Friday, 20 April 2012

Vampires, cannibals and monkey-men

Vampires and cannibals prey on fear in Mumbai

Over the past week, the fertile imagination of Mumbai's collective consciousness has been in the feverish grip of some dreaded creatures. Vampires, cannibals and monkey men all appear to have chosen the city as the site for their spring rendezvous. While Mumbai cowers under the covers, cops are having a hard time laying their fears to rest.

In Bhandup-Mulund,  rumours swirl that a tribal group is on the prowl to snatch kids. Imaginations run wild in Ghatkopar-Sakinaka-Marol-Andheri, where residents claim to have seen "vampire-like-creatures". Another fantastical rumour doing the rounds in Andheri-Malad concerns a "monkey man", who"kills people". And residents of Chembur-Trombay are convinced that hungry cannibals lie in ambush nearby.

Mumbai police have been inundated with reports of sightings of these creatures, but have found no evidence to substantiate them. As mass hysteria sweeps the city, terror-stricken residents are caving into fear and altering their daily lives.

Take Vrinda Thakur (name changed). She didn't send her 12-year-old son to school on Thursday, petrified by the news that a group of tribal child-snatchers who have entered the Chembur belt and were kidnapping kids.

"Last night, many people in my area were on the streets. They told me that there are cannibals lurking in the streets, looking for kids to kidnap. I got scared, and decided not to send my son to school," she said.

Residents too prefer to stay indoors after twilight. "We have heard many rumours. There is a group of criminals who enter the colonies, only to kill and loot people. I also hear that the police has taken in many people for questioning," said Dr Vijay Sangole, resident of Pestom Sagar.

L Mandalia, a resident from Andheri (East) said, "A friend told me that he knows of a man who had an encounter with a vampire-like creature in Andheri, and since then has called in sick." Cops, however attributed these to rumours. They have tightened patrolling measures, just in case. Qaisar Khalid, additional commissioner of police, Central Zone, confirmed that such rumours were making the rounds.

"The rumour originated in Mulund-Bhandup, and then spread like wildfire. We are adopting the ignore-and-kill-strategy ” whenever we receive a complaint, we go there, explain to the residents that there is no substance to their claims as no one has seen anything. This way, we hope to kill the rumours," he said.

Source: Mid-day, 24 February 2012
Similar rumours, sometimes with racist overtones, subsequently spread across the region, and are reported in the Hindustan Times, DNA, The Indian Express and the Times of India