element. Delhi Police is calling the braid-cutting incidents as mischief-making by young boys. Nobody has been arrested in any of the cases so far.

Tarksheel Society, situated in Hisar, Haryana, has announced a reward of Rs 1 crore for anyone who can prove that any kind of supernatural element is involved in these cases. The Tarksheel Society has said that such cases are the  imagination of mentally affected women and girls and had no scientific evidence.

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