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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 23, Dated June 14, 2008
CURRENT AFFAIRS  
noida double murder

Slander And Lies

The CBI has taken over the Aarushi murder case but the question remains — was transferring the erring Noida cops enough or should they be sued? NISHA SUSAN reports

ANATION OBSESSED with the Aarushi Talwar murder, continues to play armchair detective. The CBI has taken over from the Noida Police which has botched each step of the investigation of a 13-year-old girl killed in her own bed. After reporting most scurrilous theories floated by the police about the victim and her parents, the media now fervently reports Union Minister of Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury’s desire to sue the police for defamation. “I find it despicable that they can speak like that about a child,” she said. But everyone, even those on the periphery, has had their lives rearranged, first by the murders, then by the investigations.

On May 16, at around 8 am, Masooma Jha, received a phone call from her daughter Fiza, a Class IX student in Delhi Public School, Noida. Fiza wailed asking her to come and take her away. On the way, Masooma received a call from another parent informing her that Fiza’s best friend and classmate Aarushi Talwar had been murdered. Masooma drove to the school where she found Fiza’s classmates in tears. News of Aarushi’s death had come to the school probably through the absence of Vidushi Durrani, who was to perform in a school event that day.

The Talwars and Durranis, each a dentistorthodontist couple, shared clinics. Each had a thirteen-year-old daughter and depended on the other to manage the challenges of their professional and family lives. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar had called the Durranis as automatically as they called their family to help them deal with their daughter’s death. They never imagined that these close ties were to be reinterpreted as wife-swapping. “The police don’t understand nuclear families seek help where they can find it. They don’t understand that every relationship is not sexual,” says Masooma Jha.

May 16 was the last day of school and a Saturday. Rajesh and Nupur had had an ordinary, arduous Friday. At 6 am, Nupur, later told the media, she woke up to the doorbell. Normally, the live-in manservant, Hemraj, opened the door to the maid. Nupur says she found that she was locked in and threw down the keys from the balcony. Hemraj’s room which was close to the entrance was empty. As they tried Hemraj’s phone, the couple noticed a bottle of whiskey and three glasses in the drawing room. Their first thought was to check on Aarushi.

Aarushi’s door was ajar and she lay in a pool of blood with her throat slit. The shoddy investigation that began then ended in the transfer of five high-ranking UP police officials. Later when the blame was to be shifted to Rajesh, the family wished they had had a better understanding of what was done that day.

The police did not use sniffer dogs. They did not photograph or video the evidence. It is not clear when and where they tested for fingerprints. They ignored the fact that Hemraj who was supposedly on the run had left his passport and belongings behind. There was no sign of the murder weapon. Aarushi’s cellphone was missing. Mourners, press and police trooped in and out of the flat. Someone pointed out a few drops of blood at the top of the stairs that led to the terrace. The terrace door was locked; its key missing. Dr Vandana Talwar, Rajesh’s sister-inlaw, says the police made a half-hearted attempt to open it but gave up saying it looked as if it had not been opened in a long time. Rajesh’s FIR under Section 302 was registered on May 16.

The next morning, lurid illustrations of a crazed Hemraj murdering Aarushi appeared in a tabloid. But the ravenous interest in the murder was to begin a day later. At that point, Hemraj, a 45-year-old Nepali, who had been with the Talwars for eight months was the obvious suspect. SSP (Noida City) Mahesh Mishra had been reported as saying that they had clues to where Hemraj was and hoped to nab him soon. A team had even been sent to Nepal. The grieving family organised Aarushi’s funeral.

The Talwars set out to Hardwar to immerse Aarushi’s ashes. They were on their way when a friend of the family brought home KK Gautam, a retired senior policeman who lived in the vicinity. Vandana Talwar says that when those of the family who had stayed behind told Gautam about the locked terrace door, he insisted that it be broken open. It was then that the corpse was found on the terrace. Vandana Talwar says the body had begun to decompose. “I was not sure whether this was Hemraj. We called Rajesh and Nupur and asked them to come back.” The Talwars returned to their house and identified the corpse as that of Hemraj, the man who had been presumed to be the killer. The body was found trailing blood as if it had been dragged several metres. A bloody handprint was visible on an adjacent wall. Her parents were shaken afresh but decided to drive to Hardwar again.

Aarushi’s murder was no longer an openand- shut case. The UP government transferred SSP Mahesh Mishra and sent the Sector 20 SHO Datta Ram Nauneria to the lines. UP’s Special Task Force took over but there was no attempt to investigate the new crime scene. The bloody handprint lay exposed to the unseasonal rains.

With the transfers, the pressure built to find a new suspect. The Talwars, their staff were all interrogated on May 18. The post-mortem report ruled out rape and suggested that both Aarushi and Hemraj had probably been killed by the same person and in a similar fashion. The Talwars’ lawyer, Pinaki Mishra, says, “Those who found Hemraj’s body say that he had hair in his mouth, possibly from struggling with his killer. The police did not check that either or attempt to match the handprint with any suspect.”

No weapon had been found and neither were Aarushi or Hemraj’s missing cellphones. On May 19, the first murmurs against the parents began. A major trigger was the postmortem report that said that Aarushi had died around noon on May 15. But she had been to school that day. The abundance of witnesses did not matter in a ground seeded for rumour. The insinuations about the Talwars came thick and fast. How could any parent have slept through two murders? Had they been drugged? Nupur says that she and Rajesh slept in a room with a noisy air-conditioner. But this went from being an insinuation of neglect to one of murder.

Why did they lock their daughter in everyday? Aarushi’s door is the kind that locks when shut. She could open the door if she wanted but no one could enter it without the key. The Talwars generally kept these keys next to their pillow. To Delhi’s middle and upper-middle class, near-paranoid about violence from the domestic help, this is not odd. It is an arrangement that ensures the live-in help cannot access a young daughter’s room. Masooma Jha, for instance, says that each bedroom in her home has similar locks. When Aarushi was discovered though, her family says, the door was ajar. The key was not where it was usually and found much later on top of a painting. However the question of the key was reported as an indication that Aarushi’s father controlled her movements.

The media reported the police theory that the murders had taken place with ‘clinical precision’ and were either done by a doctor or a butcher. The new SSP, Sathish Ganesh, announced, “When there are four family members in a small flat and two dead, it suggests an honour killing.” The police’s reputation for lawlessness revealed itself on May 22. They picked up a 15-year-old schoolmate of Aarushi’s. The police said that she had spoken to him 688 times in the 45 days before she was murdered. So he was taken alone to a police station without his parents and interrogated till late. His name was leaked to the press. The stage was set.

On May 23, Rajesh Talwar was arrested. The police argued that he had killed Aarushi for knowing that he was having an extramarital affair and for herself being involved with Hemraj. In a now infamous press-conference IG (Meerut Range) Gurdarshan Singh told the world that Rajesh Talwar had come home at 11 pm and found Aarushi in the mysterious ‘objectionable but not compromising’ position. He took Hemraj to the terrace and killed him, came downstairs, drank whisky and killed his daughter. The police said they had proof that Rajesh was having an affair with Anita Durrani. Though the media said this had emerged from their interrogation, the first time an investigating agency spoke to the Durranis was on June 2 after the CBI took over the case. Mishra says, “You could see from Singh’s statements, from the fictitious case diary, that the whole lot have been bred on manohar kahaniyan, seeing sex everywhere.”

Singh was unconvincing as he tossed about in a sea of unrelated facts, especially because he kept referring to Aarushi as Shruti. The alleged weapons — a hammer and a scalpel — had not been recovered but Singh said, “Recovery of murder weapon is a very small thing.” Even the sections of the media that expressed scepticism over the police allegations picked up the juicier bits. One newspaper ran a comic strip showing Aarushi and Hemraj kissing. A television channel ran video footage morphed to look like Aarushi taking her clothes off.

Here the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Renuka Chowdhury both weighed in, criticising IG Singh’s statements. Singh modified his theory the next day. He said that Rajesh Talwar saw Hemraj comforting Aarushi as she despaired over her father’s affair with Anita Durrani. Over the next few days, the police insisted they had a confession from Rajesh Talwar which the family denied and he himself denied. On May 28 when the court remanded Talwar to three-day police custody, it also stipulated that he be interrogated only in the presence of a lawyer.

AS THE family agitated for a CBI enquiry, the Noida Police continued to leak selective salacious information. On May 30, the press was flooded with e-mail transcripts from Aarushi’s computer. Renuka Chowdhury says, “Police officers had no business giving character certificates.” But the police showed that they are able to build improbable “social profiles” even from SMSes, barely decipherable to most adults.

Aarushi’s exchanges with three boys and a year-old exchange with her parents were willfuly misinterpreted to establish that she was a promiscuous teenager, whom, the police now alleged, Rajesh had killed in a fit of rage. Masooma Jha said that her daughter Fiza and other friends of Aarushi swung continuously between anger and fear. The police was slowly attempting to replace the real Aarushi with a cipher of their own. The real Aarushi, Jha says, was a calm, disciplined, young person. “She was always one of the top five ranks. She was normal and into friends, music, malls. She was interested in boys. And it was not as if her parents were blinkered to this reality.”

Unbothered by such complex thought, the Noida Police used June 1, the last day of their custody, to drag the asthmatic Rajesh to Hardwar to establish why he had told the priest that Aarushi’s time of death was after midnight. Late that evening the Noida Police finally gave up on evidence. The next day, the CBI took over the case. UP Chief Minister Mayawati transferred IG Singh, DIG PC Meena and SSP Ganesh. But Chowdhury says that mere transfers are not punishment enough for the gross disrespect shown to Aarushi. The UP Police may well need to be sued but meanwhile the murder is unsolved. “The trail is now stone-cold. The only way they can find the killer now is if by some twist of luck someone confesses or someone squeals,” says Pinaki Mishra. •

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 23, Dated June 14, 2008

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