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Burari deaths: A ritual gone wrong?

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Visuals by: Aslam Siddique

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On late Saturday night, June 30, 2018, at a time when most families would have been busy with dinner, the Chundawat family in Burari, Delhi was preparing for a bizarre mass hanging, gathering wires and ordering what turned out to be their last meal.

“In my career of 17 years so far, I have never seen a crime scene like this and I hope I do not ever have to,”

HEAD CONSTABLE RAJEEV TOMAR

Head constable Rajeev Tomar was the first policeman to enter the burari house

Eleven members of the Chundawat family allegedly died by suicide in the two-storey house in North East Delhi’s Burari. In one room, Narayani Devi (75) was found on the floor. Her sons, Bhavnesh (50) and Lalit (45), their wives Savita (48) and Teena (42) and their children Nidhi (25), Maneka (23), Dhruv (15) and Shivam (15) were found hanging from a railing in another room. Devi’s daughter Pratibha (57), was found hanging from a window. Her daughter Priyanka (33) was found in the same room as the rest.

Also read: Female Circumcision: Inhumanity trapped as “Rituals”; How long will innocent girls continue to suffer?

The Diary Entries of Burari family member

On July 3, the Delhi Police recovered 22 notes and diaries further deepening the mystery surrounding the deaths. The deaths were initially suspected to be a case of murder because of tied limbs, blindfolds and gagged mouths, but the investigators were bewildered after they discovered 11 diaries scribbled with notes detailing the situation. The police said the diaries were dictated by Lalit who believed the “spirit” of his father Bhopal Singh, who died in 2007, was communicating with him and instructing him to perform these rituals.

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One of the diary entries hints that the deaths of the Burari family members could have been planned five years ago as a means to attain “moksha” (salvation). There is an entry made on October 21, 2013. It says “invocation for the first of the five years that (we) have got”. Another diary entry says that Sunday is the “day of punishment (saza)” in Kaliyug (the Age of Kali).

Another entry about ‘badh tapasya’, which indicates that one has to get into a formation like a banyan tree whose branches are hanging. The notes state that by doing this, God would be happy. The diary notes also show that the family may have thought the spirit of Lalit’s father would save them. The last sentence in the final diary, written on the day of the suicides, read: “…keep water in a cup when it changes colour, I will appear and save you.” After the “ritual”, everyone was to untie each other.

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Ten bodies were found on the first floor of the house, while the mother was found dead in an adjacent room.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Based on the diary entries, the police suspected it to be a case of a ritual gone wrong, leading to what could be called a “mass suicide”.

Dinesh Chundawat, the eldest son of the Chundawat family does not believe that his family died while conducting a ritual. “We are not satisfied with what the police are saying that they died while carrying out the ritual, but how much do I fight? I am alone in this battle.

The police do not have answers to my questions,” he told PTI. He said the police told him that his mother died by tying something around the almirah handle and its other end around her neck, but he did not find the explanation plausible as, he said, the handle was weak. The police had registered a case of murder but, Dinesh said, his family did not have any enmity.

Dinesh Singh Chundawat, Lalit’s brother, who lives in Chittorgarh, now owns the house. He said, “I wanted to sell the house due to the bad memories. Nobody wished to pay the price I wanted.

In February, I started looking for tenants. But many in the neighbourhood already spread rumours about ghosts.” However, as of December 2018, Dr Mohan Kashyap (45), a pathologist, was set to move into the house in North East Delhi’s Burari. Mohan lives with his wife and two children in Bhajanpura and was supposed to move into the Burari house on December 30, 2018.

The mystery surrounding this case will forever continue to haunt people.

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