Burari: Eleven deaths foretold  

Though the deaths of 11 of a family in Burari, Delhi are described as mass suicide, this, make no mistake, was mass murder of a family, by some paranoid members driven by religious motivation

Photo cortesy: Twitter
Photo cortesy: Twitter
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Mrinal Pande

In India today, it enrages many no end, if someone asks what defines the relationship between religious superstition and suicide. So far as strange religious practices and babas like Ram Rahim, Daati Maharaj and Asaram, who are all behind bars on serious charges of fraud and even murder, are concerned, it is obvious it is men who lay down the rules.

The 11 deaths in the Bhatia family of Delhi’s Sant Nagar are a somewhat extreme example of what the cops described to the media as “blindly following the directions of their Guru”, so far missing from the scene. A diary however, has been found within the house that records step by step directions about preparing the family like sacrificial lambs for the ultimate slaughter. The eerie final directive says that the mother shall feed all the members before the act of “mass salvation”. So 22 rotis, we are told, were ordered from a neighbourhood eatery and understandably fed to the victims.

Dictionaries describe superstition as a belief not justified by reason and adhered to blindly without verification. It reminds one of Marquez’s ‘Chronicle of A Death foretold’ that records a similar killing of a man of which the whole town was aware of but over which it chose to maintain a silence because it agreed with the morality of the killers. “She looked like a nun,” says a neighbour, of Angela Vicario whose marital problems stemming from her lack of virginity led to the killing of a man, in The Chronicle...

In a nation where a troll has the impunity to order the husband of the nation’s Foreign Minister, who is himself an ex governor, to thrash his wife , and no one from the Party stirs, such harsh attitudes and paranoia will increase.

In Sant Nagar too, for all outsiders, including the police and the media, time seems to loop on itself once they begin to question the neighbours. All of them praise the deceased. They tell how good, god fearing they were. How regularly they visited temples and sat together with the family matriarch each evening listening to religious discourses and songs. A close knit and exemplary family, all said. On TV, a man with a pronounced paunch heaved a sigh and repeated words to the effect, that from all angles the Bhatias were an ideal Hindu family: religious, quiet, tolerant and submissive. They prayed together, ate together and sang holy words together. If ever there was an argument, the men would quietly dissipate anger by accepting blame and assuring they will take care it does not happen again.

Though described as a mass suicide, this, make no mistake, was mass murder of a family, by some paranoid members driven by religious motivation. And the victims of this killing also included young girls and boys.

At this point there are more questions: what happens to laws against sexual violence within homes that is being perpetrated undeniably against women and children all over the subcontinent? Who crafts, amends, interprets and adjudicates over those? Don’t retrograde family and kinship rules and sexual mores, if unchecked by law, guarantee reproductive ownership, access and control of women and children to males, some of whom may be mentally unstable and in need of psychiatric counseling and institutionalisation?

Though described as a mass suicide, this, make no mistake, was mass murder of a family, by some paranoid members driven by religious motivation. And the victims of this killing also included young girls and boys

No law legitimises lynching in India, but of late no mob seems to encounter serious trouble doing it. No society says that a family must feed rotis to the entire family before hanging each member ritualistically. But that is not necessary, since most women and children from families tightly controlled by superstitions, would die rather than defy their male leader. No law urges brothers to go and kill their sisters and fathers, their wives and children, but no law has yet banned and brought to book many babas and tantriks who suggest this. In a nation where a troll has the impunity to order the husband of the nation’s Foreign Minister, who is himself an ex-governor, to thrash his wife, and no one from the Party stirs, such harsh attitudes and paranoia will increase. If khaps, caste panchayats and college principals continue to rule that girls and boys must not be seen together in parks and public places, must not wear jeans, and half a dozen or so babas are given cabinet berths so their followers may vote for the incumbent party, it is entirely believable that UN surveys may show India as a place even more unsafe than Afghanistan and Pakistan for women.

At this point we learn volunteers of Karni Sena, who created mayhem a few months ago over Padmavat and female ‘honour’, have also chosen to butt in, demanding a CBI enquiry in the case or else they will block the streets once again! Many innocents are asking the government to curb such nonsense. If the hungry and the poor were well fed and employed, this frenzy for bloodletting will automatically subside they think. But there is a question to be asked: were Pavlov’s dogs really hungry each time they salivated at the sound of their master’s bell?

The author is Group Special Editorial Adviser at National Herald, Navjivan and Qaumi Awaz

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