Sangli Suicide of 9 Family Members: 'Happy in Their World and Well-Respected'

The family of nine left a suicide note, stating that 'humiliation' over debts pushed them to death.

4 min read
Sangli Suicide of 9 Family Members: 'Happy in Their World and Well-Respected'

(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)

Late morning on Monday, 20 June, neighbours of 52-year-old Popat Vanmore, in Mhaisal village in Maharashtra's Sangli district, noticed that no one had opened the door to collect milk. When they entered the Vanmore home, they found bodies of Popat, his wife Sangeeta (48), and their daughter Archana (30), Sangli Police told local media.

About a kilometre away, a crowd had gathered outside Popat's 49-year-old brother and veterinarian Dr Manik Vanmore's house.

Popat and his wife Sangeeta.

(Photo Courtesy: Vijay Patil/Sangli)

His colleagues had gone to check on the vet as he was not answering their calls – again, only to find the doctor, wife Rekha (45), their children Anita (28) and Aditya (15) dead.

The bodies of Popat's son Shubham (28) and the brothers' mother Akkatai (72) were also found in Dr Manik's house.

The family of nine left behind a suicide note, stating that continuous 'humiliation' over their inability to repay loans pushed them to take this extreme step.

Crowd outside Dr Manik's house.

(Photo Courtesy: Vijay Patil/Sangli)

“The family left a suicide note stating that they had taken loans from various people and were unable to repay them. They wrote that humiliation from the names mentioned in the note pushed them to take this extreme step,” Sangli Superintendent of Police Dikshit Gedam told The Quint.

An FIR has been filed against 25 people under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 306 (abetment of suicide) and 341 (wrongful restraint), the relevant provisions of the Maharashtra Money Lending (Regulation) Act, and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Two days after the shocking incident, Sangli Police on 21 June, Tuesday, arrested 13 people in connection with the case – each of them residents of Mhaisal. The village is roughly 300 km away from Mumbai.

'Borrowed Money to Start Manufacturing Business'

Popat – who worked as a teacher in a government school in Mhaisal – and Dr Manik, were the primary breadwinners of the family. Popat's daughter Archana was also working at a bank in Kolhapur.

The family did not have financial troubles until they decided to start a manufacturing business about four or five years ago, Popat's colleague, who did not want to be named, told The Quint.

"They were a normal family, happy in their world. From what I know, they wanted to start a manufacturing business four to five years ago. They started borrowing money. But the business did not take off – and there was interest upon interest which they could not meet. They were very well-respected. While I knew they had financial issues, none of us knew it was this big. I think the humiliation and what society will think pushed them to do this."
Popat Vanmore's Colleague

According to Sangli police, the Vanmores allegedly borrowed around Rs 1 crore and were paying interest regularly, but could not keep up with the accrued interest that was inevitably piling up. However, initial investigation showed that they were "repeatedly harassed physically and mentally – and harassed in public sometimes."

‘Wanted To Get Their Daughters Married’

Poonam Chundaj, who lives next door to the Vanmore family, told The Quint that the family was waiting to for "better financial times" to fix Archana's marriage.

Chundaj has tried many times to feed Ranu and Manya – the two kittens left behind by the Vanmore family – but they have not eaten since the family's death.

"The family was also worried about fixing Anita and Archana's marriage. But every time someone asked them, they would say that they are waiting for the business to do well. I am still in shock, as I have known them for many years. They loved their cats more than anything, and today, the cats are the only part of the family that is alive."
Poonam Chundaj

“I literally grew up in their home,” Ashwini Sawant, a close family friend, told The Indian Express.

“All of them were very caring and considered me as one of them. From all the special dishes cooked at their home to all the major events, I have been there. Less than a week ago, I went to their house for a paani-puri party. They were a happy family and loved animals. But I also know that over the past few years, they have been under stress because of debt. But we had never imagined this.”
Ashwini Sawant to The Indian Express

'No Superstition Angle': Sangli Cops

Sangli cops also told local media that there is no 'suicide pact' or 'superstition' angle, like in the 2018 Burari case in Delhi, where 11 people from a family were found dead inside their homes.

According to news agency PTI, those arrested have been identified as Nandkumar Ramchandra Pawar (52), Rajendra Lakshman Bannne (50), Anil Lakshman Banne (35), Khanderao Shinde (37), Tatyasaheb Chougule (50), Shailesh Ramchandra Dhumal (56), Prakash Krushna Pawar (45), Sanjay Irappa Bagadi (51), Anil Balu Borade (48), Pandurang Shripati Ghorpade (56), Shivaji Laxman Kore (65), and Rekha Tatyasaheb Chougule (45).

“Two people in particular – Shailesh Ramchandra Dhumal along with his son Ashu Shailesh Dhumal – are criminals on record and have been booked several times in the past for private moneylending cases in Mhaisal. They are on the run,” Gedam said.

Maharashtra police teams have spread across Sangli, Kolhapur, Solapur and border areas of Karnataka to trace 12 other accused in the case.

(With inputs from Vijay Patil)

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