'Monkey man' fears rampant in New Delhi
NEW DELHI, India -- "Monkey man" hysteria has swept the Indian capital following the confirmation that injuries sustained by victims are animal bites.
Indian media has reported that two terrified residents have fallen to their death on hearing that an ape-like attacker was nearby.
Police said Wednesday that they were no closer to solving the mystery of an ape-like creature which residents accuse of clawing and biting dozens of people in New Delhi suburbs over the past fortnight.
"We have consulted doctors about the bites and they said they were by some animal," Joint Commissioner of Police Suresh Roy told Reuters news agency.
"The information we have is pointing towards an animal. But we checked with the local zoo and they said no animal had escaped from there."
Reports -- including hoax calls -- were so prolific that police ran short of vehicles following up complaints.
Police have blamed the panic on uneducated poor people, many of them superstitious and strong believers in the supernatural.
Their fears may be exacerbated by sweltering heat and darkness due to electricity cuts.
"It seems a group of people in masks are terrorizing people," the Statesman newspaper quoted an unidentified police officer as saying.
Short man beaten for fitting description
Police urged the state-run power company to ensure uninterrupted power supply from dawn to dusk so that panicked residents would feel safer with the lights on.
The power-starved capital routinely has power cuts during the sweltering summer.
"It is nothing but mass hysteria. We have increased patrolling in areas which have reported such cases," said Manoj Kumar Lal, deputy commissioner of police in east Delhi.
The public's fear of the monkey man is so great that residents of Noida, a New Delhi suburb, caught and beat up a 4-foot-tall wandering Hindu mystic, mistaking him for the simian terror, the Statesman said.
The mystic, identified only as Jamir, was found by a crowd of people in a nearby forest performing some rituals, beaten up and handed to the police.
The collective hysteria claimed a second life early Tuesday after a pregnant woman sleeping on her terrace was woken by neighbours shouting: "The monkey has come!."
The woman fell down a staircase and died in hospital.
Two nights earlier, an industrial worker died in similar circumstances when he leapt in terror from a building at Noida, a southeastern suburb.
Roy said there had been no reports of injuries in the affected areas Tuesday night.
Two indentikit portraits put together with the help of the creature's victims suggested it was human.
One showed a swarthy broad-faced bearded man with a flat nose, thick lips and a piercing stare. The other, which could hardly have been more different, portrayed a narrow-faced man with a receding hairline, a scrappy moustache and dark glasses.
The Indian Express quoted a resident of Noida as saying that a creature "as small as a cat" bit her fingers, and two of her husband's teeth were knocked out by a "metallic hand."
Two houses away, there was a different story.
"It was a monkey alright, and about four foot tall, but as soon as I grabbed it, it turned itself into a cat with tawny, glowing eyes," the newspaper quoted a resident as saying.
Monkeys run wild in New Delhi and on the outskirts of the city. Sometimes they pounce on unsuspecting pedestrians or enter houses.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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