11 members of a Delhi household are suddenly found dead. There’s a handwritten note prescribing the appropriate posture to “attain salvation“. And at the back of the house where the bodies are found, eleven pipes jut out of a white wall.
Seven straight, four facing downward: A perfect match with the numbers of male and female family members who died.
These, sadly, aren’t the opening lines of a crime thriller or a logic puzzle. They are the very real — and deeply mystifying — circumstances in which Narayan Devi, 77, and her family were found dead on Sunday in Burari, a locality in northern Delhi.
Ten of them, including two teenagers, were found hanging in one room. The men’s eyes were covered with cloth. The women and children were blindfolded, had their hands tied and mouths taped.
Devi was found on the floor in another room. But reports suggest that her death could have been caused by partial hanging. There was no dupatta around her neck, but there was a belt near her body.
Only two weeks ago, this family was celebrating an engagement — the engagement, in fact, of one of the women who died.
Were they murdered? There was no suicide note. The main door of their house wasn’t locked from the inside. But then again, wouldn’t their dog — which was on the terrace – have barked to warn of an intruder?
Was it a mass suicide — one caused by a desire to leave the mortal realm for the divine? A note dated June 26 reads “have to meet God on June 30″. Another says, “Using a stool, and keeping the hands, eyes and mouth tied up will help attain salvation.”
The police’s investigation has revealed that the family was following a self-styled godman’s teachings. Clues about his identity were found from their mobile phone records. A source said they followed his sermons fervently, but also that it was too early to say he instigated them to commit suicide.
At least two relatives, Sujata and Ketan Nagpal, suspect foul play. Sujata says reports on the spiritual angle are “bogus”, and that the family didn’t believe in “babas”.
Meanwhile, Alok Kumar, the joint commissioner of police in Delhi’s Crime Branch says the post-mortem analyses of the bodies are complete, and that “initial reports suggest suicide”.
The details are mind-boggling, the tragedy heart-numbing. What exactly happened to Narayan Devi and her family? We’ll have to wait to find out.