The Telegraph
Wednesday , April 13 , 2011
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Starving sisters rescued from Noida home
Depressed after father’s death, duo lock themselves in; neighbours alert cops
The two sisters, Sonali (top) and Anuradha, in a Delhi hospital on Tuesday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar

New Delhi, April 12: Two sisters in their forties were today rescued from their Noida home, where they had locked themselves in for months after their father’s death, by police who found them weak from starvation.

“Both the sisters were starving and were dehydrated. They were lying on the bed and a stench emanated from the house as soon as our officers broke open the door. They were so weak that we had to bring a stretcher to rush them to hospital in an ambulance,” said Anant Dev, superintendent of police.

Neighbours had alerted the police last week that Anuradha Behal, 42, and Sonali Behal 40, had not interacted with anyone since the death of their father, a retired colonel, last year. However, a PTI report said their father had died a few years ago.

A police team arrived soon after, but returned when no one opened the door. Today, they decided to force their way into the second floor apartment.

“The condition of both the sisters is critical and they are admitted in the ICU. Both of them are very weak and fragile and seem to have been starving for the past two or three months,” an officer said.

Neither woman had the strength to speak when the police found them today and “seemed to be in coma”, Dev said. Sonali appeared better in hospital and was able to sit up.

The police team was accompanied by social activist Usha Thakur.

Enquiries revealed that the sisters, who were both single, used to order food from a nearby canteen till December.

“They have been suffering from extreme depression. It seems they were emotionally attached to their father and they lost interest in their lives after his death and decided to lock themselves in,” Sandeep Vohra, a psychiatrist, said.

Sanjay Chugh, also a psychiatrist, was quoted by the PTI as saying such behaviour can result from inability to handle loss. “We call it complicated bereavement. People suffer grief and it heals in time. But sometimes it turns into a psychosis in which people lose touch with reality, which has occurred in this case,” he said.

Their mother had passed away earlier.

“They studied up to Class XI and were unemployed. They were totally dependent on their father and were also emotionally attached to him. After his death they became depressed and lost the zeal to live,” Dev said.

Later, however, policemen quoted a relative as saying that Anuradha was a chartered accountant and that Sonali was a graduate. Anuradha did not work or interact much with outsiders, but Sonali used to work for a private firm in Noida till their father’s death, the relative told the police.

Neighbours in the apartment complex where the family had lived for 15 years said the women have a younger brother, Vipin, a software engineer in Gurgaon, who moved out soon after they lost their father.

The sisters had a pet dog they were very attached to that died six months ago, PTI reported.

Neighbours knew little else, pointing out that residents were too busy to interact with each other except on occasions.

Psychiatrist Jitender Nagpal said the sisters’ story shows the “merciless” face of society. “This is the stark reality that our neighbourhood groups are mercilessly avoiding those who need help.”

Colonel Sharma, a member of the Residents’ Welfare Association, said: “We approached the police several times but they did not respond.”

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