(Top from left): Bhavnesh, Savita, Dhruv, Lalit, Shivam, Teena and Priyanka. (Below from left): Maneka, Neetu, Narayan Devi, Pratibha.
Like any other middle-class family, the Chundawat were sedentary and focused on a better future until their death in 2007. While those who viewed the family from the outside felt they had found comfort in spirituality, what happened within the four walls of the Burari house may never be known, as there is no one left to explain it.
On the first floor of the house the bodies of Bhavnesh Singh (50); his brother Lalit Singh (45); his wives Savita (48) and Tina (42); his sons Neetu (25), Monu alias Maneka (23), Dhruv alias Dushyant (15) and Shivam (15); his sister Pratibha alias Baby (48) and his daughter Priyanka (33) were found hanging in a circle; Pratibha stayed a little apart from the group. The mother, Narayan Devi, 77, was found dead on the floor in the next room.
The deaths, initially suspected of murder because of their handcuffed limbs, blindfolded and gagged mouth, came as a surprise to investigators after discovering 11 scribbled diaries with notes of the situation.
On the basis of the diary entries, the police suspected that it was a failed ritual that had led to a “mass suicide”.
Police said the diaries were dictated by Lalit, who believed that the “spirit” of his father, Bhopal Singh, who died in 2007, contacted him and instructed him to “badh tapasya [worship of the banyan tree] “for the betterment of the family.
Police found handwritten “salvage” notes found in two forged records and investigators who said they had never seen anything like it before. “There is talk of ‘badh tapasya’, which suggests that you have to get into a formation like a banyan tree with hanging branches. The notes say that God would be happy with that, ”said the officer. In the photo: a police officer carries the autopsy papers of the 11 family.
Some residents of the area where eleven family members were found dead in their North Delhi apartment have claimed that the eleven protruding pipes on the side wall of the house had a “hidden meaning”, which puzzled the police. The locals claimed that the 11 pipes were an outlet for “the souls of the deceased.”
One of the final notes is that the mother would feed all the rotis (ma sabko roti khilayegi). This was confirmed when the family ordered 20 rotis from a nearby shop for which they paid 200 rupees. They didn’t ask for vegetables. Police found the restaurant bill at the house. The food was delivered around 10:40 p.m.
Bhawna Barmi, senior clinical psychologist at Fortis Escorts Hospital in Okhla, said: “A common theme in majority of suicidal cults is that they believe in an apocalyptic theology.” “Mass or cult suicides occur mostly in groups that feel stuck in their lives and they believe that they are unable to control the consequences of their life. Hence, they often believe that death is the only possible option,” she said.
There is a documentary coming out on Netflix this Friday, 8th October 2021.