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Fatal error or suicide?

The family of 11 who were found hanging at Burari could have been under the delusion that the rituals they were performing would not lead to death

Ravinder, the owner of Soni Dyers, a drycleaning shop a few metres from the Burari victims’ house, told Patriot, “A day before the incident around 4 in the evening, Priyanka came to my shop and gave three clothes for dyeing. She even asked him about the return date. At that time, she was looking normal. I could have never imagined that it was her last visit.”

Like others on the street now famous for the mysterious death of 11 members of a single family Ravinder knows the family for the past 10 years. According to him, the family were good people. Not only did they come to his shop, he too visited Bhuvnesh’s shop, on the ground floor of the victims’ house, to buy his daily groceries.

Priyanka Bhatia, 30, was engaged last month and was to marry in December this year. Any normal girl would have been busy planning her wedding trousseau, and such activity is suggested by Ravinder’s testimony. She was the daughter of 58-year-old Pratibha, a widow. The other deceased are Narayani Devi, 78, her two sons Lalit, 42 (who wrote the diaries) and Bhuvnesh, 46. Lalit’s family included his wife Tina, 38, and son Shivam, 13. Bhuvnesh and his wife Savita, 42, had three children: Neetu, 24, Meenu, 22, Dhirendra 13. All are now dead.

Other actions of the family also suggest that they expected to be around in the near future. Police investigators found some raw chickpea in a bowl full of water in the kitchen, presumably to be cooked for breakfast the next morning. CCTV footage of the street shows that around 10 on the night of the incident, Pratibha and Neetu were seen carrying stools in their hands – the same stools which they climbed on to tie the noose and then kicked away, causing death by handing.

Among the family members, Narayani Devi’s body was found lying on the floor in a room while rest of the 10 members including two children was found hanging on the grill installed on the ceiling at the second floor of the three-story building. All the dead bodies were found with ears stuffed with buds, eyes were covered with a cloth and hand tied behind the back.
Initial post-mortem report claimed that the reason behind the death was suicide. Further investigation is underway, said Alok Kumar, Joint CP, Delhi Police.

Buttressing the suicide theory are two diaries found from the victim’s place. Its contents suggest that Lalit was influenced by the spirit of his father, who passed away around 10 years ago. Lalit claims in the notes that his father’s spirit used to come in his dreams and sometimes enter his body. After such episodes, he would gather all the family members to discuss his father’s decisions. Lalit maintained a record of his father’s directions from the past three years.

In the diary, Lalit wrote in Hindi that that the worship of banyan tree is of 15-20 minutes in which everyone’s hands would be tied behind their backs, his necks would be tied with a cloth and a stool placed below the feet. “By covering eyes and mouth, one can overcome the fear, if a group of 11 perform this then every problem will be solved out and the soul becomes free. The human body is mortal while the soul is immortal, ending self leads to peace. In the last moment, at the time of fulfillment of last wish, the sky will shake and the earth will shiver. At that time, do not panic, intensify the chanting of mantras. When we hang, God will be seen and God will take us off.”

From these notations, it can be concluded that the family members expected that their patriarch would come and save them once they had performed all the rituals. No involvement of any godman or tantric is suspected as yet.

According to experts, this looks like a case of shared psychotic disorder. An essential feature of the shared psychotic disorder is a delusion that develops among individuals close to each other. As demonstrated by this case, Lalit had assumed the role of the patriarch who they had lost. Instead of getting closure about his death, they nurtured the fond belief that he was in their midst, guiding them like in the days when he was alive. In his case, his widow, their offspring, and their children, to varying degrees, seem to have adopted the patriarch’s delusional beliefs.

But it does not seem likely that they believed that Sunday, July 1, 2018, would be the last day of their lives.