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Delhi family of 11 hanged itself to ‘thank gods for manglik daughter’s marriage’

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Psychological autopsy of family says deaths were because of a ‘ritual gone wrong’, rules out suicidal tendencies among members, aged 15 to 77 years.

New Delhi: The psychological autopsy of the Delhi family found hanging at their residence on 1 July has concluded that their death was the result of a “ritual gone wrong”.

The family of 11 was reportedly performing a ritual they believed would help them express gratitude to the gods for the upcoming marriage of the oldest grandchild, a manglik.

The family members did not have any “suicidal thoughts”, the team of three from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) and the CBI has ruled.

“The incident was not a suicide but an accident that occurred while performing a ritual. None of the deceased had an intention to end his/her life,” the autopsy report said.

While the body of matriarch Narayani Devi (77) was found on the floor of their Burari home, her sons Bhuvanesh (50) and Lalit (45), daughters-in-law Savita (48) and Teena (42), daughter Pratibha (57), and grandchildren Priyanka (33), Nidhi (25), Maneka (23), Dhruv (15) and Shivam (15) were found hanging in a circular formation.

Hands of 10 were tied, all of them were blindfolded and their mouths covered with surgical tape, in accordance with the demands of the ‘gratitude ritual’.

An autopsy of the mind 

A psychological autopsy is a method investigators employ to gauge the mental state of a deceased person in the immediate run-up to their death.

To do so, they interview the victim’s kin, neighbours and friends, and study their behaviour and medical history. In the Burari case, the autopsy also involved an analysis of the eight diaries, with jottings spanning 11 years, found at the house.

A psychological autopsy was also carried out in the investigation into the death of businesswoman Sunanda Pushkar, wife of senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, in January 2014. Experts had concluded at the time that Pushkar had had “suicidal tendencies”.

Corroborating the police case

According to sources, the psychological autopsy corroborates the conclusion drawn by police, who ruled out foul play after analysing the injuries found on the bodies.

“In case of strangulation, there is a mark on the entire circumference of the neck, but in cases of hanging, there is only a partial mark — from the side the noose touches one’s neck,” said a police source.

“This is partial hanging, which always happens in suicides,” the source added.

Also read: Post-mortem in Burari death case shows no signs of struggle, says Delhi Police

“If someone strangulates a person and then hangs them, the injuries are different as it completely ruptures the trachea, which was not the case here. Also, if they had been murdered and hanged, there would have been signs of a struggle,” the source said.

“The deaths occurred due to neurogenic shock after the blood supply to the brain was cut because of hanging,” he added.

When Lalit started talking in his father’s voice

The family’s brush with occultist practices can be traced to the death of patriarch Bhopal Singh in 2006, which is said to have profoundly affected Lalit.

A few months after Singh’s death, Lalit met with an accident and reportedly lost his voice. According to his relatives, no medical treatment could help him. After a few weeks, however, Lalit was speaking again, but in his father’s voice.

“His father was a dominant character,” said an investigator. “What the experts analysed is that Lalit was so affected by his death that he had delusional thoughts of his father conversing with him. Eventually he convinced his entire family that Bhopal Singh’s spirit entered him on specific days and conversed with him.”

It is said that Lalit then started behaving like his father, adopting his mannerisms. He would reportedly sit at the same spot his father used to and give sermons to members of the family on how to go about their business, studies, and family unity.

According to police, it was he who asked others in the family to note down whatever he said. “Priyanka and Nidhi were the ones who used to write down whatever he said in diaries. This went on for 11 years,” a police officer said.

“It was nothing but a clear case of shared psychosis that was reinforced by other family members,” an investigator said.

“Lalit and his wife convinced the others into believing that Bhopal Singh visited Lalit and gave solutions to their problems. They convinced the others to believe that since Bhopal Singh was close to God, he had to be heard,” the investigator added.

Also read: Burari deaths: Police register murder case, suspect occult connection

Ritual performed in ‘gratitude’

The ritual that killed them was the badh tapasya or banyan worship, which was reportedly detailed extensively in the diary entries made in the days preceding the deaths.

According to the investigators, the ritual was meant to thank the gods for helping the family fix a marital match for Priyanka, who was reportedly manglik.

“The idea of the puja was to hang like branches of a banyan tree,” an investigator said. “The family members thought that, by doing this, they will convey their regards to the gods. They were convinced that they will not die,” the investigator said.

One of the diary entries about the ritual states, “Chahe dharti hile, aakash hile, tumhen shunya ke bare main sochna hai. Bhagwan ko pata chalna chahiye ki tum shradha se kar rahe ho (You have to think about nothing but infinity. Even if the earth shakes or the sky falls, you have to be determined. The gods should know that you are doing this with dedication).”

Diary entries recreated

Investigators said the bodies were found in the exact same spots outlined in the diary notings.

“The diary says that Baby should stand on a small stool near the temple and others should be in a circular motion at an equal distance. The diary also mentions positions for everyone, and that is exactly how the bodies were found,” an investigator said.

The ritual was to be performed after midnight, once dinner had been had. The dinner was to be ordered from outside and not cooked at home.

“The diary says ‘khana bahar se mangwana, maa ke haath se khana’ (order food and ask mother to feed you)’. When we checked, we found that the family had ordered food from a dhaba for Rs 200,” an investigator said.

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