Thiruvananthapuram: A mysterious pooja spot at the back of a 10.5-cent house plot, carefully hidden from the prying eyes of the neighbours, has given a new twist to the shocking suicide of a woman and her teenaged daughter Vaishnavi over bank loan default at Neyyatttinkara near Thiruvananthapuram.
The Kerala Police team, investigating the suicide, was baffled to see such a sorcery spot behind the house. The duo, Lekha and Vaishnavi, had set themselves on fire inside the house on Tuesday.
Lekha's husband Chandran, mother-in-law Krishnamma and two other relatives have already been arrested after the police found a suicide note in the room that blamed the family members. Two days after the mother-daughter set themselves on fire fearing their mortgaged house would be attached by Canara Bank, more sinister details of the family and their house have emerged.
The hidden pooja spot has two idols, lot of pooja material, water connection and it was well-lit to do rituals in the night also.
Chandran and his mother used to conduct black magic at the place that was covered by concrete walls and a tarpaulin sheet spread over it, sources said.
They used to keep even the bank notices asking to repay the loan amount at the pooja place. Recently bought lottery tickets were also placed at the pooja place. The police had found these on Wednesday.
Some of the neighbours claimed that a sorcerer from Kottoor also visited the house to carry out black magic. There were attempts to carry out a human sacrifice (Narabali) of Vaishnavi when she was a kid, it was alleged.
'They will take care'
Even when the revenue recovery proceedings were on, Krishnamma was confident that her black magic can stop the bank from attaching the house.
"They will take care of it. Don't worry. They will take care of the land in which they reside," she often heard saying. This drove Lekha and Vaishnavi into despair.
No, you are not welcome
Neighbours were not welcome at the house. If someone did visit the house, Krishnamma used to stop them. Lekha and Vaishnavi were not allowed to mingle with outsiders and they rarely stepped out of the house. Chandran too did not interact much with people and used to keep his conversations short, neighbours said.
According to the family, Chandran's father's mortal remains were kept at the spot. Chandran used to regularly light a lamp at the place.
Neighbours point out that a holy place will never be built at the back of a kitchen and this spot was solely for carrying out black magic. Lights were on at this spot even during the night, some neighbours claimed.
Sorcery held the night before suicide?
Devarajan, husband of Lekha's sister, said black magic rituals were held at the house on Monday night, a day before the two committed suicide.
Lekha told Devarajan over phone that a sorcerer would conduct black magic to stop the bank proceedings and that a Balaramapuram native would turn up to buy the house the next day.
Devarajan claimed the sorcery activities were a frequent happening at the house.
Turning villain overnight
Manjavilakam neighbourhood at Neyyattinkara is still in shock - they are unable to fathom how the same family that won their sympathies after the shock suicides have now turned accused.
Local people had blocked the police when they attempted to take Krishnamma for questioning on Tuesday. But after the shocking details emerged about the family, Krishnamma was arrested and taken away by the police amid boos and catcalls on Wednesday.
Krishnamma's sister Shantha and husband Kashi, who are also in police custody, were helping both the cops and journalists after the incident occurred on Tuesday. They did not give any hint of wrongdoing. However, as the family's role in the suicide came to the fore, they retracted their initial statements.
Chandran had stated on Tuesday that the duo killed themselves after the bank pressurised the family to repay loan. “The bank called us even after their suicide. You can check the phone call records.” However, on Wednesday he said: “I am not responsible for this. Not me, it was mother (Krishnamma), who constantly picked fights with her. Have not carried out sorcery. What is being said in the suicide note is false. They used to constantly fight. I returned from Gulf only six months ago.”
Krishnamma on Tuesday claimed: “There were no squabbles or family feuds in the house. My daughter had been trying hard to sell the house to repay the loan. The value of the house is around Rs 40 lakh. But we even tried to sell the house for Rs 24 lakh. Still, the broker cheated us.”
She changed her statement on Wednesday: “If I see a mistake, I point it out. I have only done that. There is no sorcery. I pray to Mahadev. I have not objected to the sale of the house.”
Shantha (Krishnamma's sister) said on Tuesday: “They committed suicide over the loan default. Chandran has only one kid. Will he be able to live after all this? Something will happen.”
She said on Wednesday: “We have no role in this. Don't know if there was something happening between them.”
Kashi (Shantha's husband) said Tuesday: “Chandran was struggling to give education to his only child. All problems were created by the bank that pressurised the family.”
He stated on Wednesday: “Never interfered in the family matters of Chandran and Lekha.”
Canara Bank's claim
Officials of the Canara Bank, which was at the receiving end of harsh criticism initially, said they had only taken a lenient approach towards the family and that the suicides were unfortunate.
"We were always considerate towards the family. That's why Lekha did not raise any allegation against the bank in her suicide note," said general manager G K Maya, who is also Canara Bank's Kerala in-charge.
The loan was taken in 2005 and interest was not paid from 2010. Still the bank waited for this many years before initiating revenue recovery proceedings. It was only last year that the bank approached the court for initiating action as per the SARFAESI Act, she pointed out.
As per the law, when the court-appointed commission visited the house on May 10, Chandran gave a written statement that he was trying to sell the house and would receive the advance amount on May 14.
“Based on this, the commission gave them 4 days' time to repay the money. Chandran's 19-year-daughter would have signed the agreement as a witness or heir. That was part of the court proceedings. The bank does not have any responsibility for it,” she said
If proceedings are not initiated in the case of a non-performing asset, the bank officials would have to face action, especially in the case of home loans as there are collateral that could be sold to repay the loan.
“The bank officials had extended the deadline given to repay the dues several times and Lekha had thanked them for these,” she said.
"It was really disheartening after all the blame was put on the bank when two people committed suicide. We have a responsibility towards the people of Kerala," said the general manger, who is also the convenor of State Level Bankers' Committee.