In two heart-rending incidents, Punjab has witnessed tragic deaths of two toddlers, allegedly killed by their fathers. The bodies of both children – in Ludhiana and Tarn Taran districts – were recovered from water bodies by respective district police.
Both incidents however have once again brought into focus psychiatric and mental health issues which are largely ignored. According to the experts, in both cases the father was suffering from some mental illness whose symptoms were ignored in earlier stages.
In Ludhiana, two-year-old Danish and his father Gaurav “went missing” from Dugri area on the evening of August 12 following which Gaurav’s wife Poonam filed a missing complaint the next day. Hours later, the body of the two-year-old was found in Jawaddi canal late on Sunday and police also found a CCTV camera footage in which the father is seen taking the child along.
On Tuesday, police also found the body of Gaurav in the canal. Inspector Madhu Badal, SHO Dugri police station, said that it was confirmed that father jumped in the canal along with the child. “According to his wife, Gaurav was suffering from mental depression and would often talk about dying. He was also admitted at DMCH for some days and had undergone treatment for depression,” said the inspector.
“However, the family wasn’t expecting that he would take such an aggressive step and take the child along to die by suicide,” she said.
After the mother’s complaint, police had filed an FIR under Section 346 (wrongful confinement in secret) of IPC against unidentified persons.
“But after we found the CCTV camera footage which showed the father carrying the kid, we were almost sure that he only took the child along to jump in the canal,” said the inspector.
Poonam, wife of Gaurav, said that her husband was undergoing treatment for depression. “There was no issue, either at home or financial but he used to remain depressed. He was not hooked on drugs or alcohol,” she said.
Police sources however said that Gaurav’s phone chats and videos revealed that he was suffering from mental illness related to superstitions and was always worried that someone would harm him or his child.
“We have found several videos and chats which reveal that he was over-worried for his child and would keep on searching for mantras and other superstitious material for protection. He had some unfounded fears regarding his and his child’s safety,” said a police officer.
In the second such case, the body of three-year-old Gursewak Singh was found in a canal in Tarn Taran on Tuesday, three days after his father Angrez Singh from Reshiana village concocted a story and told police that “a group of miscreants snatched the child and mobile phone from him”.
However, during the probe, police found that Angrez Singh strangled his son with a piece of rope and threw him in the canal.
Tarn Taran SSP Gurmeet Singh Chauhan said that Angrez Singh worked at a cement shop earning Rs 8,000 a month and also owned 1 acre agricultural land.
“Initially he kept changing statements and also the location where he claimed that a group of miscreants snatched the child from him, later he confessed that he strangled the kid and threw him in the canal. He has been arrested,” said the SSP.
SSP Chauhan said that while the exact reason behind the gruesome killing of Gursewak could not be ascertained as of now, the preliminary interrogation of the accused father is hinting towards some “mental health issue” and “police would also be seeking help of psychiatrist” in the case.
“The accused has two children – a daughter aged 13 and a son aged three. During questioning, the accused has claimed that he was suffering from some liver ailment due to which he was so worried that if he will die, who would take care of his son, so he killed him. This is extremely illogical to be believed but we are consulting a psychiatrist to know if the accused is actually suffering from some mental illness,” said the SSP.
“According to mental health experts we have consulted till now, it might be a case of “paranoid psychosis” but he might also be making up a story now to cover-up his actions. He had planned his child’s murder because he was carrying a piece of rope in advance using which he strangled him,” the SSP said, adding that a murder case has been registered at Sri Goindwal Sahib police station.
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“The accused is also claiming that after killing the child, he also thought of killing himself but stopped thinking of his daughter,” the SSP said, adding that prima facie the accused wasn’t hooked on drugs or alcohol.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Sandeep Bhola, deputy medical commissioner and psychiatrist, Kapurthala, said that in both incidents, the father has acted in a way that no normal person would do.
“Either it was severe level of depression or some other mental illness which aggravated to this level that they took such extreme step of harming their own child. In normal cases, we can’t tolerate even a prick to our own child. Due to stigma, people still do not seek medical help for mental health issues and even their families brush their symptoms under the carpet instead of taking them for treatment which leads to such incidents. Each mental health issue has its own symptoms but some, including over-suspicion, hallucinations, hearing voices, unfounded fears, alcohol addiction and others, should never be ignored,” said Dr Bhola.