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In Badi people are sure: there is a “demonic presence” that pushes people to kill themselves. It is an Indian village with 2,500 inhabitants in Madhya Pradesh, which hit the headlines because of the unusual number of suicides. Eighty people killed themselves in the first 90 days of 2016 alone, according to Times of India. “In the first three months of the current year, 80 villagers took away their lives,” said Amit Singh, one of the local officials. “There are – he continued – 320 families in our village, and at least one person committed suicide in each one of them.” Rajendra Sisodiya the sarpanch ‘‘headman’’ said he is sure that an “evil presence” causes all these suicides. Sisodiya himself stepped in after his cousin, Jeevan, had hung himself from a tree in front of his house. Sarpanch’s mother and brother killed themselves too.

Health authorities do not believe in the demonic track. Srikanth Reddy, a psychiatrist, explains that these strange suicides might have been caused by depressive and schizophrenic episodes, perhaps due to the high percentage of pesticides used in the fields and financial pressure. In particular, the doctor reported a Chinese study, which identified the cause of some farmer’s depression that had led to suicide in certain pesticides containing organophosphates (the main component of some nerve gases). According to the World Health Organization, which issued a report in 2009, in fact, there is a link between exposure to a kind of organophosphates pesticides commonly used in China and suicidal thoughts.

“In the West, you swallow a couple of Valium pills, they take to the emergency room, make you gastric lavage, then you go home. In China, you drink half a cup of pesticide and two hours later you are dead,” says Michael Phillips, executive director of the WHO Suicide Prevention Center in Beijing. Philips is also the author of a 2002 study published im the British medical journal The Lancet in which he reported that, from 1995 to 1999, suicide was the leading cause of death among people between 15 and 34 years of age. The same study showed that, in rural areas, the suicide rates were three times higher than those in urban areas and, above all, that among women the rate was 25% higher than among men. These statistics turned China into a special case, given that the world rate of female suicide attempts is three times higher than male, but the attempts of the latter are more often successful, thus, they have a higher suicide death rate. China’s special feature may be explained by the especially effective method used by women in this country: ingestion of pesticide.

Beyond the “reassurances” concerning the “non-demoniac” nature of those suicides, it is still worth pointing out that religious sects become an ever-growing true experimental model of mass suicide. Such is the case of the Jonestown tragedy, which took place in Guyana in 1978. Reverend Jones, founder of the sect called the ‘‘Temple of the People’’, ordered the murder of some government officials and the murder-suicide of over 900 followers. Religious sects are at the center of many other stories. In 1993 in Waco (Texas), 87 followers of the Branch Davidian sect were found dead along with their leader David Koresh, after a long police siege. Since 1994, repeated mass suicides involved the sect Order of the Solar Temple, with 74 deaths in Switzerland, Canada, and France.

On 20 March 1995, Aum Shinrikyo spread sarin (a nerve gas) in five Tokyo trains, causing a massacre: 12 dead and more than 5,000 intoxicated. In March 1997, in the Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego, California, the mass suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult (Higher Source) took place: the founder, Marshall Herff Applewhite (“Do”) and 38 followers died. In March 2000, about 800 followers of an apocalyptic sect called “The Ten Commandments of God” set themselves on fire in Uganda, after many hours of singing and playing in their church, southeast of Kampala.

Whichever way you choose to look at it, mass suicides are never “natural”, nor can we easily attribute them only to a depressive disorder. It is an insult to life, creation, the custody of the human body or, in the case of pesticides, of our planet. To sum up, it is an insult to creation. Thus, something else, something distorted, pushes people to commit these actions. And there is no need to think about Satanism to feel an evil presence in choosing the path of death itself.

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