By Bilal Kuchay and Taniya Dutta
Police suspect an occult ritual to attain salvation could be responsible for the deaths of 11 members of an Indian family all mysteriously found hanged with their eyes taped shut.
The suicide and murder of three generations of the Bhatia family – including two teenagers and their 77-year-old grandmother – has shaken the Indian capital city of Delhi.
Ten of the relatives, who owned a popular local shop, were found hanging from an iron grill, blindfolded and gagged, in the courtyard of the family’s two storey home in the silent colony of Sant Nagar in northern Delhi on Sunday morning.
The body of the eldest family member –Narayana Devi, the grandmother, was found in another room.
In total brothers Bhavnesh Bhatia, 50, and Lalit Bhatia, 45, daughter-in-laws Savita Bhatia, 48 and Teena Bhatia, 42, her daughter Pratibha, 57, grandchildren Priyanka, 33, Nitu, 25, Monu, 23, Dhruv, 15 and Shivam, 15 were all found dead at the house.
IT company employee Priyanka, 33, was engaged to be married next month and was said to be excited about the wedding.
Only the family’s pet dog – a black Labrador – was left alive.
When police reached the scene, they found no hint of the house being ransacked and six of the women were still wearing gold jewellery.
Neighbours and relatives said there was no financial or personal crisis troubling the family, and said the Bhatias were very religious and friendly people who would write a religious couplet every morning outside their grocery shop.
But officers said they found handwritten notes during their investigation which hinted at “spiritual or mystical practices” by the family.
The notes spoke of how “the human body is temporary” and one can overcome fear by “covering their eyes and mouth”.
They also discussed the procedure for attaining salvation, descriptions of which appeared similar to the way they ended their lives.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Alok Kumar said: “We have found handwritten notes in a diary detailing the procedure of attaining salvation.
“There are mentions of how hands and legs are to be tied and are quite similar to the manner in which the bodies of 10 persons were found.
“They are exhaustive notes and we are studying them.
“The postmortem has been conducted but we are waiting for the reports.
“So far there is no mention of a baba [occult item] in the diary but we are yet to interrogate the relatives.
“We could not talk to them because they are busy with the postmortem.”
Narayana Devi had one more son, Dinesh Bhatia, and a daughter, Sujata, who live far away.
The Bhatias lived in the locality for last two decades and ran a grocery shop and plywood business a few steps away from their house.
Every morning, their shop would open by 5am and the alarm was raised on Sunday when the shutters remained closed at 7.30pm.
Neighbour Abhyuday Singh went to check on the family and finding the door open, the man went inside and discovered the bodies.
Another neighbour, Gurcharan Singh also found the shop closed.
Finding it unusual, he went inside the house to check on the family and found the bodies hanging with their mouth muzzled with cloth.
Gurcharan Singh said: “It was the most horrifying sight.
“There were ten bodies hanging from the iron grille with their eyes taped and mouth gaged by cloth.
“Even their legs were tied by cloth.
“I cannot believe the family can commit suicide.
“They were such nice people. Just last month one of the daughters had got engaged.
“We never saw them unhappy.”