[Women across North India are having way too many bad hair days these days.
This has been going on for over two months with over a hundred cases
reported from villages in Rajasthan, UP, Delhi, Haryana. Mysterious forces
are at work in places like Agra, Bikaner, Jaipur, Kanpur, Bareilly,
Aligarh, Meerut, to name just a few, chopping off the lustrous locks of
unsuspecting young ladies in deep slumber. What a story, Sirji! We could
have had a good laugh and forgotten all about it, but for the tragic
consequences. Like the case of Mala Devi, a 60-year-old woman with weak
eyesight, who was lynched in Agra, after she lost her way late at night.
The incident took place when she was returning home, after relieving
herself in the fields close by at 3.45am. The poor woman landed up in a
neighbour’s hut, instead of her own. What followed is shocking. Two men
pounced on her with rods and sticks, suspecting her of being a
braid-chopping witch. They later told the police they were defending the
locks of their womenfolk, sleeping inside the hut. The women said they were
sure Mala Devi was a ghost. Well, this is the first time we are hearing
about a ‘ghost’ getting caught, then attacked and beaten.]

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/politically-incorrect/agras-mala-devi-was-no-braid-chopping-witch-just-a-soft-target/

Agra’s Mala Devi was no braid-chopping witch, just a soft target

August 6, 2017, 3:09 AM IST

Shobhaa De in Politically Incorrect | India | TOI

Women across North India are having way too many bad hair days these days.
This has been going on for over two months with over a hundred cases
reported from villages in Rajasthan, UP, Delhi, Haryana. Mysterious forces
are at work in places like Agra, Bikaner, Jaipur, Kanpur, Bareilly,
Aligarh, Meerut, to name just a few, chopping off the lustrous locks of
unsuspecting young ladies in deep slumber. What a story, Sirji! We could
have had a good laugh and forgotten all about it, but for the tragic
consequences. Like the case of Mala Devi, a 60-year-old woman with weak
eyesight, who was lynched in Agra, after she lost her way late at night.
The incident took place when she was returning home, after relieving
herself in the fields close by at 3.45am. The poor woman landed up in a
neighbour’s hut, instead of her own. What followed is shocking. Two men
pounced on her with rods and sticks, suspecting her of being a
braid-chopping witch. They later told the police they were defending the
locks of their womenfolk, sleeping inside the hut. The women said they were
sure Mala Devi was a ghost. Well, this is the first time we are hearing
about a ‘ghost’ getting caught, then attacked and beaten.

Witches, of course, are soft targets. Any woman who doesn’t play by
society’s rules can be branded a witch and killed. But here was Mala Devi,
a neighbour, a senior citizen with a weak bladder and weaker eyes, who
needed to urinate every two or three hours. Normally, she returned to her
own hut within 15 minutes. This time, her five sons were woken up by
villagers after an hour or so, and informed their mother was lying
unconscious, with a swollen face and eye injuries. The police were summoned
and Mala Devi named Sonu and Manish as the two who had mercilessly beaten
her, instead of alerting her sons and escorting her back to her home.
Later, Mala Devi was taken to the district hospital 30km from the police
station on — hold your breath — a motorcycle! In her precarious condition —
just imagine. She died of cardiac arrest soon after doctors discharged her.
Mala Devi, a widow who had lost her husband six years ago, was a Dalit.

By then, the ‘braid-chopping’ stories were flying across northern India,
with young girls posing with their lopped locks. It’s entirely possible the
girls had taken scissors to hair themselves. Maybe they wanted a Bollywood
cut, and their parents weren’t agreeing. Maybe, they were victims of mass
hysteria. Or perhaps, they wanted their pictures in the papers. TV
channels, as always, were the biggest culprits, playing up this absurd
story, and ‘braid chopping’ became the new dengue — a killer epidemic.

Mala Devi was not a ‘braid chopper’. But she paid for these crazy rumours
with her life. Her death has once again highlighted the abysmal sanitation
conditions in our villages. Agra, the pride of India, host city of the Taj
Mahal which is a World Heritage site, is filthy beyond description. Mala
Devi’s village is a mere 19km east of the main city. Her village has no
latrines. We talk of the tremendous strides made by the Swachh Bharat
campaign. We sign on mega stars as brand ambassadors. CMs pose with brooms.
Schools and colleges conduct cleanliness workshops. But just 19km from Agra
city, in the village of Mutnai, two able-bodied young men attacked a
60-year-old woman with sticks and rods, ignoring her pleas to drop her home
and spare her as her eyesight was poor and she had lost her way. Look at
the number of subtexts in this single story: no latrines for women, no
access to an eye doctor, no convenient transport to the nearest hospital,
no required treatment available, no action taken so far against the
assaulters. “Mala Devi died of cardiac arrest,” states the official report.
Yes, she did. And didn’t. She died because of the shock she suffered at the
hands of her neighbours. She died because of rumour-mongering in the
region. She died because she was wrongly accused of being a
‘braid-chopper’. She died because she could not control her bladder. She
died because the government simply does not care. The Mala Devis in India
can live and die in conditions worse than hell. Nobody gives a damn.

Bona fide, scissors-carrying braid-choppers, beware. You may be next on the
hit list. Hang on to your precious locks, young ladies. There are ghosts
and witches all around you. And if you really want to resemble your
favourite Bollywood actress, wait till you get to a haircutting salon in a
city nearest you. Or else, more Mala Devis may lose their lives proving
they are just vulnerable women trying to locate a secluded spot to relieve
themselves in the dead of the night.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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