Police have arrested a couple in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh for allegedly killing their two daughters as part of an occult ritual.
According to news reports, the police found Padmaja and Purushottam Naidu in their home at around 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan, 24. They had allegedly stabbed their daughters with a trident and then bludgeoned them to death with dumbbells.
In addition to the sheer brutality of the crime, investigators were surprised to learn that the accused are both highly accomplished academics. While Purushottam, 55, has a doctorate in science and is a college professor, Padmaja, 50, is a mathematician and teaches in a school.
The police told the media that Padmaja and Purushottam believed they had special powers that could help them revive their dead daughters after 24 hours. When the police entered their house, the couple told them, “Give us time until the end of the night, we will bring them back.”
Their deceased elder daughter, Alekhya, 27, was employed at the Central Forest Research Institute in the central Indian city of Bhopal, while the younger one, Sai Divya, 22, was training at a music academy under Indian music icon, AR Rahman.
News reports state that neighbours alerted the police when they heard loud screams from the house on the night of Jan. 24. Inside, the cops found ritual items strewn around the dead sisters, who were both naked. According to police, Alekhya was found in a room used for worship with a deep laceration on her forehead, while Sai Divya was found in her bedroom.
According to police, the parents were found in a “trance” like state. The Times of India reported that Padmaja met officers singing and dancing, and later claimed that COVID-19 did not originate from China, but from her, as she was the human form of virus. The news report also stated that she did not cooperate with the police and doctors, and refused to undergo a COVID-19 test, claiming the virus could not harm her.
Police now face the challenge of questioning the couple in what they describe as a state of shock and trauma. After some time, DSP Chary claimed Padmaja began shouting at police officers for “disrupting the ritual”. “She said that we brought demons into the house when we opened the doors. She asked us to leave and come back the next day and witness the miracle that was about to happen in the house, where her daughters would come back to life,” DSP Chary told The NewsMinute.
On Jan. 27, Wednesday, the couple were subjected to a psychiatric evaluation. Dr Radhika, one of the psychiatrists, addressed local television media to say that Padmaja had refused to answer queries, while Purushottam claimed his children were forms of the Hindu god Shiva, and that were expected to come back to life.
“They seemed to believe every word they said. We want to assess their mental health,” the DSP said, adding that the couple will be arrested as soon as their psychiatric evaluation is completed.
When the pandemic was declared at the end of March, the Naidu family allegedly placed themselves in total isolation. According to DSP Chary, the mother believed there their younger daughter had allowed some malevolent presence inside her head, which could be cured by fracturing her skull. Police also say the couple believed they had received signals from heaven, and theirs was a “house of miracles”.
In India, crimes committed in the name of superstitions delusion are not uncommon.
In January 2020, a man who’d been released on bail after previously trying to murder his nine-year-old nephew, was arrested again for “sacrificing” his 12-year-old sister to the Hindu goddess Durga.
Then in May, a Hindu priest was arrested for beheading a man in a temple shrine in an attempt to end the COVID-19 pandemic. The 72-year-old priest was reportedly high on marijuana at the time.
In November, two brothers were detained by police after attempting to kill their children because they thought that doing so would lead them to hidden treasure.
Such occult-based crimes often occur in rural parts of the country. In a 2006 interview with The Guardian, Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, said that human sacrifices are especially common among those who could not read or write, and that women and children were often the targets.
The Andhra Pradesh case, however, dispels the common belief that only the poor fall for superstition.
The country’s latest National Crime Records Bureau data notes that 52 people were murdered under the guise of occult practice between 2014 and 2016. This number, however, is widely believed to be an underestimate.
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