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Burari deaths closure: Family shared psychological disorder which turned ritual practice into mass suicide, says Police

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New Delhi: Investigators in the mysterious deaths by hanging of 11 in Delhi’s Burari neighbourhood are convinced that it was a case of mass suicide in a ritual practice by the family suffering from a shared psychological disorder, a police officer said on Thursday.

The officer said the final closure report will be prepared after getting the viscera and detailed autopsy of the 11 bodies. But little is expected to emerge out of these reports. “The Crime Branch has sent its case report to Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik who is all set to close the case and submit the final closure to the Home Ministry,” the officer told IANS.

This comes five days after 11 bodies — seven females and four males — were recovered from a two-storey house on July 1. Ten of them were hanging with their hands tied, mouths gagged and eyes covered with cloth pieces. The eldest in the Bhatia family — which was mainly into grocery and plywood businesses — was found lying dead. An autopsy report concluded that Narayani Devi, 77, had also died of partial hanging.


Crime Branch chief Joint Commissioner Alok Kumar told IANS that CCTV footage from the premises opposite the Bhatia house helped investigators to concluded that it was a case of mass suicide. “The video footage showed the family bought goods five stools and bandage from shops close to their home and used them in the ritual These goods were found from the spot where all 11 bodies hung,” Kumar said.

He said the handwritten notes apparently written by Lalit Bhatia and his niece Priyanka detailing the ritual practice were being treated as suicide notes. These notes were recovered from the house and the ritual was performed almost as mentioned in those entries, he said. Kumar said no occultist or a godman has been found involved in the chilling deaths that shocked the city.

“No evidences were found of any animosity with the family,” the Crime Branch chief said. “The case is almost clear. It is a suicide pact by all family member.” Kumar said investigators have concluded that Lalit, 45, who ran the plywood store, used to dictate how the rituals were to be undertaken and Priyanka, 33, would note it down in a register. Lalit and other family members believed that Lalit was taking instructions from his father Gopaldas, who died 10 years ago.

“As per the register entries, Lalit was possessed by the spirit of his deceased father. This is a kind of mental disorder. We also took help of psychological experts. They also concluded that it is a case of shared psychological disorder which turned a ritual practice into a mass suicide,” the police officer said. The investigators have also concluded that Lalit and his wife Tina tied the hands and legs of other family members before all of the them hung themselves from an iron grill on a ceiling of a corridor to perform a ritual prayer on the night of June 30.

They believed they won’t die and Gopaldas would come to meet them and bestow them with salvation. The family had even cooked white grams for the next morning breakfast which was kept in a bowl and curd was also refrigerated. Priyanka, who was all set to get married to a Noida-based software engineer in December, had even kept her dress ready to go to office the next morning.

The family, according to police, was deeply ritualist and superstitious. Lalit had met with an accident four years ago and had lost his voice after a plywood sheet fell on his head. However, he regained his speech one day, believing that it was his dead father who helped him in a dream. Priyanka, according to police, was finding it difficult to get a match. But she was made to worship a Banyan tree after which she got engaged to the Noida man.

Like his late father Gopaldass, who was in the Indian Army, Lalit gave all family members training in discipline, code of conduct, rehearsals of dos and don’ts during ritual practices. As per an entry in one of the registers seized from the house, he also instructed family members to stand upright like soldiers after morning prayers for increasing mental strength.