The Crime Branch (CB) of Delhi Police is waddling from one theory to another to get to the bottom of the death of the ‘11’. So far, the CB sleuths haven’t yet, but they’ll scrape bottom if they don’t do a ‘Hound of Baskervilles’ and close the case shut while taking care not to rile proponents of the Sanatana Dharma who are not amused with allusions to ‘tantra-mantra’ and dongi babas.
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’ to resurrect Sherlock Holmes, whom he had killed in a previous novel, The Final Problem. Doyle could do that because Sherlock Holmes was a creation of his imagination. And Sherlock Holmes, in his second birth, unravelled the mystery of the murder of the Master of Baskerville Hall, saw through the camouflage of superstition given to the murder and went right into the jaws of the Hound of the Baskervilles to pull out its bogus tongue.
What did he find? He found it was a neat cover-up. The handiwork of a diabolical mind. There was no hellhound! The dog, which scared the master of Baskerville Hall to death, was just another common dog, covered in sulphur to make it look like a hound straight out of Hell! For what? To get hold of Baskerville Hall and its riches! Sherlock Holmes, with his scientific temper and intolerance for cock and bull stories, bared the conspiracy and brought to book the murderer.
Now, we have Bhatiavilles: Ten members of a “Bhatia” family are found hanging dead in their home in Delhi. The matriarch, the 11th member, sprawled lifeless on the floor. The “killings” took place in the dead of the night of June 30-July 1, between 12 and 1 am. It’s eerie. Paranormal activity? The family dog, tied up on the first floor, is found suffering with ‘high fever’.
The family hailed from Rajasthan. They were Chundawats. A Rajput clan which fought in the service of Mewar Rajas. ‘Jauhar’ – mass suicide – was not alien to them. But this was not suicide. This was, whichever way you looked at it, mass homicide. Somebody bound hands, gagged and taped mouths, blindfolded. One or two persons killed and then killed themselves.
The police plumbed for the ‘mass suicide’ theory, corroborated by handwritten evidence in ‘11’ diaries written over a period of ‘11’ years. The number ‘11’ is written all over the house. The family had ‘11’ members – seven female and four male. The iron gate of the house has ‘11’ iron rods. And there are ‘11’ iron rods placed horizontally to make a ‘mesh’ below the skylight over the courtyard. Besides, there are ‘11’ water-pipes jutting out of one of the building’s wall, oddly shaped: 7 with mouth bent to face down, four facing straight out! ‘Seven’ are “female”, ‘four’ are “male” and 7+4=11. None are connected to a water source. The ‘11’ pipes are “gateways for the ‘11’ souls to get the hell out!”
Now, based on the diaries and CCTV footage, the final police theory: The diaries are ‘suicide manuals’, with step by step instructions on how to commit mass suicide, and why? Second son Lalit Chundawat/Bhatia was the force in the family. Everybody except his mother called him ‘Daddy’. His father Bhopal Singh died ‘11’ years ago. The death hit Lalit the most. Bhopal Singh frequented Lalit’s dreams.
Lalit was a dealer in plywood. Once, a flying piece of plywood knocked him senseless and he “lost his voice”, but regained it. The police say, Lalit was “delusional”. ‘Daddy Lalit’ spoke in ‘his father’s voice’. Was he ventriloquist, a mimicry artist? He took instructions from his ‘dead father’ and wrote them down in his diaries. Pillow-talk fetched him his wife Tina’s cooperation. The rest fell in line over the last ‘11’ years. Psychiatrists support the police theory: “It is called ‘Shared Psychosis’ – one delusional man bent the others to his will.”
On June 30, final preparations were made. Stools were brought in and wires procured to hang/strangulate; also 20 chapattis were ordered for the ‘last meal’. It’s all on CCTV, say Crime Branch sleuths, Sherlock Holmes of Delhi Police. But CCTV footage also show two women family members out on a ‘morning walk’ on June 30, briskly walking to and fro; ‘Daddy’ Lalit is seen entering a temple and before him, his brother Bhuvanesh. Lalit is also seen “adding talk-time” to his mobile and Bhuvnesh pulling up the shutters of his grocery shop.
This was not a family expecting to leave the world Sunday morning.
The police say the family was “very traditional/religious”. But the picture album says otherwise, and pictures don’t lie: The modern get-ups, suits and ties, hairstyles straight out of a Hollywood saloon! Besides, a “daughter” was soon to be married and her June 17 engagement was a gala entertainment programme, loud music and happy dancing.
So, what happened? Did Bhopal Singh’s spirit tell Lalit in the afternoon: “Go for it son, now or never!” The “never” because one of the ‘11’ would soon be married and that would bring ‘11’ down to ‘10’! Besides, who spoke of dying? The promise in the diary was that nobody would die.
The final sentence in Diary No. 11 summed it up: “Keep water in a cup, when it changes colour, I’ll appear and save you.” Also, the noting: “Antim Samay Mein, Aakhri Ichcha Ki Purti Ke Waqt Aasmaan Hilega, Dharti kaampegi. Uss Waqt tum Gabrana Mat. Mantron Ka Jaap Bada Dena. Mein Aakar tumhe Utar Loonga. Auron Ko Bhi Utaarne Mein Madad Karoonga.”
As it turned out, the story ended on a note of betrayal! The “cup of water” did not “change colour”. The earth shook, but much, much later, at 3.47 on Sunday afternoon. The first one ‘murdered’ was matriarch Narayani Devi, age 77. Post-mortem reports confirm the timings of death of all the ‘11’. She died first, strangled to death. She didn’t return from the dead. But the dice was thrown, there was no going back. So, the story hangs.
Except that there is one witness – The Hound of The Bhatiavilles! The dog tied up on the second floor of the House of Horror. Legend goes dogs can ‘see’ ghosts. Did this K9 spot ‘11’ souls emerge and vanish? Did the sight of them make it break out in ‘high fever’? The dog is in “police custody”. What breed is it, a Bully Kutta of Sindh or a Poligar hound of Rajapalayam? Why haven’t any journalist done a story on the K9? Not that it would help. Dogs, even if they could talk, never snitch on friends! (IPA Service)