Vadodara: 9 astrologers, deceased head of family booked after ‘mass suicide bid’

Nine astrologers from various parts of the country have been booked for their alleged role in the incident where a family of six attempted suicide, resulting in the death of three, including a three-year-old boy, in Vadodara on March 3.

Sama police station in Vadodara city booked the nine after its investigation based on the statement of Bhavin Soni — one of the three surviving members whose decceased father, Narendra Soni (58), has also been booked for culpable homicide amounting to murder after it came to light that he forced the family to consume poison.

In his statement to the police, recorded late on Thursday, Bhavin said that his father who died after consuming poison was under heavy debt and the family was struggling to meet their daily expenses after their businesses went downhill, followed by the Covid-19 lockdown. Bhavin, however, also claimed that his father had spent Rs 32.5 lakh on various rituals suggested by nine astrologers from various parts of India in the hope to “improve” their financial condition.

In his statement, released by the police on Friday, Bhavin said, “We took loans from various financial institutions to keep our daily expenditures running. Our attempts to re-establish our businesses of imitation jewellery and plastic items were unsuccessful. We had to sell off our car, two-wheeler and even my sister’s bicycle. When the debt increased, my father decided to sell our family home for Rs 40 lakh…”

The family had placed ads in the real estate columns of local papers and received positive responses, Bhavin has told the police. But since the house was mortgaged, the family was unable to strike the deal, he said.

Explaining Wednesday’s sequence of events, Bhavin said, “My father told me to bring pesticides and cold drinks. At around 5 pm, he mixed the drink with poison and filled a baby bottle for my three-year-old son, Parth, who was asleep. My father held my son close to him and fed him the poison-laced drink while also consuming it himself and asking my sister Riya (20) to do the same. My mother, wife and I also consumed the drink.”

Police officers added that Bhavin has been traumatised about “surviving” and is undergoing counselling. His mother Dipti and wife Urvi are also undergoing treatment at SSG Hospital, where they have been “hysterical”, according to staff members. A doctor from the isolation ward where the women are admitted said, “The women are on ventilator support but stable. They have been asking the staff to let them die, repeatedly. They are extremely traumatised.”

The Sama Police has booked Narendra Soni under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 302 for culpable homicide amounting to murder and a separate FIR against nine astrologers, including one from Vadodara whom Bhavin has named, under IPC Sections 405 for criminal breach of trust, 420 cheating and 114 for abettor present when the offence is committed.

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