It’s wrong to politicize or try and give a communal angle to a brutal murder carried out by an individual as the propensity cannot be confined to any one community.
Brutal crimes against one single individual by another single individual are routinely committed by people belonging to all communities.
In India at times, we find spontaneous reactions of one community blaming another whole community if any one of its members is involved in a brutal crime becoming completely oblivious of the fact that it could as well have been committed by a member of their community.
The cases where the victim’s body is chopped are found to be particularly heinous. Let us look at some of these cases.
Ten years ago in 2013, Somnath Parida, a retired Army doctor, brutally murdered his wife Ushashree by chopping her body into 300 pieces. The body was cut into six-inch pieces using a surgeon’s scalpel, scissors, saw and kitchen knife. The parts were hidden in 22 small tiffin containers, in the luxurious house of Parida in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
Recently, Ujjal Chakravarty, an ex-Naval officer was killed by his wife and son in 24 Parganas, West Bengal, his body was cut into pieces and thrown in different places. The reason was that their father allegedly tortured them. The son studied carpentry and as the father refused to pay the son’s examination fees, there was a fight between both. When the father lay unconscious after being hit, he was strangled to death and his body was cut into six pieces.
In 2008, a TV production company executive Neeraj Grover’s body was chopped to pieces in Mumbai by his friend Maria and her fiancé Mathew. After stabbing him to death they chopped his body to pieces, hid it in bags, and threw those in Thane jungles.
In Azamgarh recently a lover killed a woman he earlier loved for marrying someone else, with the help of his family. The body was chopped, and the body parts were thrown in a well and the head in a pond.
Then there is also a 1995 case of Naina Sahni known as the tandoor murder case where the accused Sushil Sharma murdered his wife, Naina Sahni, on suspicion of adultery and tried to dispose of her body by chopping it up and burning it in the tandoor of the restaurant.
In the recent Shraddha Walker murder case Shraddha was allegedly killed by her live-in boyfriend Aftab Ameen Poonawalla, who chopped her body into 35 pieces, in Chattarpur, Delhi, stored the parts in his fridge for 20 days slowly disposing of the parts in different places.
What do psychologists have to say on this issue?
Ms. Kanupriya, founder of Curative Mind, and a clinical psychologist answered some questions.
1. Why does a person chop a dead body after the murder?
Ms. Kanupriya said, “There can be various reasons for the same:
• Ease of disposal can be the primary reason for dismembering the victim’s body. Adding on to that, lack of recognition of the victim can be another purpose of the same.
• Another reason can be the emotional state of the person at the time of committing the crime along with their personality traits which may lead them to take such a drastic measure”.
2. Does chopping reflect on the person’s mental state?
“It is extremely difficult to comment on the mindset of the person then. What we do know is that there is a sudden gush of emotions that makes them aggressive, and violent, and have low fear and frustration thresholds. This also implies that emotions become the basis of taking decisions and the rational brain has no role to play.”
3. Generally people are squeamish as far as dead bodies are concerned then how come the murderer spends much time cutting up the body parts…. does it not show him being a completely sadistic person?
“I feel there are two aspects to this. One is the practical aspect. Spending a lot of time in cutting the body and meticulous planning can be part of the execution of concealing the crime. If we try to understand the personality, a lot depends on the motive of the murderer.
If we try to understand whether the murderer was a sadistic person that would depend a lot on the history of violence and the nature of relationships the murderer has had with other people, such as family and friends. We also need to focus on past behavioural patterns of cruelty, aggressiveness, and indulgence in intimidating, humiliating, and demeaning behaviour.”
4. Does chopping the body put him in a different category of criminal?
“Yes, it does. People who indulge in gory crimes are different from other criminals who, for instance, indulge in a burglary. Offender profiling can be done based on various factors. Past research has tried to do this profiling based on types of crimes (For example rape, murder, snatching, etc), patterns of criminal actions, etc.
Literature has quoted that there are important psychological differences between the crimes that also indicate differences in the people who commit them.
There are some psychologically important variations between crimes that relate to differences in the people who commit them.”
5. Do you think movies or other influences play a role?
“Definitely. Media reports have shown that there have been similarities in the way the crimes are committed and what was seen in a film. Crimes have been inspired by the plots of famous movies. For instance, in 2019 a man in Kerala was inspired by the movie ‘Drishyam’ and murdered his wife. These acts can be seen as an example of observational learning or vicarious learning. People consume what they see in movies and replicate it in real life.
Having said that, along with social media content consumption other factors are involved such as the personality of the individual, aggressive tendencies, childhood trauma, etc.
6. Why does the person not have any regard for the sanctity of human beings or human bodies?
If we look at the personality structure of people who have committed a crime like this in the past, we can find a common thread of traits of anti-social personality. People with such personality traits have a common feature of lack of remorse. They are extremely indifferent to hurting other individuals. So, for a person with these traits, the ‘sanctity’ of the human body seems to be an alien concept.
Counselling psychologist Ms. Pallavi Singh said, Chopping the body of a person is already showing how much hate or anger they must have for that person. Of course, there are reasons like identification of the dead person, and getting rid of the body. But the fact that the murderer must chop up a body shows the kind of control they wanted over the other person. This can stem from anger, hate, shame, or all these.
7. Does it reflect the mental state of the criminal?
“Yes, of course, it does… A person’s mental state is a factor in their everyday life, their success at work, and the way they communicate. How can it not say it, when a person chops up another human being’s body?”
She said, “So this whole act takes time, energy, effort, and skill even. This isn’t about the dead person anymore once they are dead. After the death, it becomes about the killer. Everything post the death of a person is about the killer.
Are they sadists or not? Maybe, maybe not. It shows that the person has zero remorse and is continuing with a horrendous act. They might have psychopathic tendencies as well. Statistically, how many murders are committed worldwide, and how many of these murders are followed up with chopping?”
“These criminals, once proven in court that they are guilty, should not be let out. Not even on parole.
These kinds of murders are called heinous crimes for a reason and the people who commit them are known to commit crimes again,” she said.
“Movies, the environment people grow up in, the society they are surrounded with. There are a lot of factors that go to make such a criminal, movies aren’t the only ones,” she added.
“The family environment where a person has witnessed violence, an environment where one lives if surrounded by violence and crimes, particularly in their growing(developing) years, then they are much more susceptible to become violent adults than those who do not witness violence or crime,” she said.
“Historically, the infamous murderers have all witnessed crime and violence up close. Or they have an unhealthy relationship with their parents, where the parents ignored them during their childhood and did not form a healthy bond. Such people can develop violent tendencies as they never experienced a healthy environment,” she said.
These people do not have any sanctity towards human beings as the human being’s sanctity is violated the moment he is killed, she added.
“In my opinion, if the killer goes on to do more damage to that person’s dead body, they are only doing it because it makes them feel, I am in control. It is not about sanctity anymore,” she added.