UFO sightings have sparked hysteria and riots, says our reporter
A MYSTERIOUS flying object said to attack sleeping villagers has sparked mass hysteria and rioting across the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Police shot dead one man and injured 12 others when a mob of hundreds stormed the police station in Barabanki, demanding protection against what they
believe is an alien assailant terrorising villages.
The object, described as a flying sphere emitting red and blue light, is said to strike in the middle of the night, leaving victims with burns or
scratches on their faces and limbs, and earning it the name the muhnochwa (face-scratcher).
At least seven unexplained deaths in the area have been attributed to the muhnochwa, sparking panic among villagers who blame police for not providing
Officials have suggested a raft of explanations, from an alien invasion to a new and unknown breed of insect.
Perhaps the most bizarre theory was that of Police Deputy Inspector General K. N. D. Dwivedi, who said that the assailant was a genetically engineered
insect introduced by ìanti-national elementsî from outside India to cause mayhem.
In common Indian parlance, this is taken to mean that it was the work of the Pakistani spy agency, the universal scapegoat for all unexplained Indian
woes. That theory has not won over many believers.
Villagers across the region no longer sleep outside, as they usually do during the sweltering summer heat and long power failures, fearing that they
will be easy prey for the muhnochwa.
In some villages the entire population are squeezing into the headmanís house for the night, seeking shelter and safety in numbers.
Having lost faith in the police, villagers have formed nocturnal protection squads.
In Shanwa village, where the attacks are said to have started, men patrol all night, banging drums and shouting slogans to frighten off intruders,
such as: ìEveryone be alert. Attackers beware.î
Residents have dismantled television aerials and taken satellite dishes down from their roofs, fearing that they may attract the mysterious object.
Even radios have fallen silent at night under selfimposed blackout.
The Times of India reported that the national intelligence bureau was sufficiently concerned to send its own agents, like Mulder and Scully from
televisionís X-Files, to investigate the ìalienî invasion.
After listening to villagersí descriptions of the muhnochwa, the agents constructed their own replica from the base of a mixer-grinder, fitted with
coloured lights, and hoisted it onto a pole in an attempt to entice the extraterrestrial. Then they waited.
At 1.05am they were rewarded with a flash of light ìlike a photocopierî, which repeated three times. A videotape was said to show a flash of light
passing across the screen. The agents concluded that the villagers were right and that they were indeed experiencing an extra-terrestrial invasion.
Local doctors, however, have dismissed the phenomenon as mass hysteria, saying that most of the injuries have been self-inflicted by panicked
villagers, evoking memories of the ìmonkey manî hysteria in Delhi last year.
At least three people died jumping from roofs and dozens more were injured during the mystery simianís two-week reign of terror before officials
dismissed it as a mass delusion and sightings petered out.