“I am Shiva. It is from my body particles that Corona came, not from China,” shouted Padmaja Naidu as the police led her to prison. She is accused, along with her husband, of the ritual murders of their two young daughters at their home in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday.
Padmaja, a math gold medalist, and Purushottam Naidu, a PhD in chemistry and a government college lecturer, allegedly killed their daughters to rid them of evil spirits, believing they would both come to life.
“I am not an idiot…I am a PhD,” Purushottam Naidu said as police officers carried out a sweep of their three-storey home in Madanapalle town, taking in traces of the gruesome killings. “We got certain messages that we must carry this out,” Naidu and his wife Padmaja said.
Alekhya (27) and Sai Divya (23) allegedly bled out on the floor after an elaborate ritual that their parents believed would lead to their resurrection as a happy family. They had been struck with a dumbbell and a trident, blood everywhere. One of them was found in a puja room in a red saree; the other was in a different room, reportedly naked.
Purushottam Naidu has since come out of his “trance” partially, police officers say. He couldn’t bear to see his daughters bleed to death and called his friend, who alerted the police.
Padmaja was heard in a video wailing at her husband in the presence of policemen: “Why could you not have waited half an hour? If you had kept your faith, our girls would have come alive.”
In various videos, she continued her delusional behaviour.
“I am telling you coronavirus will go away by March without using vaccines,” she screamed at medical staff trying to take her swabs for a Covid test on Tuesday.
As her husband tried to reason with her, she snapped: “Right now, you are not my husband. I am Shiva.”
How an educated, affluent family came to this is something investigators are trying to piece together from evidence in the house, and from friends and neighbours.
Padmaja told the police it was she who hit her daughters with a dumbbell. “If there was no evil spirit, would they have survived four to five hours?”
She went on: “Kalyuga is ending and Satyuga is beginning”.
Recent social media posts of the daughters, especially in their final week, suggested they were in a similar state of mind as their parents.
“The entire family was extremely superstitious. Even the girls seem to have been convinced by what their parents intended to do,” senior police officer Senthil Kumar told NDTV.
Alekhya and Sai Divya had both earlier shared usual posts — photos from family holidays, music videos of the younger sister singing and playing the guitar. But their last few posts betrayed a different mental zone.
“Shiva will come,” said one such post.
A video accessed by NDTV shows the parents defending the killings after the police entered and found the bodies.
“Had the police not intervened, the couple would have killed themselves too, in the belief that all of them would later come alive,” Ravi Manohara Chari, the deputy district police chief, told NDTV.
District police chief Senthil Kumar said so far, there was no evidence of any outsider, “tantric” or godman influencing the couple. “We have examined CCTV footage. Online activity will also be studied,” he said.
The couple claimed they had witnessed the supernatural in the past. “My daughter had a skin allergy and it disappeared with prayers,” the father said.
Even a small change in behaviour in their daughters would be blamed on “evil spirits,” the police said.
Alekhya had an engineering degree and a post graduate management degree from the Institute of Forest Management at Bhopal. She had worked as a project manager for six months and had returned home to prepare for the civil services exam. Her younger sister was a business management graduate and was pursuing a career in music at a Chennai institute.
Both had come home during the lockdown last year and the family had little contact with the outside world. In the four days before the murders, they had let no one near their house.
Neighbours reportedly noticed unusual activities and were told it was all for a puja.
Relatives say possible psychological issues in the family seem to have worsened during the coronavirus lockdown.