The residents of street number 24, Sant Nagar, Burari, Delhi were shocked to know that a family of 11 were found dead yesterday.
What is the reason behind it? Was it mass murder or mass suicide?
A joint family of eleven was found dead, 10 of them hanging in a hallway in their home in Sant Nagar, north Delhi, in what appears to be a bizarre mass suicide committed on Sunday morning on religious motivations.
The eldest family member, Narayani Bhatia, 77, was found strangled in another room. The rest, including two 15-year-old boys, allegedly used chunnis (scarves) with religious motifs and cables to hang themselves. They were gagged and blindfolded, with hands tied. Cotton buds were found stuffed in their ears.
A diary found in the house had detailed instructions for “mass salvation”, including how 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.
The only one alive in the house was the family dog, Jacky, who had been sent to the terrace. An FIR under section 302 (murder) has been registered. Police chief Amulya Patnaik told TOI that all angles were being probed by the crime branch.
Valuables intact, no sign of a struggle at the crime scene: Cops
Police sources stated that extreme religious practices appeared to be the trigger for the act. Joint Commissioner (Crime) Alok Kumar confirmed that the police had recovered certain handwritten notes during the search of the house which indicated that the entire family was following “some definite spiritual/mystical practices”.
The Bhatias lived on the first floor of house number 137/5/2 in lane number 2 of Sant Nagar. Narayani had two sons, Bhavnesh (50) and Lalit (45), who lived in the house with their respective wives, Savita (48) and Teena (42). Bhavnesh had three children Nitu (25), Monu (23) and Dhruv (15), while Lalit had a 15-year-old son, Shivam. Narayani’s elder daughter, Pratibha (57) also lived in the house with her daughter, Priyanka (33), after her husband died a few years ago. All of them were found dead.
The deaths came to light at 7.15am, when a neighbor, Gurcharan Singh, visited the house and alerted the police after witnessing the horror.
“The Bhatia brothers had recently started a dairy business from their general store and used to open their shop at 5.30am. Today, however, my wife noticed that the shop hadn’t opened till 7 AM and many customers had lined up outside. I went in to check and found the main door unlocked. The entire family was hanging in the hallway,” said Singh, a retired train locomotive driver, said.
“Local police reached the spot, in front of Guru Gobind Singh Hospital, and found 11 people dead,” said additional DCP Vineet Kumar.
The wife of one of the Bhatia brothers, Teena, is originally from Dhar in MP. Her family has demanded a CBI probe into what it said was a “mass murder”. Teena’s brother said he had spoken to her a few days back and found she was fine. The district crime team and the forensic lab of Rohini as well as the mobile forensic team reached the spot and lifted exhibits.
The house had not been ransacked and no valuable item, including mobiles, found disturbed or missing. Gold jewelry on the bodies of the women was intact and the crime scene didn’t indicate any signs of struggle, cops said. The bodies were shifted to the Sabzi Mandi mortuary in the afternoon and a medical team started performing autopsies on Sunday evening. The autopsy of three bodies was conducted on Sunday. The rest will take place on Monday.
The autopsy report is expected to confirm the exact cause of the deaths. It may also shed light on whether Narayani was strangled by a family member. Cops have seized a rope tied to an almirah in the room where she was found dead.