“We haven’t even deleted their phone numbers. Both my children used to talk to their cousins in Delhi regularly and I had constructed rooms to accommodate all of them in our new house in Chittorgarh [Rajasthan] where we shifted last December after my son’s wedding,” said Dinesh Singh Chundawat, the brother of Lalit Singh, who, along with 10 other members of his family, was found dead at their Burari residence on July 1 last year.
While the neighbours of the Chundawat family in Burari have moved on, the chatter about the incident refuses to die down. “Whenever people cross the street, they point at the house and say ‘ Ye wahi wala ghar hai ’ [it’s the same house],” said a 39-year-old woman who lives next door.
It’s almost a year since 11 members of the Chundawat family — Lalit (45); his elder brother Bhavnesh Singh (50); their wives Tina (42) and Savita (48) respectively; their children Neetu (25), Monu alias Maneka (23), Dhruv alias Dushyant (15), and Shivam (15); their sister Pratibha alias Baby (48) and her daughter Priyanka (33) — were found hanging in their house in a circular formation, with their mouths gagged and limbs tied. The oldest member of the family, 77-year-old Narayan Devi, was found dead in the adjacent room.
‘Waiting for right price’
Mr. Dinesh Chundawat, a building contractor in Chittorgarh, told The Hindu that he has no plans to move to Delhi and that’s why he wants to sell the house. “I will eventually sell it. At the moment, people are thinking that they can get it for free because of all the haunted rumours. I will sell it when I get the right price because my brothers constructed it with a lot of effort, I can’t let it go as waste,” he said.
Mr. Chundawat was successful in renting out one of the three shops on the ground floor of the house about six months ago, but superstition got the better of the deal.
The woman who had taken the shop on rent to run a grocery store called off the deal a day before the opening. “She paid an advance of ₹35,000 and cleaned the shop for three days. But elders in her house objected to her plan and said ‘ Bhootiya ghar hai yeh ’ [this is a haunted house]. She could not convince them and asked me to return the deposit money, which I did,” he said.
The brother wants to get rid of the rumours attached to the house and for that he himself stays there for a few days almost every month. He has also allowed two assistants, who earlier worked with Lalit at his plywood shop, to stay in the house. “In fact, the neighbours also tell people that there is nothing to be afraid of, but what can one do about the educated illiterates,” he said.
At the house, a note on the gate still has Lalit’s name. “ 3 meter ke bill yahan daalein.. reading ke liye sampark karein .. Bhuvnesh Singh Lalit Singh [leave bills for three meters here. For reading, contact Bhavnesh Singh, Lalit Singh] [sic].”
A neighbour claimed that Mr. Chundawat wants to sell the house for ₹1.5 crore but has got an offer for ₹1.3 crore.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police Crime Branch, which was tasked to probe the deaths, is waiting for two Forensic Science Laboratory reports to close the case.
“One report on the handwriting in the diaries recovered from the house and another on the mobile phones and iPad records are awaited. A closure report will be filed after that,” said a senior police officer.
The Burari incident is the second case in the recent past in which the Delhi police have conducted a psychological autopsy, the first being the Sunanda Pushkar death in 2014. The report accessed by The Hindu observed that none of the members who died “had an intention to put an end to his/her life” and that it was not a suicide but an accident that occurred during the course of performing a ritual.
The three doctors who conducted the psychological autopsy said that the family members had prepared for the coming days. “Priyanka kept work pending for the coming Monday. A packet of milk was kept in the fridge probably for the next day usage. Lalit had recharged the mobile phones of his family members a day before the incident. A [pot of] soaked chana was found in the kitchen probably kept for next day meal. No effort to ‘wind up’ by family members was observed [sic],” the report said.
The report also stated that the family “was not intending to attain moksha”; it was a ritual to be followed “periodically for their financial betterment”.
The doctors in their report also observed that Lalit was diagnosed with a psychological problem and was advised to consult a psychiatrist, which was not adhered to. “Lalit got his voice back after his father’s death and found it as a blessing. The false belief of Lalit was dictated and reinforced by the regular prayers at their house for a decade,” the report read.