More than 50 women in the northern Indian states of Haryana and Rajasthan have reported that they have had their hair chopped off while they were unconscious. Police are struggling to solve the mystery that is leaving women paranoid and worried, reports the BBC’s Vikas Pandey.
“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.
The “attack” on Friday has left her traumatised.
“I am unable to sleep or concentrate on anything. I had read about such incidents taking place in Rajasthan, but never thought it would happen to me,” she adds.
Reports of “phantom barbers” first emerged in early July from Rajasthan, but a spate of similar incidents are being reported from Haryana and even the capital, Delhi.
Sunita Devi lives in a close-knit community of traders and farmers.
Some of her neighbours are taking it in turns to stay with her until she is able to come out of the shock.
She says her attacker was an elderly man “dressed in bright-coloured clothes”.
“I was alone on the ground floor of the house, and my daughter-in-law and grandson were upstairs when the attack happened at around 21:30,” she says.
They saw and heard nothing.
The mystery deepens when I ask if anybody else saw the attacker.
Sunita Devi’s neighbour Munesh Devi says that the narrow lane, which has around 20 houses, is usually buzzing between 21:00 and 22:00.
“People get together after dinner to just talk and relax. Friday was no different, but none of us saw any unknown person going in or coming out of Sunita’s house,” she says.
And it didn’t end there.
Just a few yards away, homemaker Asha Devi lost her hair in a similar attack the following day.
But this time the attacker was reportedly a woman.
Asha Devi’s father-in-law, Suraj Pal, says that following the incident, he sent her and other women of his family to a relative’s house in Uttar Pradesh state.
“They were so paranoid after the attack, I told them to be away for a few weeks. There is fear in the community,” he says.
Mr Pal says he was at home when Asha Devi went outside to complete a household chore at around 22:00.
“I went outside to find her when she didn’t return for more than 30 minutes. We found her unconscious in the bathroom. Her hair was chopped and thrown on the floor,” he says.
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