The 3 episode Netflix series, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths created by Leena Yadav, takes us through the speculations, the theories, the truth and the fabrications around the mysterious affliction that sent a shock wave throughout Delhi.
On 1st July 2018, something so baffling happened that it shook the whole of India and sent shivers down the spine of everybody who heard the story or witnessed it for themselves. A family of 11 people had hung themselves in a neighborhood named Burari in the country’s national capital. It seemed like a suicide at first glance, and some started speculating foul play. But nobody had a clue that they were in for something so atrocious that even their wildest dreams would fall short by a considerable margin.
‘House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths’ Case Summary
The general store owned by Bhatia Family used to open quite early in the morning. Gurucharan Singh, their neighbor, noticed that on 1st July, they were unusually late in opening their shop. Around 7:30, when the shop still didn’t open, he couldn’t resist the urge and went to check in their house. What he saw was like a bolt from the blue. He saw 11 bodies hanging from the iron fences that were a part of the ceiling.
Regaining his senses, he rushed back to inform everyone. Soon a crowd that included neighbors, media reporters, police officials, family members and obviously inquisitive individuals hoarded the locality. Until noon it became national news. The northeastern locality of Delhi claimed a top spot in the drawing discussion of every household in the country. But speculations and conspiracy theories were not enough for the already tarnished image of the Delhi Police force. They needed more. The country needed more.
The Cryptic Registers
The Police officials were under a lot of stress and pressure as this had become a very high profile case. The Chief Minister himself went to the scene to get a ground report. There were a million other theories floating, and blame games had begun. The Crime Branch was also involved, and people didn’t stop in questioning the credibility of the Police forces in maintaining law and order. The local parties were taking advantage of the situation to incite people and further their agenda.
Amidst all the hullabaloo, the investigating officers struck gold. They found registers from the house. It had some cryptic messages. That’s when the picture became a tad bit clearer. It was not a murder or suicide. It was a case of accidental death. A case that was drenched in a concoction of black magic, mental health and above all, in thick strands of the regressive and toxic culture.
The Curious Case of Lalit Chundawat
Lalit was the youngest among all the siblings but still was the head of the family and controlled most of the things. He had been subjected to a head injury and also a traumatic event in the past. After his father, Bhopal Singh, passed away, Lalit started showing obscure behavior. He had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Lalit didn’t talk for a year after the trauma, and people believed that he had lost his voice. He used to tell his family members that he saw his father in his dream. He said that his father had told him to recite a particular prayer at a specific time, and by doing that, his voice would come back. It did come back, and he won the trust of his family members. They believed that he actually used to see his father. That was the entry point to the shared psychotic disorder that the family was literally coerced into.
Around 2007 Lalit started showing signs of schizophrenia. He told his family that he was possessed and that their father was trying to talk to them. The family grew financially after paying heed to Lalit’s advice, and somehow Lalit won over the blind trust of not only his siblings but the younger generation too. It still baffles the psychiatrist that even the kids didn’t speak about it to anyone.
For 11 years, this had been going on under the nose of quite an indulgent neighborhood. This was not some residential space in North Dallas where anything that is happening inside the ranches wouldn’t be known to the neighbors. This was in the middle of an overly crowded area where the population would have been more than thirty thousand people per square kilometer. This very fact made the psychiatrists even more amused and made them think the kind of impact that Lalit would have had on a 15-year-old kid, that he believed all this to be true without even questioning it once.
The Last Ritual
Lalit had convinced the family that one last ritual needed to be done. He told the family that they needed to hang themselves in a specific manner that was said to him by his deceased father. Once they hang themselves, it would be a matter of 10-15 minutes before the water kept in a pot would turn red, and they all would survive the ritual. And guess what, each and every member actually believed that they would survive this act of hanging themselves as the deceased father would himself come to the rescue.
The Head Constable Rajiv Tomar said that when he entered the house, he saw 11 people hanging from the ceiling, which felt like the hanging roots of a banyan tree.
The forensic experts and the team involved said that never in their lives have they seen such a gruesome scene ever, and given an option, they would undo that haunting picture from their minds forever.
‘House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths’ Explained – What led to the Final Ritual?
Much speculation was done to understand what triggered Lalit to perform the last act that he considered no less than a ritual. He convinced his family members to hang from the ceiling and assured them that they would come out of it alive. The family, obviously having blind faith in his authority, did agree. But the big question was that did Lalit also think that his father would actually come back from the dead and they would come out of it alive?
One theory that came forward was that a few days before, Lalit’s niece was engaged. He might have had the fear that once she goes to a different family, then his secret might be spilled out. Maybe that created a sort of insecurity inside him and triggered him enough to start plotting and planning the dastardly act.
Or maybe he actually believed in the fact that they would come out of it alive and wanted to attain some kind of spiritual enlightenment. But these are just speculations, and nothing could be said for certain.
What do Burari deaths say about our society?
The most shocking revelation for the psychiatrists was that the kids never even once tried to hint to the others what was happening inside the house, even when it went on for 11 years. This is an age where you question each and everything, but still, a totally contradictory behavior was shown in House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths.
It also said a lot about the basic perceptions people have about mental health. Going to the psychiatrist for therapy is not something that is seen in a good light because, guess what, only psychos and insane people visit psychiatrists! Yes, that’s the sad reality of Indian society. Toxic masculinity and orthodox viewpoints have always overpowered the need to cater to one’s mental health. It didn’t strike the family even once that Lalit was suffering from PTSD or required therapy. Had he been intervened when the first signs were showed then today the family might not have met such a fateful end.
Mr Gurcharan Singh, the neighbor, said that people gossip for a few months and then move on, but nothing remains the same for those who witness such a life-altering incident first-hand. The Burari Deaths case is still a mystery to some and an incident that they wouldn’t forget till they die. But let it be an awakening for each and everyone who mocks mental health because having mental health problems doesn’t mean that you are weak or a madman.
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths is a 2021 Crime Investigation Documentary Series created by Leena Yadav. The three part mini series is streaming on Netflix.