The Bhatia family was found hanging from an iron mesh, blindfolded and gagged, at their home in north Delhi’s Burari early on Sunday morning. The body of Narayan Devi was found in another room. She had been strangled.
The Bhatias had a grocery store and lived in an apartment on the first floor.
Narayan Devi’s grandson Ketan Nagpal has also voiced suspicions of foul play, saying “they were educated people and not superstitious”. Dismissing the police theory of a suicide pact, Mr Nagpal said, “They were not facing any financial issues and had not taken even a single loan. Everything was fine. Why would they kill themselves?”
Last evening, the police said there appeared to be spiritual or mystical connection to the deaths after they found a bunch of handwritten notes that pointed to ritualistic suicide. The blindfolding and gagging appeared in line with the instructions in the notes. A hunt is on for any godmen the family had associated with.
One of the big stumbling blocks about the police theory is that one of the women who died, Priyanka, was engaged to be married. Priyanka Bhatia was the granddaughter of Narayan Devi – the daughter of her widowed daughter Pratibha Bhatia, who was also among the dead.
The 33-year-old, who worked for an IT company in Noida, discussed her upcoming wedding with cousins the evening before she was found dead. Around 11 pm, she was talking about shopping for the wedding, Mr Nagpal said. “She did not sound depressed or that she was about to kill herself,” he added.
Postmortem of all 11 bodies has been completed. The preliminary reports said eight of them died due to hanging and not strangulation, the bodies bore no sign of struggle, news agency Press Trust of India reported, quoting a police officer. The reports on the other three are awaited.
Besides Narayan Devi and her daughter and grand-daughter, her sons Bhavnesh, 50, and Lalit Bhatia, 45, and their families, were found hanging from an iron grille attached to the ceiling.
Bhavnesh’s wife Savita, 48, and their three children Meenu, 23, Neetu, 25, and 15-year-old Dhruv, and Lalit Bhatia’s wife Tina, 42, and their 15-year-old son Shivam were also hanging.