Report By: Nina Rai
Date: 13 August, 2011
Sheer fear and panic has gripped residents across rural Sri Lanka with late night attacks allegedly attributed to 'grease devils' which has resulted in the deaths of nearly 3 persons this week, forcing the women-folk to remain indoors and men arming themselves, reports local media.
As per tales of yore in Sri Lanka, a 'grease devil' was a burglar who prowled around wearing underwear with his body smeared in grease. The idea was to make it difficult for any to grab him if chased. However, of late the 'grease devil' has become a late night prowler who terrifies and unexpectedly attacks women.
Local people speaking on the condition of anonymity state that the ‘grease devil’ comes quietly and “bites young women's necks and breasts.” They say that although several complaints have been lodged with the police, the latter has not been able to act on it and in two places have even let go of the culprits.
Meanwhile on Friday, August 12, a small crowd encircled the police station in the eastern town of Potuvil demanding to set free four of their men. The latter had been taken into custody as they had captured and planned to kill a suspected "grease devil". Police had to resort to tear gas to disperse the mob.
Earlier on Wednesday, two men suspected by villagers as "grease devils" were lynched to death by a mob in Kotagala village a tea-growing area in central Sri Lanka, informed the police.
Around 30 "grease devils" cases, over seven districts from Sri Lanka's east coast and across its tea-plantation region in the central Hill Country have been reported. Since July around forty-seven people have been arrested by the police.
Police sources opine that there is nothing like a ‘grease devil.’ It is the act of a human being having an ulterior motive to steal and indulge in some illegal activities. Also some persons with suffering from mental ailments were behaving as grease devils. Citing an example, the source informed that one man was arrested donning more than 20 pairs of women's undergarments.
Irrespective of the above sane assessment panic seem to have spread far and wide with men arming themselves with sticks and clubs standing vigil at night, with womenfolk staying put at home. The ancient Sri Lankan belief on spirits and devils are very deeply embedded in the minds of people in certain areas. These are invoked commonly for curing sickness or curse enemies. In fact, the customary devil masks are among the favorites with tourists, as souvenirs.
In order to quell the fear about ‘grease devil’ among the local populace, Sri Lankan TV has been airing the picture of a man who the police inform is a suspect. White greasepaint covers his entire face and there is a message given that says “The grease devil is not real.”