Shock gripped north Delhi’s Burari neighbourhood as 11 members — seven of whom were women and two teenagers — of a family were found dead in a flat in what appears in preliminary investigations to be a suicide pact triggered by occult practices.
The police found hand written notes in the house indicating some mystical or spiritual practices followed by the family. The description in the notes had an eerie resemblance with the scene of the incident and the manner in which the bodies were tied and gagged.
Ten bodies were blindfolded, gagged and found hanging from from the iron-mesh ceiling used for ventilation, while the body of a 77-year-old woman was lying on the floor in another room of the house. Two of the deceased were children — both aged 15. The eyes and mouth of those found hanging were covered with cloth and taped. The woman found dead on the floor was not blindfolded. The hands and feet of the children were tied, police said. Police found some hand-written notes during a search of the house, which, they said, suggest the family might have into some sort of religious practices. But it was not immediately clear what exactly the contents of the notes were.
According to the police, they were informed by a neighbour that six to seven people have committed suicide. Upon reaching the spot, they found that 11 people have died.
The deceased were identified as Narayan Devi, who was found dead on the floor, her daughter Pratibha (57), her two sons Bhavnesh (50) and Lalit Bhatia (45). Bhavnesh’s wife Savita (48) and their three children — Meenu (23) and Nidhi (25), and Dhruv, aged 15. Lalit Bhatia’s wife Tina (42) and their 15-year-old son Shivam were also among those found dead. Pratibha’s daughter Priyanka (33), who was engaged last month and would have married by the end of this year, was also found hanging.
Bhavnesh ran a grocery store on the ground floor of the house. He used to open his shop around 6 am, the family’s neighbour Amrik Singh said. “Today, the shop was not opened till 7am. The milk van had arrived outside the shop. A couple of neighbours had gathered becaused the van driver was continuously honking. Then I opened the main gate and went upstairs. What I saw there left me shocked,” said Gurcharan Singh, another neighbour.
Another area resident who had seen the bodies said: “They were all hanging with ‘chunnis’ while Lalit had a telephone wire wrapped around his neck.”
A senior police official said the crime branch will investigate the case. “I haven’t seen such a crime before. We are investigating all possible angles including suicide, foul play. We can say something about the cause of death only after the postmortem reports come,” said Vineet Kumar, additional deputy commissioner of police in north Delhi. “I spoke to their neighbours. They said the family did not have any enmity. They are unable to comprehend how it happened,” said chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The family was into plywood and furniture business and also ran a grocery store. They had migrated to Delhi from Rajasthan and were living in the locality for nearly 20 years, residents said. The residents were in a state of shock after learning about the tragedy. Other members of the family alleged that they had been killed.
Narayan Devi had three sons and daughters. The eldest son Dinesh Bhatia lives in Kota, Rajasthan. Pratibha, who was younger to Dinesh but elder to Bhavnesh and and her other siblings, was a widow and was living with her brothers.
One of Narayan Devi’s daughters, Sujata, lives in Panipat with her family. “I can’t believe that they committed suicide. Everyone was so happy. Someone has killed my family and the police have to find them,” a sobbing Sujata said.
This is the second major incident in Burary in recent weeks. Just days ago the neighbourhood was shaken by a dramatic gang war in which three people were killed and five were injured.