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Burari mass deaths: Murder dressed up as suicide
There have been many theories about the mass suicides in Burari. While some theories argue that the family members were normal to all outward appearances and hence they must have been murdered by an unidentified person/persons.

The available evidence like the CCTV footage suggests that the mass suicide theory is more accurate. At the same time, it is also a murder in the sense that ten people were made to take their own lives through the persuasive will of one mentally unhinged person.

Those who know even a smattering of psychology will know that people who suffer from psychosis often have visual and auditory hallucinations and grand delusions. Lalit Bhatia's claim of being visited and instructed by his dead father in his dreams, and his promises to help his family attain salvation corresponds to this pattern. It is likely that signs of mental illness may have been latent in Lalit from the beginning or began to present themselves after his father's death. One trigger for mental illness is emotional trauma.

Such mass suicides have happened before as in the infamous Jonestown incident in Guyana, South America. Jim Jones, founder of the People's Temple, a Christian sect, and more than 900 followers, died in a suicide pact in their remote agricultural commune in Guyana. Jim Jones, a charismatic churchman, was no benign spiritual leader. His abusive and authoritarian ways ended up attracting the attention of the US government – the sect was originally based in Indianapolis, US – and US Congressman Leo Ryan visited the commune in November 1978 along with journalists and other observers to investigate the commune and its activities. On the day of the delegation's departure, some of the commune members approached them and expressed their wish to leave the place. 

Angered by this, Jones and his followers ambushed the delegation as they were about to board their charter planes and four people, including Ryan, were killed. On returning to the commune, Jones ordered his followers to commit suicide by drinking poisoned juice. Those who refused were forced to do so at gun point.  When the Guyanese police arrived at Jonestown the next day to make arrests, they found the place strewn with dead bodies. Charismatic leaders of cults like People's Temple have always been able to exert great power over their followers who often carry out their commands blindly, even if it means annihilating others or oneself. 

What is most shocking and puzzling about the Burari suicides is the fact that none of the family members, despite being modern and educated people, thought of questioning Lalit and his actions and statements. The first response to such obviously psychotic behaviour should have been to take him to a psychiatrist.

Lalit's behaviour did not conform to the normal – a normal person does not have conversations with the dead. Yet, the family blindly believed him. Perhaps they did not want to acknowledge that one of them was insane. Even now, in India, there is a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. Many families choose to brush these things under the carpet fearing that society will shun them. It is also possible that the family was very religious and hence, believed that Lalit's father was guiding him from the spirit world. 

But a red flag should have immediately gone up the instant Lalit suggested that they commit mass suicide. At least, at this point, if they had relied upon their common sense and basic instincts to recognise that something was very wrong, this ghastly tragedy could have been averted. In a way, the deaths seem to be murder dressed up as suicide. For even if the dead individuals had hanged themselves, they did so at the behest of someone who was pulling their strings, like Jim Jones did with his followers.

This incident should be a warning to people who fail to acknowledge mental illness in their loved ones fearing social prejudice. It should also make people realise that reason and logic should not be abandoned in situations where others try to persuade them to do things that seem weird or bizarre.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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