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“Discussed Wedding Preps Last Night”: Delhi Family Deaths Shock Relatives

New Delhi: 

Group photos, selfies, holiday snapshots, celebrations – pictures on Facebook show a family much like any other. On Sunday, the discovery of 11 bodies at the Bhatia home in Delhi changed everything that neighbours and friends knew about this family.

Most of them were hanging from the ceiling, blindfolded, gagged and with hands tied behind the back.

The family’s matriarch Narayan Devi, 77, was found dead on the floor. The rest were found hanging – her daughter Pratibha (57), two sons Bhavnesh (50) and Lalit Bhatia (45), Bhavnesh’s wife Savita (48) and their three children – Meenu (23), Nidhi (25) and Dhruv (15), Lalit’s wife Tina (42) and their 15-year-old son Shivam, and Pratibha’s daughter Priyanka (33) who was engaged last month and was to be married by the end of this year. 

Only two who live outside Delhi are alive – Narayan Devi’s oldest son Dinesh, who lives in Rajasthan’s Kota, and another daughter Sujata, who lives with her family in Panipat.

Priyanka, who worked for an IT company in Noida, had reportedly discussed her wedding with cousins on Saturday night.

“She was talking about shopping for her wedding around 11 pm. She did not sound depressed or that she was about to kill herself. We were all looking forward to her wedding but now everything is over,” said Ketan Nagpal, Priyanka’s cousin.

From handwritten notes found in the home, the police suspect some religious connect to the deaths. The notes had “strong similarity with the manner in which the mouths, eyes etc of the deceased were tied and taped,” said the police in a statement.

burari family

On Facebook, the family smiles at the camera in various group photos – some taken in front of India Gate in Delhi, some on holidays and a few with the family gathered around Narayan Devi.

Pravin Mittal, a neighbour who had known the family for 20 years and treated Priyanka Bhatia like a sibling, said the family was deeply religious and always prayed before going to bed.

“They were followers of Hanuman,” said Mr Mittal.

But the family, he added, was well educated, enough not to be swayed by the occult.

burari family

The group picture shows the family in their happier times.

Lalit Bhatia had apparently lost his voice in an accident. “Then his father appeared in a dream and advised him to pray a lot to get back to normal. That’s when the family turned to religion in a big way. But I can’t believe in the mass suicide theory. One of the notes may have been written by the child about moksha (salvation), but I don’t think it has anything to do with the deaths,” said Mr Mittal.

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