Monday, March 5, 2012 Beware the Vampires of Mumbai!

And the cannibals, and the Monkey Man, and the evil clowns, and...

From Mid-Day.Com:
Vampires and cannibals prey on fear in the Mumbai

Varun Singh

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.

From the Indian Express:
'Monkey man’ rumour: Cops arrest 72 in crackdown

Megha Sood
Sat Mar 03 2012

The Mumbai Police have finally cracked the whip on rumours about ‘monkey men’ and the ‘chaddi baniyan gang’ floated in city’s suburbs, by arresting 72 people for allegedly spreading the rumours.

Although the East Region police have made the arrests, mostly of local residents, the West and North Region police stations are yet to register a single case - in spite of a death in Kandivali in a stampede-like-situation sparked of by an alleged sighting of a ‘money man’.

According to Quiser Khalid, additional commissioner of police (East Region), 27 offences have been registered against people for spreading rumours and creating fear and panic.

“We traced the pranksters and arrested them,” said Khalid. “After the arrests, the rumours have died down considerably,” he added.

Sanjay Shintre, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 7) claimed that these rumours originated during the recently held Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, and have died down since.

Shintre said during the BMC election, due to heavy bandobast, the police did not allow political party members to sit idle on roads and streets. “In order to be on streets and restrict other party members from entering their locality, party members began spreading such rumours. They told the residents and the police that they were on the streets for patrolling and securing the locality,” Shintre said.

The police received many complaints about people spotting men from the ‘chaddi baniyan’ gang or the ‘monkey man’. “We visited the spots where a person claimed to have spotted the monkey man, many entirely denied the claim. We have arrested such people,” Shintre said.

When contacted about the rumours also allegedly floating in areas from Goregaon to Borivali, Additional Commissioner of Police (North Region) Ramrao Pawar said the police had not got any complaint as yet.

The monkey man and chaddi baniyan gangs are old Indian favorites, urban legends that sparked mass hysteria and caused mobs to attack innocent passers-by suspected of being the strange invaders.

The monkey man was first sighted in New Delhi in 2001. It was described as a very large monkey or a very short man covered in fur; some reports claimed it wore a metal helmet and had metal-tipped claws that it would use to scratch its victims.

Chaddi baniyan translates roughly to "undershirt and briefs". The mythical "chaddi baniyan gangs" are supposedly groups of robbers who sneak into peoples' homes dressed only in their underwear. Rumors of the gang date back several years, and some reports claim that the gang possess supernatural powers. Similarities to Indonesia's orang minyak are clear.

But according to the following column, Mumbai's monster mash involved more than just local favorites:

Of terrace-hopping creatures & child-eating ogres

Manoj R Nair
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

While the northerly breeze over Mumbai has been giving its denizens, albeit fitfully, some fair weather days, it seems the air is thick with rumours.

As this paper reported on Tuesday, policemen in some parts of the city have been kept busy by people who think the best way to spend a pleasant February afternoon is by indulging in the hobby called “rumour mongering.”

Some of the rumours are assuredly bizarre. In the eastern suburbs, there has been talk about ‘oil men’ who cover their lithe bodies with some slimy stuff so that they can easily slip away from pursuers.

Another part of the city has been so tormented by tales of child-lifting gangs with painted faces that mothers are worried about sending children unescorted to schools and playgrounds. Some stories, like that of bands of Africans picking up children, are offensively racist, at least for people who pretend they are sensitive about such things.

Policemen, who are not bothered about such niceties like racial and cultural sensitisation, told reporters that residents in some areas were worried about ‘negroes’ trying to kidnap children.

Other fantastical characters in the telltales wear shoes fitted with metal springs that enable them to jump from terraces of one building to another. Some shoemaker should patent this footwear; the invention should be the most revolutionary improvement in our footwear ever since we discarded our grass-and-twine sandals and wooden clogs for leather shoes. Mumbai police chief Arup Patnaik was obviously informed about the existence of these shoes by his men because he told our reporter that his men went around inquiring with shoe dealers whether such ‘custom-made’ shoes were being sold there.

One cast in this freak theatre wears boots that take away several feet from his height. A ghastly story doing the rounds is that of a man who devours children alive.

According to our reporters, this story whirled about in the northern plains of the country before it was blown into Mumbai by the northerlies. I think I know where the inspiration for the last story came from. A fortnight ago, policemen in the city came across an amateurish copy of Spanish master Francisco Goya’s nightmarish painting ‘Saturn devouring his son’. While the policemen’s story that they stumbled into a 19th century masterpiece in a ramshackle warehouse in Oshiwara was incredible, they nevertheless managed to convince some reporters that the master work could have been stolen and smuggled into Mumbai where art collectors were negotiating to buy it for Rs20 crores!

The story of a possible art heist with its epicentre in Mumbai was printed in local newspapers. The report must have been picked up by some four-page newsletter in the north and then woven into a fantasmagorical story of the kind that some news channels specialise in. From there, the regurgitated story found its way into Mumbai’s slums and housing colonies. But, unlike the humorous vein that this article feigns to assume, the rumours are no laughing matter. Driven to delirium by stories of child-eating ogres and spring-footed creatures, some people have been beating up unfortunate passers-by.
If this report is accurate, Mumbai has hosted sightings of the orang minyak, child-snatching clowns, and the one and only Springheel Jack!  Add in the vampires, demons, and other homegrown horrors, and it's a critical mass of urban legends.

Is this just hyperbole by a columnist looking to pad out a story, or are the common folk of India really claiming to see Western bogies?  It's fascinating to consider how the internet and omnipresent media might be transplanting folktales to take root in cultures thousands of miles from where they originated.