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Mass suicide, ‘wandering souls’ rumours hit property rates in Delhi’s Burari

Local property dealers say the death of 11 people of a family in Burari are likely to deter buyers from purchasing flats and plots in Sant Nagar area. The neighbourhood, on the other hand, has been battling “rumours” and “fake news” being run on certain news channels.

delhi Updated: Jul 12, 2018 13:43 IST
Shiv Sunny and Karn Pratap Singh
Shiv Sunny and Karn Pratap Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
burari deaths,burari,sant nagar
A man peeps inside the house where 11 members of the Bhatia family allegedly committed suicide in north Delhi’s Burari on July 1, 2018. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Pawan Kumar Tyagi, a property dealer in north Delhi’s Burari,plans to hold a pooja in his flat soon.

Prodded for a reason why, he said he is ‘concerned’ because his apartment stands right behind the house in which 11 members of the Bhatia family were found dead on July 1.

“I am not superstitious, but ‘shuddhikaran’ (purge) is necessary. My college-going daughter has been scared ever since the deaths. The pooja will reassure her,” said Tyagi, a property dealer.

Tyagi is relieved that an empty plot of land separates his apartment from the Bhatia house.

“The rate of the Bhatia house and plots and buildings surrounding it will be affected because of the rumours (of ghosts and supernatural power) after the incident. Hopefully, other properties in the area will not be affected,” said Tyagi.

On July 1, 11 members of the Bhatia family — Narayan Devi (77), her sons Bhavnesh Bhatia (50) and Lalit Bhatia (45), their wives Savita (48) and Tina (42) respectively, a daughter Pratibha (57) and five grandchildren, Priyanka (33), Neetu (25), Monu (23), and Dhruv and Shivam (both 15) — were found dead inside the house.

The police so far believe that the deaths were a result of an occult ritual gone wrong. “But after certain TV channels started linking the deaths to supernatural powers, we are worried about the future of this neighbourhood,” said KL Bhardwaj, an elderly resident.

Bhardwaj, who grew up in Burari, believes these rumours can go on to have a “long-term” impact. “People will be afraid to buy plots and flats here. Tenants will keep away. Cab and auto drivers will not offer rides to this neighbourhood” he said.

For more than a decade, property rates in Burari have been skyrocketing. “It is one of those neighbourhoods where land is still available for purchase,” said Bhardwaj. Over a dozen offices of property dealers, within a 200 metre radius of the Bhatia house, bears testimony to the land availability fact.

According to Gyanendra Kumar, a realty dealer in Sant Nagar, residential flats with parking facility cost anywhere between Rs 3,000 and Rs 6,000 per square feet.

Kumar said the rates have seen an appreciation of 50-70% in the last decade. “Following the deaths now, the house (belonging to the Bhatias) and the neighbouring properties may even find it difficult to attract one buyer,” said Kumar.

Ever since the mysterious deaths, the neighbourhood has been battling “rumours” and “fake news” being run on certain news channels.

A local police officer said that in last one week, residents have shooed away reporters of a news channel that brought a ‘baba’ for a show. A man has been slapped for trying to “create a scary environment” for his YouTube video and locals have indulged in multiple confrontations with journalists.

The impact of the mass ‘suicides’ started showing within three days of the deaths. At least four tenants vacated the neighbourhood soon after news of the deaths spread. While two could be persuaded to return, a couple of students from Surat in Gujarat have found accommodation elsewhere.

“A student had moved here in early June. His flatmate was supposed to join him in July, but was told by his parents not to come and live in Sant Nagar. The one who had already moved in, too, left the flat without even collecting his security deposit,” said a family friend of the Bhatias who didn’t want to be named.

Navneet Batra, a neighbour of the Bhatias, said the reputation of Burari, and in particular of Sant Nagar, was getting tarnished by repeated “sensational” crimes.

“We hope that people believe the police version that the Bhatia family was not murdered. A mass murder of this scale would have left people even more frightened,” said Batra.

Just weeks before the ‘suicides, Burari had witnessed a gang war that left four people dead barely 100 metres from the house of the Bhatias. In September 2016, a 21-year-old woman from the same neighbourhood had been stabbed to death, allegedly by her jilted lover.

Many residents suspected that local property dealers were spreading rumours about ghosts. “The property dealers want residents to vacate their houses and the property rates to go down so that they can purchase it at low rates. But this neighbourhood is located near a busy market and will always find buyers,” said TP Sharma, a local resident.

The local police said that the booming property business in the area can be ascertained from the fact that a large number of complaints received by them are related to property frauds and disputes.

“In some cases, we have found one property being sold to multiple buyers. This is because most of these properties cannot be registered and can only be transferred under the general power of attorney. Property dealers often misuse this fact and sell properties using forged documents,” said a police officer.

NK Agarwal, a property dealer in Burari, refused to speculate about the fate of the neighbourhood, but said that the Bhatia house will certainly bear the brunt. “Since everyone now knows about the deaths, it will be difficult to find a buyer for the next four-five years,” said Agarwal.

The living members of the Bhatia family, meanwhile, are doing their bit to dispel rumours surrounding the house. “Lalit’s elder brother Dinesh (one of the two surviving siblings) has told us that he will be staying in the house for a few days once the police are done with their probe,” said Batra.

Dinesh’s nephew, Ketan Nagpal, confirmed that the family would visit the Sant Nagar house soon. “We will perform a ‘hawan’ in the house, organise a feast for priests and will stay there together for some days,” said Nagpal.

This is not the first time that an entire neighbourhood’s identity has been threatened because of sensational deaths. The house in Noida’s Nithari, where serial killings of children were unearthed in 2006, is often referred to as a “bhoot bungalow (ghost bungalow).

Property dealers said that those aware of the killings hesitate from buying and renting a home in the residential block in which the house, belonging to the accused Moninder Singh Pandher, is located.

In Ghaziabad, a house in which a trader and six members of his family were killed in 2013, had to be demolished after it was deemed an “ill fated” building. The decision to demolish the house was taken when prospective buyers wouldn’t offer more than one-fourth of the building cost.

First Published: Jul 12, 2018 07:46 IST