If you thought that alien invasions, UFO sightings and suspension of disbelief were the privilege of an imagination bred in the developed West, you should visit eastern UP, which is in the grip of a ‘muhnochwa’ ("face-scratcher") scare. The mysterious flying object has reportedly hit 100 villages so far. Even the DIG of Faizabad could not resist his take on the mystery: the ‘muhnochwa’ was a "genetically-engineered, three-inch-long insect let loose by anti-national elements". Other theories of UFOS and aliens have made it to local papers. Chief minister Mayawati has, meanwhile, blamed rival SP for rumour-mongering. The panic reached such a pitch that a mob protesting official inaction attacked a Barabanki police station last week and was fired at, leading to the death of one person.
Scientists at IIT Kanpur have submitted a report on the phenomenon—they say it’s a natural occurrence, also observed in other countries, created by severe dry spells leading to poor conductivity of the earth. In all cases people saw a ball-like object emitting different colours and travelling sideways. The ball can produce about 100 watts of electricity and when it hits a person’s body, especially the face, it causes a burning sensation and rashes break out.