Burari deaths: Police bank on this technique used in Sunanda Pushkar death, Aarushi Talwar murder cases
Even a week after the mysterious Burari deaths, the police has yet to come out with an answer to the puzzle related to the alleged mass suicide. The police is delving into occult, psychology, superstition and latest investigative techniques to crack one of the most sensational cases in the national capital in the recent times. It’s been a week since 11 members of the Burari-based Chundawat family were found dead under mysterious circumstances inside their house.
At the centre of all this is a family, the neighbours remember as “sweet, helpful and religious”, one that was looking forward to Priyanka Bhatia’s marriage, “the first wedding among the children” and had even started preparations for the big day that was scheduled in December.
Last Sunday, when people were lazing around in the comfort of their homes, news channels suddenly started flashing about the deaths of 11 members of a family in north Delhi’s Burari. With their faces covered in pieces of white cloth and mouths taped and hands and legs tied, a video showing 10 members hanging, was anything but gory. The family matriarch was found lying in another room with ligature marks on her neck.
‘Was it a murder or a suicide?’, ‘If it was a murder, who were the persons involved in executing such a brutal murdered and what was the motive?, ‘If the family had committed suicide, what could be the reason that could have driven 11 members to take such an extreme step?’ — myriad questions like these are doing the rounds but neither the investigators nor the family’s close ones had any clue.
The family members kept alleging that it was a murder but found it hard to point to a motive while dismissing suicide theories saying that the family was a “prosperous one” and had no “financial issues”. The investigators registered a murder case since the 77-year-old Narayan Devi was found lying in a room on the floor, and initially it was suspected she had been strangulated but the initial autopsy report suggested that all the members had died of hanging, more or less cementing the fact that it was a case of suicide.
But the mystery lingered as to why a prosperous family, that was doing well for itself, would take such an extreme step. The answers were found in notes recovered from the house by the police which had writings about ‘badh tapasya’, getting into a banyan-tree like formation to attain something great, finding the ‘road to God’ and detailed notes about tying feet and hands, and covering mouths to appease God.
More morbid details emerged as it was found in the notes that Lalit Singh Chundawat, Narayan Devi’s younger son, had started getting “visitations” from his father, who had died in 2007″ and it was on his instructions that from March this years, notes about replicating “badh tapasya” were being written.
It had also mentioned that the members would not die and Lalit’s father’s spirit would come and save them. “The sky and earth will start shaking but you need not fear. I will come and rescue you,” one of the notes mentions. Lalit’s elder brother, Dinesh Singh Chundawat, who lives in Kota, Rajasthan and his sister, Sujata Nagpal, who lives in Panipat, told the police that they had no idea about the notes or the 11 registers maintained by their families in the last 11 years.
“Dinesh started sweating when we showed him photocopies of the notes. He said that he had no idea about the notes or registers,” said one of the investigators. Some family members of Lalit’s wife Tina, however, told police that they had heard Lalit being visited by his father’s spirit and him assuming his father’s alter-ego. The family, meanwhile, has accused media of portraying them as one that practices occult.
Police, who had unofficially consulted doctors at VIMHANS for the case, were informed that the family could have been suffering from ‘shared psychosis’, in which one person’s delusional beliefs are shared by others. But how could it be that no one opposed Lalit, not even one of his elder brother’s daughters,who was pursuing Masters in Forensics?
“Delusional people are quite convincing, experts have told us. Lalit was quite loving towards his family but he exercised considerable control on the family, including his elder brother. “The children would not even try to disobey what he said, probably because they thought he was like their grandfather,” said an officer.
With things pointing towards psychological issues as being at the centre of the tragedy, police is likely to carry out psychological autopsy, a relatively new investigative technique earlier adopted in Sunanda Pushkar death case and Aarushi Talwar murder case. A police officer said that psychological autopsy is secondary form of investigation but it is admissible as evidence, as is clear from Pushkar’s case in which the police filed the chargesheet, on the basis of it.
In psychological autopsy, there is a reconstruction of the psychological state of the deceased just before or in the final moments of death based on interviews of the victims kin, narratives of the social and occupational contacts and other records. It may extend backward to a few weeks or months.
“But here the difficulty is that it is not just about one individual, there are 11 members and no family member living in that house is alive and so the reconstruction will be limited. However, there are plenty of written records, an analysis of which will confirm the impressions the police already seem to have made,” IHBAS director Nimesh Desai said. Police are now awaiting the post-mortem report so that they can initiate the process of psychological autopsy.