Murder mysteries arouse the anxieties of the middle class
like nothing else can. Newspapers and television channels are flooded with
theories about the possible suspects and the modus operandi of the murderers.
Any investigating officer looks for three things—motive, weapon, and the
location of the suspected murderer.
The murders of Aarushi Talwar, the only child of Dr Rajesh and Dr Nupur Talwar, and their domestic help Yam Prasad Banjade, a.k.a Hemraj, descended into a murder mystery from day one— the motive wasn’t clear, the weapon couldn’t be found, and the only people on location happened to be the parents of Aarushi, then almost 14 years old. Apart from the brutality of the crime, what excited the media was that the family belonged to the upper middle class; they were from the upper strata of society.
While investigations by the Noida police were still going on, reporters were a divided lot. Any crime reporter with time in the field knows reporters from the English news channels mostly hang out together, while the Indian language media are only consulted if they are from the same media house. They also tend to be acutely aware of their target audiences and are usually from similar social backgrounds.
In the Aarushi-Hemraj case there was great shock value. Hindi channels wondered how the parents were unaware of two brutal murders, while English channels were shocked at the brutality of the murders.
It is common for reporters from the English news channels to frown at a murder scene and say “let’s just do a small piece, this isn’t our kind of story” when the victims are from the lower class, unless the murder is gruesome and has shock value. Newspaper reporters, on the other hand, stay in touch with their peers from competing newspapers and are usually not as divided as those from the news channels.
In the Aarushi-Hemraj case there was great shock value and more than enough for channels to go berserk. Reporters from Hindi channels wondered how the parents were unaware of two brutal murders in their house, while English news channels were shocked at the brutality of the murders and the line of investigation, which was leading towards the parents. The bosses were unwilling to believe the parents were the culprits though investigators were slowly narrowing down the leads and heading that way.
Senior superintendent of police A. Sathish Ganesh said at a press conference that the police would crack open the case soon and that the murders were either “crimes of passion” or “honour killings”. In his book Aarushi, Avirook Sen has totally ignored the Noida police investigations led by Ganesh with Anil Samania, a decorated officer of the Uttar Pradesh police as the investigating officer (IO).
After Ganesh’s press conference, Hindi channel reporters were quietly triumphant. They felt they had done the right thing by trying to focus on the Talwar family and the atmosphere in which Hemraj would have been working. English reporters, on the other hand, had a hard time explaining to their bosses the details of investigations by the Noida police.
A reporter from a leading English news channel, who has since moved to greener pastures, said to me then, “The bosses have gone crazy. They want me to have every detail of the investigation and punch holes in it. It is simply beyond them to accept that the family might have done it.”
The brief was clear—get every minute detail possible if it is the parents; if there isn’t enough meat in the police theory, butcher it outright.
It was in such an atmosphere that the inspector-general of police of Meerut Range, Gurdarshan Singh—unaware the media was waiting in ambush if even a single loophole could be found in the investigation—conducted his now infamous press conference. He had been asked by higher-ups in the department to preside over the press conference and driven in from Meerut only the previous day.
Ganesh’s statements earlier—as the head of the investigation team—had created uproar across the country. All the media seemed to be bothered about was the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case. As it turned out eventually, the complications of the case and the delicate relationship between the parents, daughter and Hemraj, which Ganesh and his team had put together in great detail, were too much for Singh. He ended up irreparably damaging the case and the reputation of his team and Noida police.
Sen has looked at Singh’s statements as the whole theory without bothering to speak to the real investigators. And while he has spared nobody who has spoken against or investigated the Talwars, he has not bothered to go into the background and service records of Singh or Sathish Ganesh, which are controversy-free and would stand out against those of CBI officer Arun Kumar, on whose spectacular theories he has relied in his book.
hile going into the details of how the UP police work and how postings are offered to various officers, Sen missed out an important aspect—Dataram Nanoria got the posting in Noida’s Sector-20 police station because he was a well-performing officer and nearing retirement. Such postings help: being in Noida allows for a comparative increase in salaries; allowances in the state’s most developed city are higher. A higher salary at retirement means a better pension. It is a fairly common practice in a force that possibly takes the most flak from the media, mostly for the right reasons.
On the morning of May 16 when he reached the Talwar residence, there was only one reporter with him, a young woman on night shift at a Hindi news channel, and a few other policemen, Chunnilal being one of them. He has testified in court as a prosecution witness, as Sen has recorded in his book.
Nanoria was cooperative with the Talwars and politely asked for the room to be kept beyond the reach of outsiders so that experts could examine and collect evidence. He had also asked for the keys to the terrace, which he wasn’t given. He was told there was no key to the door that opened up to the other terrace, connected to the Talwars’ terrace through a fairly wide ledge and so could allow access even if the key to their terrace could not be found.
When he was stern with other family members, including Dinesh Talwar, about the way he wanted to conduct his search, he was reportedly shouted at and told he should go find the servant instead. Gentle by nature, he cooled down and left the house to return with a bigger team while leaving two policemen to control the media which was swarming the building.
Nanoria told me a few hours after leaving the house, “It is an upper middle class neighbourhood and had I been stern, you guys would have hung me out to dry. TV pe meri photo dikha dikha ke kehte kitna nirdayi hai yeh; mujhe suspend karva ke dam lete (You would’ve got me suspended from the force by showing my photo on TV repeatedly and saying how heartless I am). And then it is also clear that the servant is missing. We have to trace him as soon as possible.”
Nanoria and his team were beginning to round up the servants for questioning and were on the lookout for the Talwars’ ex-help Vishnu, believed to have gone back to Nepal. A UP police team was deployed on the Nepal border waiting for permission to visit the country, then additional director-general of UP police, Brij Lal, has claimed since.
Contrary to what Sen claims, few mediapersons entered the house and certainly not the room where Aarushi’s body lay. Any tampering with evidence was probably done by the Talwars, their family and friends, for which they blame the Noida police. On their part, reporters offered help and some of them even called up senior police officials, urging that the family needed help and that a bigger force should be present at the spot. Police, however, were lax, which led to tampering of evidence that could have been crucial. They were behind from day one.
When Hemraj’s body was found on the terrace of the Talwars the next morning in what most Hindi news channels reported as a dramatic display of investigative mastery by retired police officer K. K. Gautam, Nanoria was holding his head in his hands and ruing his show of empathy. He should’ve known better. He was transferred back to police lines and retired with a smaller pension than he had hoped for.
The Talwars have not been able to explain how the
blood-soaked mattress on which Aarushi was found dead reached the terrace of
their neighbour. How did the key to the neighbour’s terrace surface and why was
it not handed over to the police? When Hemraj’s body was found the terrace was
still locked and the fairly undisturbed and invasive bushes right outside the
door suggested it had not been used. So how did the
6×4 foot mattress reach the terrace? The Talwars’ lawyer Mrinal Mandal denied that family members carried the mattress to the terrace, and the police never bothered to find out. The book has no mention of it either.
Aarushi does not care to talk about Anmol Agarwal’s statements to the Noida police during questioning. When Sathish Ganesh held his press conference a few days before Gurdarshan Singh’s debacle, he had mentioned that Anmol was being questioned in the presence of his parents and that they were satisfied with the police’s behaviour. He claimed he himself held the sessions and that investigators needed more time as they were trying to analyse Aarushi’s mental state before she died, insisting that Anmol was also a minor, not just her close friend.
Indeed, Anmol was her closest friend, if the exchange of calls and messages is taken into consideration. If the possibility of abuse at home is to be established, Anmol’s statements are of the utmost importance since the police claimed Aarushi was in a disturbed mental state. They were questioning the Talwars separately to understand the reasons for rift or discord in the family.
Sen says the Talwars were a cosy, happy family. He points
out that on the night of the murder she had been gifted a camera and so the
phone had been switched off. Aarushi’s phone records of the previous two months
show that she never switched off her phone in the period and that activity on
the phone went on till late at night, as is the case with almost all
school-going teenagers. Even if it is assumed that Aarushi switched off her
phone and was busy taking pictures with her parents, didn’t she want to tell
her friends that her father had bought her a camera better than theirs? Why
didn’t she switch
it on later?
Nupur Talwar claims Aarushi was reading and not taking pictures on the camera when she went to the room to switch off the router for a while and then switch it back on again. For a girl with a voracious appetite for messaging, Aarushi comes across as having been quiet rather than excited at the gift. The Talwars also claim Aarushi’s phone might have been giving her trouble, which sounds like a convenient excuse.
Sen excludes a crucial point about the house in his book. The small gallery between the outer grille and the two doors across it—one grilled and the other wood—could also be accessed from the servant’s room (Hemraj’s room). There is another door inside that connects the room to the whole house. This design allows the servant to go in and out of his room independent of the rest of the house. It is possible for someone to come out into the servants room and then into the gallery and lock the grilled door adjacent the wooden door. The Talwars’ and the book’s claim that someone from outside had to have been in the house as the door was locked from outside, therefore, does not hold.
Another crucial missing point is that Usha Thakur, the social activist who lives in Noida’s Sector-31 and was involved in the fight for the victims of Nithari, said Hemraj had approached her once and claimed that his employer, Rajesh Talwar, had threatened to kill him and that he was scared for his life. Sen only records in the book that Thakur could not meet Hemraj the second time he wanted to meet her and that Hemraj died within days of that probable meeting. She had told the media that Hemraj feared for his life but the Noida police and the CBI did not call her in as a witness.
The reason seems to be her constant run-ins with police officials and her open criticism of their attitude. The CBI probably followed the same line, which to me is a grave mistake.
fter Nanoria was transferred and the Noida police came under heavy fire, Anil Samania, then station house officer (SHO) of the Sector-39 police station, was given the case on special assignment and made the IO. Samania questioned all the servants, including Bharti Mandal and Krishna, Rajkumar and Vijay Mandal, whom CBI officer Arun Kumar later framed in the case. After doing that and then meeting the family, Samania told the media that establishing a clear motive was difficult and the weapon was yet to be found. He had searched the houses of the servants, including Krishna, and found nothing. Arun Kumar, however, magically recovered a khukhri and a blood-stained pillowcase from Krishna’s house which he claimed were the crucial evidence to prosecute him.
Sen tries hard to argue that the pillowcase is clinching evidence against Krishna and weaves a tale of incompetence by the CBI and CFSL (Central Forensic Science Laboratory) in bringing out the evidence. He tries to prove that they purposely changed the tags on two specimens to show the pillow cover belonged to Hemraj and not Krishna.
Even assuming that the “suspected spot of blood” on the pillow was Hemraj’s and found in the possession of Krishna, it does not place him at the crime scene. That Arun Kumar missed this piece of evidence in the reports completely, as Sen points out, and never again mentioned it later speaks of his confidence in it as “critical evidence”.
Sen argues and presents some credible evidence that A. G. L. Kaul, the man in charge then, and his subordinates tried hard to discard it as evidence by saying that it did not belong to Krishna in the first place. A chance finding by Dinesh Talwar of this evidence, which Sen presents as a triumphant discovery, and a possibility of tampering with it still does not make it a strong enough evidence to even consider that Krishna could be the murderer, leave alone prosecute him.
Had Sen spoken to the servants he would’ve known that Hemraj often visited Krishna’s place during the day and cooked for him while Krishna’s sister and brother-in-law were at work. The blood spot could simply be from a day when he cut his hand, quite common in kitchens. Hemraj’s job involved considerable time in the kitchen cutting vegetables every day. Instead, Sen seems biased against the servants, particularly Krishna, from the beginning and has assumed their guilt, but not bothered to meet one of them.
If he had cared to meet the Noida police officials, Sen would have found out all that Krishna told them during interrogation. If one believes what the Noida police managed to get from him and told some reporters off-the-record, it would seem that then UP chief minister Mayawati had reason to hide some of the facts when she said it would be inappropriate to reveal all of it in public. The Noida police did not record much of it in their case diary since it was in no way relevant to the case.
nil Samania told me he was not bothered about the personal lives of the parents but it was important to establish their state of mind and nature through the people around them most of the time. Krishna was a regular at Talwar’s clinic and he is the one who told the police about a possible affair between Rajesh Talwar and Anita Durrani. These details emerged in the media slowly.
The Hindi channels went to town about the “illicit affair” between the two and, expectedly, some went overboard. The only defence senior Hindi journalists who ran these channels present is that they were only revealing facts emerging during the investigation, which is valid. But it did not go down well with editors and senior journalists in English channels and most newspapers.
They did not see any point in bringing out these details, and may have been right, but they were now also looking to bring down the Noida police as the competition with Hindi channels was heating up. It was almost a class war and Hindi journalists were upbeat as they had got a lot of air time and English channels were being forced to run some stories around those lines even though the editors did not want that.
The police, however, were only trying to get an idea about the parents and the atmosphere in the house. SSP Ganesh said in his press conference that understanding the atmosphere was important to establish the possible reasons for the deaths. When they had some idea of the atmosphere, they confronted the Talwars. Police interrogations are not polite conversations, as Sen points out about the questioning of the Talwars’ driver Umesh. The Talwars, however, were never forced to give any statement. They were interrogated as the police would any suspect in a double murder.
Meanwhile, pressure was mounting on the police to deliver, and Ganesh went ahead with a press conference where he said the murders were either honour killings or crimes of passion. It was also a way to tell the Talwars that they needed to come clean on a lot of issues and not be uncooperative, which they had been till then according to police. The Talwars had no problem with the police till Rajesh was arrested. In her first interview for print, in The Indian Express, Nupur Talwar told me and Seema Chishti, then resident editor in Delhi, that police had behaved quite normally till they suddenly arrested Rajesh.
She tried to drive home the point that honour killings do not happen in families like theirs, although she wasn’t asked any question on that. Their subsequent turnaround in accusing the police of inappropriate treatment shows Nupur Talwar lied about whether the police were well-behaved or not.
The book quotes the Talwars as saying police found the visiting card of a lawyer in Rajesh Talwar’s pocket and so assumed that he was guilty as he was planning to get bail. Police, however, had taped a conversation about “anticipatory bail” on a call made from the landline. This evidence seems to have been lost entirely. But when Samania and Ganesh got this information from the control room in Noida’s Sector-14, they decided they needed to interrogate Rajesh Talwar before he got bail.
The source who told me this was not sure if it had been Rajesh Talwar on the phone but was clear that the conversation was about anticipatory bail for him. That’s when he was called in again for questioning. This they time found him uncooperative when grilled about the possibility that he might have killed his daughter and Hemraj for “honour’. While they let him go after that, Rajesh came out screaming “conspiracy” and “I am being framed” in front of television cameras. Police then got an arrest order and detained him.
rresting the father was a big gamble. It would have been easier to charge the servants and fight it out in courts till the matter cooled down and the media was no longer as interested. But the Noida police did not do so; they were convinced their line of investigation was right and went ahead. IG Gurdarshan Singh, who had not seen the evidence or the case the team had built till then, was ordered to be present at the press conference.
Most journalists present insisted that SSP Ganesh answer the questions since he was in charge, but Ganesh said the senior-most officer would hold the conference. Gurdarshan Singh could hardly understand the point Ganesh was trying to make. He was prompted continuously and being corrected as well.
When told Aarushi was “lonely and had her own friends and boyfriends with whom she was close”, Singh said, “It is not that Aarushi was of any better character, she too had boyfriends”. He ended up saying Aarushi and Hemraj were found in a compromising position but corrected it to “objectionable but not compromising”. That is all the English media focused on and has judged the Noida police on, ever since.
While Singh botched up the press conference and ruined the investigation, the intellectuals protested the references to Aarushi which hinted that she was “characterless” although Singh did not use that word. The case got caught in the tussle for air time and between the outlooks of the Hindi and English channels. While Hindi channels lapped up what Singh said, the English channels and their editors took it upon themselves to desexualise the victims, specifically Aarushi.
Everything else said at Singh’s conference and at the earlier conference by Ganesh was discarded and later discredited because the Noida police were “sex-starved” and tarnishing the reputation of a minor who was no more. It was the media obsession with sexualising or desexualising the victims that led to the “aroma of sex” around the case Sen talks about in the book. It was not the intention or approach of the investigators. Gurdarshan Singh did not understand the intricacies of the case and the media didn’t care at all. All the hard work done by Noida police was put on the backburner.
hen the CBI took it over, the chief was Vijay Shanker who loved the camera, so TV reporters and their bosses loved him. The discussions on news channels were narrowed down to the point where the only references to Noida police were their alleged obsession with sex and their incompetence in gathering evidence. At one of the discussions on the news channels, Shanker declared that his team “will nab the real killers”, essentially assuming the parents to be innocent even before investigations began. Editors in the newsroom and their audiences sitting across the country loved him for it.
The focus was immediately on the servants as there was nobody else; the others were from the same social strata, after all. The investigation had been compromised from the start and the media eagerly waited to see the CBI nab one or more of the servants. This was evident when the servants were arrested. News readers on most English as well as Hindi channels announced “the real killers” had “finally been caught”.
The first statement of NDTV India’s news bulletin went, “Aakhirkar Aarushi ke asli kaatil pakde gaye hain (Finally Aarushi’s real killers have been caught)”.
The task of building a case, including motive and recovery of murder weapon, went to Arun Kumar, Shanker’s blue- eyed boy. He had already delivered results the way Shanker wanted in earlier cases.
In the Kolkata case of Rizwanur Rehman, who was in a relationship with Priyanka Todi and wanted to marry her against her family’s wishes, Kumar had come out claiming that he had laid hands on a suicide note allegedly written by Rehman and presented it as clinching evidence that he had not been murdered but committed suicide.
He also presented Priyanka Todi’s statement in court without getting it recorded before a magistrate. Todi had moved to London and it was impossible to get a statement recorded. Moreover, handwriting experts and Kolkata police officials pointed out that the so-called suicide note could not have been written by Rehman. But Kumar managed to convince the court and delivered the result the Todi family would have wanted. It was alleged that the family had tried to bribe many Kolkata police officers at the time, and they would have been more than happy to pay more for a result in their favour.
Another case where Arun Kumar waved his magic wand and came up with a critical document was the gruesome Nithari killings; 17 cases were filed in the special CBI courts in Ghaziabad one after the other. The entry in the case diary of Noida police in which then circle officer Dinesh Yadav had recorded Moninder Singh Pandher’s confession that he had been involved in the rape and murders of young boys and girls turned out to be written on plain paper. The page where Yadav had written the original confession went missing. Instead, the entry on the plain paper said Pandher had named Koli as the killer and not made any confession.
Arun Kumar had come up with a theory that Pandher was not present in the house when any of the 17 murders took place and that Koli was the culprit. He also came up with the theory that Koli consumed flesh of these children, but never checked his background or history of such behaviour. His previous employers came out in his defence but their statements were never taken.
To Kumar’s bad luck, a key witness, Jatin Sarkar, whose daughter was one of the victims, managed to get a copy of the original entry in the case diary and hid it in his house. This copy matched the page number from the diary that was missing and also matched Dinesh Yadav’s handwriting. Sarkar and Nand Lal were two key witnesses since they were present when Pandher had made his confessional statement.
However, Nand Lal was beaten into changing his statement in court and say Pandher never confessed, which led to a conviction for perjury and a seven-year jail term. Sarkar, on the other hand, managed to get this copy to Khalid Khan, who was fighting for seven families, including that of Nand Lal as the prosecution lawyer demanding conviction for Pandher, too, while the CBI kept claiming that it was only the servant who was involved.
He was constantly roughed up by various men at his Nithari residence as were other witnesses and families fighting for Pandher’s conviction. Tired of the constant harassment, Sarkar left with his family, wife and the two-year-old son of his murdered daughter, and his own son, to his village in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district.
He died by drowning within a fortnight of that, while the family kept getting threatening calls to never return to Noida again by one “Vijay Shanker”. His wife Bandana Sarkar filed a case against CBI chief Vijay Shanker for threatening to kill her and for having a hand in her husband’s murder.
However, little has moved forward since and Bandana now earns her living in Noida. Usha Thakur and other activists have advised her never to leave the city since she too could be eliminated like her husband.
The copy of the original diary page that Sarkar had provided eventually nailed the CBI and Dinesh Yadav. Yadav, initially the IO and cooperating fully with Kumar, was found guilty of tampering with evidence and threatening witnesses and convicted under the Gangster Act. Arun Kumar had egg on his face and the CBI was embarrassed.
But this is also the reason for Kumar’s dislike of A. G. L. Kaul. He was aware that the case diary being presented in court was fake and so never submitted it as evidence in the cases that he was in charge of. This eventually proved costly since Kumar was in no position to argue that the document he presented was authentic and not the one presented by Khalid Khan, since one of his own subordinates did not present it as authentic evidence.
In Aarushi, Sen has tried to paint Kaul as a corrupt officer. The case against Amit Jogi, son of Congress leader Ajit Jogi, to which he refers alleging foul play by Kaul, proves he was an officer who could withstand pressure. If there was money to be made, it would have been made by letting Jogi off the hook, not the contrary.
That Kaul made sure he was convicted at a time when the Congress was in power at the Centre as well as in Chhattisgarh only shows that he stood his ground. Sadly, Sen has based most of his analysis on Arun Kumar’s views, which make it suspect as Kumar had every reason to pull Kaul down. He dismisses as rumour the grave allegations against Kumar without going into the facts.
One would expect that after the Nithari embarrassment Kumar would not receive a sensitive case for some time. But he was the boss’s man, someone who could deliver results for him.
Arun Kumar’s team had three suspects—Krishna, Rajkumar and
Vijay Mandal. Krishna worked as a compounder-cum-manager at Rajesh Talwar’s
clinic; Rajkumar was the domestic help of the Durranis; Vijay Mandal was the
domestic help of Puneesh Tandon, who lived in the same building and whose
terrace abutted the Talwars’.
Kumar’s first spectacular claim was that Krishna had confessed to the crime in one of the highly unreliable polygraph and narcoanalysis tests which led to the recovery of the khukhri with which he allegedly killed Aarushi and Hemraj. He claimed to have found blood spots but never proved that the blood was that of either Hemraj or Aarushi.
An inherent contradiction in Kumar’s argument, and also in the book, is that they paint 22-year-old Krishna as a deceptive and cunning killer while claiming that he was naïve enough to hide the murder weapon in his house for weeks after the murders. When Krishna came to Noida, he was barely 12 and had no use for the khukhri ever since. His sister Sunita told police later that he had never used one since he was too young when in Nepal and never needed to use one later on.
The other evidence Kumar claimed to possess was the statement by K. K. Gautam. When Gautam reached the Talwar residence, the crime scene had already been run over by relatives and friends. It is possible that the small details he mentioned in his first statement were a result of that. Since he had come through family friends to the residence, his view of the case was also biased and with Hemraj missing, he only said what any police officer would.
Beyond this, and a purple pillow cover which is inconsequential to the case, Kumar had no evidence against the servants. His only claims were that the servants had confessed and based on the evidence, not admissible in court in any case, he made the grand announcement that the real killers had been nabbed.
Perhaps Ashwini Kumar, Vijay Shanker’s successor, was right in taking Arun Kumar off the case since he had again managed only to embarrass the CBI. He was also a master at leaking selective tapes to the media to change public opinion or prove his point when he was under Shanker. Before the embarrassment of Nithari, he leaked videos of Pandher and Koli to produce the impression that the former was innocent.
In this case, too, specific portions of statements by Krishna during the tests conducted by S. L. Vaya were leaked to try to prove he was the killer. Sen has fallen for Kumar’s line of investigation and said Hemraj could have stolen liquor in the house even though his ex-employer says he never did so, but that they kept a check anyway. This character assassination of the deceased is as heinous as that of Aarushi and only hints at a conceptual collaboration with the investigators who assumed the guilt of the servants, including that of Hemraj.
Also, Kumar claimed that Rajkumar, a servant of the Durranis, was present when the murders took place and that he had been drinking with Krishna and Hemraj. Assuming that he used a bicycle to commute, the trip from the Durrani house in Sector-53 to the Talwar residence in Sector-25 would have taken close to 45 minutes.
Kumar tried to prove that after the Durranis—late sleepers according to their statements to police—went to sleep on the night between May 15 and 16, 2008, Rajkumar sneaked out, reached the Talwar residence, drank liquor with his friends, was involved in the murders and the hiding of Hemraj’s body, and was back at the Durrani residence early in the morning for the daily routine.
He then accompanied the Durranis to the Talwar residence and was serving guests and friends visiting early in the morning.
Sen resorts to character assassination in the Mandal case, too, saying he could not hold jobs because of anger problems, which his employer never mentioned. He says the reason was that he had a troubled upbringing. If this is true in even 50 per cent of cases, India would be the angriest country in the world and domestic servants would be bigger threats than the Pindaris of the 19th century.
Krishna was the easy target was because he lived in the same
sector and visited Hemraj sometimes. Kumar built up a motive for Krishna to
murder Aarushi, saying he had wanted to “sort out” Talwar because he had
scolded him a week before the murders. As pointed out in various media reports,
the Talwars were out till late in the night two or three days before the
murders, while Aarushi and Hemraj were home. If Krishna had wanted to kill
Aarushi, his best chance would have been then rather than a night when
The role of S. L. Vaya is suspect since she did not initially conduct narco tests on the parents, reportedly for medical reasons, but never asked the servants for permission before putting them through the tests. A person who conducts tests that are unreliable and eventually judged by the person based on his/her psychological analysis can hardly be termed a scientist, as Sen does.
It is also noteworthy that Krishna’s family did not face harassment when the Noida police interrogated him for 10 days but was forced to approach the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for relief when the CBI was investigating the case. He alleged that a confession was beaten out of him.
Without providing concrete explanations for her conclusions,
Vaya’s reports describe Krishna as “deceptive”, “manipulative”, and “loyal to
no one”. The main objection to her analysis is that she included only the
“relevant” parts in her reports. That leaves room for manipulation and the fact
that she provided “audio cues” and the “questionnaires” could well lead to
results desired by the prosecution. If these tests were administered when
Krishna was being “intensively interrogated” that makes results even more
Sen also overlooks the possibility that Vaya may sympathise with the parents because she herself could relate to Nupur Talwar, being around the same age. Her statements about the Talwars consistently show them in good light, again without really clarifying why this is so. She says initially that they “appeared innocent”. After the narco test conducted later on the insistence of A. G. L. Kaul, she says: “Considering the parents’ intellectual capacity, outlook and open-minded attitude, it will be easy for them to accept even the most unacceptable behavior of their daughter compared to losing her permanently”.
The statement sounds like that of a family friend or of a sympathiser. Unless it is properly substantiated such a statement would be hard to accept at face value. For that we would need more than the “relevant” portion of the reports.
Sen tries to paint Kaul as a dislikeable person based on what the parents say about him and their interactions with him. First, it seems unfair to pass judgment on a person without at least knowing them properly. Then, it is not far-fetched to believe the Talwars would dislike an investigator who was trying to prove them guilty of two murders.
He consistently sticks to what the parents feel and say about the other servants while excluding the driver Umesh, who stayed on the Talwars’ side and had nothing to do with the murders, consistently. While Kaul was right in digging into the recovery of the golf club which was the possible weapon used to bludgeon both victims, Sen defends some highly unreliable statements by the Talwars. He sees nothing wrong with the statement that the Talwars did not bother to look at their golf kit since they did not need it. When an investigator is trying to prove that a golf club was used to commit murders, wouldn’t the family look at their own kit even once? How the missing club surfaced mysteriously many years after the murders arouses our suspicions as the club could be from a different set.
Sen provides a highly casteist argument against investigator Dahiya, alleging that he built up the honour killing theory because he is a Jat from a region where such killings are common. He purposely drags Dahiya’s name along with that of Kaul to say that Dahiya was the brain behind the theory that has eventually led to the conviction of the parents for the murder of Aarushi and Hemraj.
Considering Dahiya’s role in the reconstruction of events in the Godhra case, he deserved to be on board the investigation team but Sen seems to target him without any substantial argument whatsoever. It is also important to know that Dahiya is a “crime scene expert” and not a scientist, which Sen does not seem to understand when talking of lack of “scientific basis” to his theories. His role is more crucial than that of S.L. Vaya as he was able to provide a much more plausible picture of events in the Talwar household when the murders were committed.
Sen tries to argue that his hypothesis will not hold under deeper scrutiny, which he is entitled to, but painting him as a biased investigator is only to say that he too “did not like the Talwars” for one of the many fancy reasons he has come up with in his book.
When he alleges that Dahiya “dreamt up” the crime scene, he misses the point that his role in the investigation is to consider the facts and try to reconstruct the scene. And towards that end Dahiya visited the Talwar house and tried to reconstruct the scene in as many ways possible, eventually arriving at the most relevant proposition.
Further scrutiny was a court matter and the court eventually considered it right.
en could have established if the servants were considered “depraved and degenerate” had he met their families and friends. It is known that relatives of Krishna and Mandal lost their jobs because they were related to them. Their reputations too were tarnished for life along with those of the servants. The asymmetry of sympathy towards Aarushi and Hemraj and other servants is stark. While there is no evidence to suggest that servants commit more murders than parents, Sen does not find it odd to appeal to the most baseless anxieties of urban parents who find it easy to assume that servants must have done it.
Sen’s book reflects the sad state of intellectual response to the newer realities in today’s urban space. The argument for decency in talking about victims in public is a necessary issue but with it comes the danger of a new censorship. The intellectuals, including Sen, emphasise a widespread belief—similar to some of the most backward outlooks prevalent in society—that the “honour” of the victim should be protected. And their idea of protecting it is by de-sexualising the victim. It is nobody’s business to comment on Aarushi or the Talwar couple’s sex life but arguing for all references to be removed is criminal, especially if it could lead to the larger goal of justice for Aarushi and Hemraj.
Lamenting the media investigations as well as those of police and the CBI to save the so-called honour of the victims and paint anyone digging into it as “sex-starved” is nothing short of vulgar collaboration with the alleged murderers. By this token the cruelties visited on children in the domestic space should not be probed for reasons of “honour”. While activists have done admirable work to raise awareness of child abuse, it comes in a dangerous package as society’s solution has been to focus on more parental control.
The bare facts can in no way be compared with the revealed facts of this case by people acting as judges while accusing media and the investigators of playing “many roles” to come up with theories. The focus has to be to move over the revealed facts and bring to the fore the newer realities, whether acceptable to the moralists or not.
It is by appealing to the anxieties of upper class parents about their children fraternising with the lower classes and the urban parent’s inclination to get out of extended family networks that activists appear to see as the way to fighting child abuse. Often this avoids getting to the root of the problem—the vulnerability of children, unaccountability of parenting, and autonomy of the domestic space. There is enough evidence to suggest that parents and relatives commit more heinous crimes against children than do domestic servants. The institution of parenting has to be looked at differently, opening it up to some level of scrutiny to ensure the physical as well as mental health of children in this country.
The Aarushi tragedy could have been approached through a critique of the very institution of parenting. Acknowledging child abuse is still not very common in our society, but when it is, what we get is an over-sexualised idea of child abuse. The only form of child abuse we seem to be heading towards recognising is the sexual one, essentially discarding murders, controls, forced toil and confinements as other forms of abuse.
Sen, while trying to prove that investigators focused on the sexual aspect of the case more than they should have, has ended up doing the same by providing a lame argument against the servants, exposing his own social biases as well as those of society at large. His book is another in a series of attempts at protecting the autonomy of the domestic space. Sadly, he ends up building a major part of Aarushi’s character through the two people who are now convicted of murder in the case.