Burari deaths: Superstition or science? Cops probe 'shared psychosis' angle
Police probing the Burari deaths case are leaving out no angle. From investigating possible links to occult practices, they're now looking at the other end: if the family suffered from 'shared psychosis.' They've also seized more notes purportedly made by Lalit Bhatia, the son and the apparent family head who led such rituals. Cops will now resort to the new technique of psychological autopsy.
Narayan Devi (77), sons Bhavnesh (50) and Lalit (45), their wives Savita (48) and Tina (42), daughter Pratibha (57), and five grandchildren- Priyanka (33), Neetu (25), Monu (23), Dhruv and Shivam (15)- were found dead in their Delhi residence on Sunday. All but Narayan were found hanging. Some were blindfolded, gagged or had their hands and legs tied. Police suspect she was hanged from a doorknob.
Police earlier recovered notes made by Lalit detailing the '10 steps to death' and ways to achieve 'mass salvation.' They have now recovered more notes suggesting the family started conducting such rituals in 2007, when the father died. Lalit presumably claimed he could see his father, and would often lead such practices. But cops are yet to recover notes from 2011-15 and December'17-March'18.
This has led police to suspect the family was suffering from shared psychotic disorder, which began with Lalit, spread to his wife and then to the rest. This is when a healthy person starts believing the delusions of a psychotic patient. In this case, everyone in the family believed Lalit was interacting with his dead father and followed his orders blindly.
Another factor that drove police towards examining the psychosis angle was that everyone close to them - relatives, neighbors or friends - is adamant the family never indulged in occult rituals. The fiancé of recently-engaged Priyanka told cops she showed no suspicious signs and would often discuss their upcoming wedding. Lalit and his wife's siblings were also questioned, who too denied any tantric association.
In the meantime, the family dog, which was found tied to the same grill on which they were found hanging, is recovering fast. Activist Sanjay Mohapatra says Tommy, the pitbull-Indian mixed breed, could have averted the tragedy if he was unchained by alerting neighbors or "intervening directly." He had spent six-seven years with the family and is in depression, Mohapatra said, adding he can help identify suspects, if any.
Relatives have slammed police and media for allegedly labeling the victims as "religious maniacs" and demanded a CBI probe. "Every Hindu family worships and performs 'havans', 'paath' and 'kirtans' and so did our family. That is so common in every household and temples," they defended.