The Delhi Police Crime Branch sources today said that they are investigating if Lalit Bhatia, who was among the 11 members of a family found dead under mysterious circumstance at their residence in Delhi's Burari on Sunday, was mentally challenged. The investigating officers have cause to believe that he hallucinated that his dead father gave him orders to orchestrate the series of events which lead to the shocking death of the entire family.
The sources say the evidence and witness testimonies collected by the police proof that Lalit was often spotted talking to a picture of his father and used to keep searching for him. The father, Gopal Das Bhatia, was an ex-armyman and passed away 10 years ago.
Lalit used to note down his conversations with his father, at first his mother Narayanidevi tried to counsel him but soon he made the entire family believe in his fantasies, the sources privy to investigation said. They added that Lalit used to frequently share his 'conversations with the father' with his family.
Eleven members of the family, including seven women and two children, were found dead under mysterious circumstances at their residence on Sunday. Ten of those dead were found hanging from an iron-mesh in the ceiling for ventilation, while the body of 77-year-old Narayan was lying on the floor in another room of the house.
The post-mortem of eight of the 11 people, who were found dead at their house in north Delhi's Burari locality, has revealed there were no signs of struggle and all of them died as a result of hanging.
Police suspect that the deaths were part of a suicide pact, carried out in accordance with a religious practice, as handwritten notes found on the spot indicated. Some of the notes stated that "one will not die" but attain something "great", the officer said.
The police revealed that the notes go back to 2015. For a few months, there are no entries and then it starts again. There is a gap between most entries. In all, there are around 40-50 pages, a police official told media on Monday.
"The earliest entries are about philosophical musings and religious beliefs. Every entry in the registers would begin with a 'shree'. There have been months when no entries were made," he said.
The notes indicate that the family, at some point, may have tried to organinse a “meeting” with Lalit’s late father. In one of the notes recovered by the cops, Lalit has written that the father will come and rescue them all in the final moments of the ritual.
The notes say: "Antim samay mein..akhri ichha ki purti ke waqt, asmaan hilega...dharti kaapegi...uss waqt mantro ka jaap badha dena..main aakr, tumko aur auro ko utaar lunga (In the end time, when it is time to fulfill the last wish, the skies will shake, the earth will tremble, increase the frequency of mantra, I will come and save you and the others)."
“Lalit ki chinta mat karo tumlog.. main jab aata hun to ye thoda pareshan ho jata hai...(don’t worry about Lalit.. He gets a little hassled when I come),” one of the notes reads.
On another page, the unidentified man asks the family to take proper care of Lalit’s mother, Narayani. The notes dictate almost all aspects of the victims’ lives, with solutions for different kinds of problems.
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Notes suggest Burari family could be replicating 'badh tapasya'
The hand-written notes of the family suggest that they might have been trying to replicate the "badh tapasya". Police said the two registers found at a temple inside the house had notes mentioning 'salvation', 'badh tapasya', 'shunya'.
"The notes state that if one follows a set of rituals, their problems would be solved and God would be happy. It seems that the rituals went awry. The notes mention how after climbing the stool and covering one's face and taping the mouth, and wrapping a chunni around one's neck, one has to climb down and help others," an officer privy to the probe said.
The notes mention about doing a 'jaap' before starting the rituals and think about 'shunya', so that other thoughts do not cloud their minds. The officer said entries on rituals to please God to get the family's issues resolved began earlier this year.
"There are notes on 'badh tapasya', in which people get into a banyan tree-formation whose branches hang around. The notes say that doing this would make God happy," he added.
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The notes ask the participants to "be cautious" when performing the rituals.
Cops said it was evident that the family was blindly following all these “directions”. One of the last notings reads that that the mother would feed rotis to everyone (ma sabko roti khilayegi). This has been corroborated as the family ordered 20 rotis from a nearby shop for which it paid Rs 200. They didn’t order any vegetables. The police have found the restaurant bill in the house. The food was delivered around 10.40pm.
It had detailed instructions for “mass salvation”, including how the hangings should be conducted. The Bhatias, who ran a shop in the area, seemed to have followed the instructions, some of which may have been written months ago. They conducted a “havan” hours before the suicides.
“Right from asking them to stand on stools, to the mother lying on a separate bed in the other room, and Pratibha, the widowed sister of Lalit, to hang near the temple’s chaukhat — everything is mentioned in detail in the notings,” a police officer told media.
According to a report in TOI, the entries in the registers had become more frequent after January this year, indicating that Lalit’s condition may have worsened.
Relatives dismiss suicide theory, allege family was killed
Even as the religious angle soared, relatives insisted that the family were killed and did not commit suicide.
"I used to speak to my mom every alternate day. Everything was going fine within our family. We are a well educated family and do not believe in babas. It's not a case of suicide. Media has been speculating things and publishing wrong info about my family members committing suicide," Sujata Nagpal, daughter of the 77-year-old Narayan Devi said.
Geeta Thakral, Devi's niece, said she suspect someone from outside the family was involved in the deaths.
Thakral came to know about the incident at 6.30 pm yesterday. She said the family was gearing up for the wedding of Priyanka (33), who was among the deceased, and celebrated her engagement last month.
"They were religious like any other normal family. After hearing about various cases involving babas and tantriks, our family hardly believed in them.
"The family business was going fine. There was no fight within the family. They were busy with wedding preparations. They were all happy. So why would they commit suicide at all," she questioned.