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Cops on a psycho trail

| | in Sunday Pioneer

PRAMOD KUMAR SINGH brings you a report on how the cops are solving the Burari case

The Delhi Police is investigating the ‘first of its kind’ death mystery since inception in 1912. They are faced with finding the cause of death in Burari. With new details coming out are the stuff crime thrillers are made of. Cops are trying to study the behavioural pattern of the Chundawat family, also known as Bhatias by the locals, whether they had  planned and executed a ritualistic mass hanging.

Meanwhile mental health experts have suggested ‘psychological autopsy’ as that would help in understanding the behaviour of the 11 members and see if there was any pattern.

“Lalit Chundawat (45) was suffering from Shared Psychotic Behaviour. Investigation thus far indicates that people afflicted with this syndrome often claim to see and hear imaginary people,” a police official said.

Psychiatrists consulted by the Crime Branch have told them that the jottings in the registers recovered from the house indicate that Lalit was suffering from shared psychotic behaviour and he was the driving force behind the family’s belief.

This is the second time that Delhi Police has opted for a psychological autopsy. It had earlier conducted a similar test to unravel the puzzle behind the mysterious Sunanda Pushkar murder case. Help of experts at Vidya Sagar Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (VIMHANS) is being taken.

“Psychological autopsy refers to mapping the psyche of the living family members and the mental health of the deceased. A physical autopsy is conducted to determine the physical condition of the body. We try and understand what caused the death. What kind of assault took place and if any poisonous substances were administered to the deceased,” Alok Kumar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) heading the probe, said. Police are awaiting the final autopsy and forensic reports. The initial autopsy report had said that all 11 members had died of hanging with no signs of a struggle.


Ten of the 11 family members were found hanging from an iron-mesh in the ceiling on June 1, while the body of 77-year-old Narayani Devi, head of the Bhatia family, was lying on the floor in another room. Devi’s daughter Pratibha (57) and granddaughter Priyanka (33), Devi’s two sons Bhavnesh (50), Bhavnesh’s wife Savita (48) and their three children — Maneka (23), Neetu (25), and Dhruv (15), Lalit (45), Lalit’s wife Tina (42) and their son Shivam (15).

The police are talking to the relatives to find out if they found anything strange in the family’s behaviour, especially Lalit. “We have sent a police team to Udaipur in Rajasthan to speak to Tina’s family, who is believed to have choreographed the mass suicide. “Priyanka, found a groom even though she was manglik. There is a possibility that the family performed a thank you ritual for Priyanka’s engagement”, an investigator said. They did not intend to die but emerge stronger from the ritual,” he added. Investigations carried out so far have revealed that the Bhatia family believed everything Lalit said. Lalit’s relatives have told Crime Branch officials that off late his behaviour had changed. He would imitate his father’s voice. He claimed he saw his late father’s apparition.

“Our focus is to unravel the jigsaw behind the deaths,” the official added. The probe is now focused in understanding Lalit’s diary entries and how he had managed to convince his family — right from the 15-year-old Dhruv to 77-year-old Narayani Devi.

A diary entry says: ‘Everyone will tie their hands and when the kriya is done, everyone will help each other untie their hands’. Another entry reads: ‘I will come tomorrow or day after. Don’t worry about Lalit, when I (Gopaldas) come he becomes tense’. Yet another entry reads: ‘Keep water in a cup. When it will change colour, you will be saved’. Over a period of 11 years, Lalit wrote 11 diaries. A few entries in the diaries are by Priyanka as well. The notes reveal chilling details of Lalit wanting to replicate a barh tapasya, in which the family is supposed to arrange itself to hang like the branches of a banyan tree to ‘make the Gods happy’.

Crime Branch officials said the 16-page handwritten note contains details of the ritual. Tantrics perform barh puja for longevity but the vivid description of this ritual in the diary has left investigators perplexed. The notes also said not use phones; six phones were found on silent mode.

Lalit’s call data shows that he used to watch paranormal videos and visited sites where there were write ups about the supernatural world. He had downloaded videos of barh tapasya. This has led the cops to believe that Lalit’s influence over his family was the catalyst to the tragedy.

The CCTV feed with the Crime Branch proves that the Bhatias had made elaborate preparations for the ritual. Two women — Savita and Neetu — were seen carrying plastic stools, the boys bought wires. They also had 20 rotis delivered from a nearby eatery. Raees, the delivery boy, told the cops that family member who opened the door was cheerful.

Senior police officials involved in the probe said that the case is being viewed from different angles as this is “one of its kind case”. The CCTV footage shows Lalit entering his house with his Labrador around 11.15 pm on Saturday and nothing after that. The role of a tantrik or an astrologer who somehow managed to evade CCTV installed in the neighbourhood is also being looked into.




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