The Director of the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS), Nimesh Desai, said today that two theories floating surrounding the deaths of 11 members of a family in Burari -- one of mass suicide due to spiritual belief and another of shared psychotic disorder -- should be seen in conjunction and in their combined effect rather than in isolation.
With Delhi Police deciding to conduct psychological autopsy of 11 members of a family in Burari who were found dead under mysterious circumstances on July 1, Desai said it would be a difficult exercise as no family member living in that house was alive.
In psychological autopsy, there is a reconstruction of the psychological state of the deceased just before or in the final moments of death based on interviews of the victims' kin, narratives of the social and occupational contacts and other records.
It may extend backward to a few weeks or months.
"But here the difficulty is that it is not just about one individual, there are 11 members and no family member living in that house is alive so the reconstruction will be limited. However, there are plenty of written records, an analysis of which will confirm the impressions the police already seem to have made," Desai said.
With two theories floating around, Desai said he believed this incident was a combined effect of both.
"On the background of a very strong collective bond in the entire family about spiritual belief and rituals for many years, the mental illness of one predominant member found an easy conduit in it," he said.
In the context of the Burari incident, Desai also stressed on the need for a relook at the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, which was recently notified by the Centre, saying it would make treating a mentally-ill person difficult even as it has a right- based approach.
In the larger scenario of difficult and infrequently accessed mental healthcare, such incidents are not unlikely to recur, especially if the new law is not implemented properly.
"Burari incident is a wake up call for policy makers, doctors, judiciary, police and the society at large not to leave mentally ill unattended and uncared for," he said.
A psychological autopsy attempts to explain why a person has taken his life by analysing medical records, interviewing friends and family and conducting research into his state of mind prior to death, say experts.
By going through the notes recovered from the spot that spoke about replicating 'badh tapasya', in which people get into a banyan tree-formation whose branches hang around, the expert will try and gain an insight into the psyche of the deceased, said the officer.
The notes say that doing this would make God happy.
Police are still awaiting the final postmortem report and the forensic report. They will also be sending the viscera of the bodies for forensic examination to ascertain whether the members were poisoned.
The registers recovered from the spot will be sent for handwriting analysis, even though police are sure that one of the writers was 33-year-old Priyanka.
The initial autopsy report had said that all 11 members had died of hanging and there were no signs of struggle or scuffle.
Ten of the 11 members of the deceased family were found hanging from an iron-mesh in the ceiling on Sunday, while the body of 77-year-old Narayan Devi, the head of the family, was lying on the floor in another room of the house.
Bhavnesh's wife Savita (48) and their three children - Maneka (23), Neetu (25), and Dhirendra (15) were also found dead.
On Wednesday, police had recovered CCTV footage that showed some members bringing stools and wires that were used for their hanging. They had also found 11 diaries which had "psychological musings" and things about attaining "road to God".
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