Delhi Police has found CCTV footage that purportedly proves that the members of the Bhatia family in Delhi’s Burari planned their own deaths on 1 July.
Footage recovered from a camera installed outside a house opposite the Bhatia family residence shows Savita – the elder daughter-in-law – and her daughter Neetu, carrying to the house five stools, that would be later used for the hanging.
The footage indicates that no outsider entered the Burari house from 10 pm on 1 July till the next day when 11 members of the family were found dead by a neighbour, a senior police officer told PTI.
Police are now investigating to ascertain where the stools were procured from. The family had a plywood business and it is being probed whether the family got the stools from one of its customers, the officer told PTI.
The police are reportedly investigating the theory of shared psychotic disorder that could have led to the mass suicide.
Here is What Transpired:
With the help of the diary notes and CCTV footage, the police pieced together a timeline of what went down on the intervening night of 1 and 2 July.
- 10 pm:
The elder daughter-in-law of the family is seen bringing in the tools with the help of her daughter.
- 10.15 pm:
The two teenagers – youngest members of the house – were seen taking electrical wires from the plywood shop. The wires were used by the 10 members of the family for hanging.
- 10.40 pm:
A young man is spotted delivering the 20 butter rotis (flat breads) that the family ordered from a restaurant nearby.
- 11 pm:
Bhavnesh, the elder son of the family matriarch Narayan Devi is seen taking the family’s dog out for a walk. He later returned to the house around 11.04 pm, said the officer.
- Between 11 pm and 6 am:
No outsider was seen entering the house from the main entrance, the police officer said. A milkman, who left milk cartons behind, was spotted.
- 7:15 am:
A neighbour went upstairs and found 10 members of the family hanging and the elderly woman lying on the floor.
Son Lalit Assumed Father’s Alter-Ego, Instructed Family All These Years: Report
The deceased include family matriarch Narayan Devi (77), her daughter Pratibha (57), her two sons Bhavnesh (50) and Lalit Bhatia (45), Bhavnesh's wife Savita (48) and their three children – Meenu (23), Nidhi (25), and a teenager. Lalit Bhatia's wife Tina (42) and their 15-year-old son were also among those found dead. Pratibha's daughter Priyanka (33), who was engaged last month and would have married by the end of this year, was also found hanging.
As per a report in PTI, Lalit turned to spiritualism after the death of his father in 2008. He would often assume his father's alter-ego and speak in his father's voice and dictate messages from his dead father to either Priyanka or Meenu, who would pen them in the registers. The family is voluntarily following the instructions of Lalit who used to claim to be possessed by his deceased father.
On 3 July, PTI reported that the police recovered eight more registers, from different rooms of the house, which had philosophical musings about walking on a "road to God", "overcoming fear", and "attaining salvation". The family had apparently been planning the mass suicide for weeks, according to what is found in the register, say police sources.
A police officer told Hindustan Times that Lalit “wrote about dreaming about his father who died years ago.... He would attribute all the ritualistic activities to ‘upar se aadesh’.
The diary notes were his, and indicate that Lalit hallucinated about his deceased father advising him on salvation, NDTV reported.
The family believed that they would be rescued by the spirit of Lalit's father after the ritual, NDTV reported, quoting the diary notes as a source.
“...keep water in a cup, when it changes colour, I will appear and save you,” read the last sentence in the final diary, written on the day of the hanging, the NDTV report added.
“Blindfold oneself properly so that nothing is visible. Use a cotton dupatta with rope. The work should be done between 12 and 1 at night,” were also a couple of instructions written in the diary.
The family reportedly performed the ritual with the expectation that they will emerge “stronger” after the ritual and not die, NDTV reported.
“This was a final thanksgiving to the spirits,” a police officer told NDTV.
(With inputs from NDTV and PTI)