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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 25, Dated June 28, 2008

Two Funerals And A Hundred Blunders

The killers could have been caught in a day but the tragic Aarushi-Hemraj saga has slipped into the realm of frenzied speculation. HARINDER BAWEJA and TUSHA MITTAL sift facts from fiction

MAY 16 Aarushi found dead.
Hemraj, missing, is suspect

MAY 17 Dr Talwar names Hemraj
in FIR. Hemraj is later found dead

MAY 18 Murder said to be done
with surgical tool. STF joins probe

MAY 19 Noida SP (City) Mahesh
Mishra transferred

MAY 20 Ex-help Vishnu Thapa is
suspect. Talwars interrogated

MAY 21 Post-mortem rules out
rape. New SP (City) Ashok
Tripathi seals Talwars’ garage.
Delhi Police team assists probe

MAY 22 Noida SSP Ganesh
claims murders “honour
killing”. Police grill Aarushi’s
friend, Anmol, with whom she talked on phone before murder

MAY 23 Dr Talwar arrested.
Meerut IG Gurdarshan Singh
claims Talwar killed both to
hide his extramarital affairs

MAY 26 Talwar’s partner,
dentist Anita Durrani denies
illicit relations with him

MAY 27 Talwar sent to 3-day
police custody. Talwar family
demands CBI probe

MAY 31 CBI takes over the case

JUNE 4 Talwar given lie-detector
test. Sent to 14 days’
judicial custody next day

JUNE 6 CBI searches Talwars’
house, sewer lines

JUNE 7 Talwar’s compounder,
Krishna, detained

JUNE 10 Krishna given liedetector
test. Talwar denied bail

JUNE 12 Krishna given narco test in Bangalore

JUNE 13 CBI arrests Krishna

THEORIES. LIE detectors on overdrive. Salacious rumours. Umpteen narco analysis tests. Arrests. News alerts

Photo: Vibha

and breaking news. Charges and counter-charges and the case just drags on and on. More than a month since the horrific killing of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade, the circus macabre continues.

Life could not have changed more dramatically — or tragically — for the dentist couple, Dr Rajesh and Nupur Talwar. Till the night of May 15, Rajesh, Nupur and Aarushi lived a reasonably happy life. The father sat in his daughter’s room, surfing the net and sending e-mails out. The mother was chatting with her daughter and lingered in the 14-year-old’s room for a few minutes after Rajesh retired at about midnight.

Pause for a moment. Disengage yourself from the soap opera being played out on TRPcrazed channels — one even ran a programme saying ‘Aarushi zinda hai… sab ke dilon mein’ — and sift the facts from the fiction.

It is an incontrovertible fact that Rajesh Talwar was working on the computer in his daughter’s room till a little before midnight on May 15. Yet, the Noida Police had no gumption in addressing a crowded press conference where they declared the father to be the killer and said that “Dr Rajesh had gone out around 9: 30pm on May 15 and when he came home at around 11-11:30, he found Aarushi and Hemraj in an objectionable, though not compromising, position. He killed her in a fit of rage even though he is as characterless as his daughter was.”

This statement came from an Inspector General of Police. Gurdarshan Singh, IG Meerut Zone, spoke with finality about Aarushi and Hemraj being in an objectionable position (sic), though there was no eye witness to the double murder. Worse, he contradicted the Noida Police’s case diary, which clearly records the fact that Dr Talwar logged on to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry website at 11.28pm and sent them an e-mail at 11.37pm. What, then, was Gurdarshan Singh talking about? He was not just talking; in fact, he was pronouncing a judgement on the character of the father and the daughter. Was he merely covering up for an inept probe conducted by his own colleagues? It is well known that the police had declared a reward for the missing Hemraj when his body had been lying on the terrace all along.

Sift through the facts once again. The Noida Police did not undertake a thorough forensic examination of Aarushi’s room — the site of the crime. One, finger prints were not taken. Two, they did not question the post-mortem report which does not even mention the time of death. The police proclaimed confidently that Rajesh first killed Aarushi and then took Hemraj to the terrace to kill him there. The circus macabre has not even ended on this score, for the CBI now says that it was Hemraj who was killed first.

But let’s return to the Noida Police. While detailing the sequence of events, Rajesh informed the Noida Police that on finding Hemraj missing in the morning, he called Hemraj’s mobile but no one answered. After that — at about 6.30 in the morning — the phone was switched off. Did the Noida Police try and track the phone? No. What CBI sources have now told TEHELKA is chilling. Aarushi and Hemraj’s mobile phones were presumed to have been taken by the killers and when the phone rang that morning at 6.20am, its location was Jal Vayu Vihar, the very colony the Talwars lived in and where the murders took place just hours before. This simply means that the killers had not fled but were right there, in the same area.

The Noida Police neither brought in sniffer dogs, who would have led them to the killers as they were in the vicinity, nor did they bother to even open the terrace door, for they would have found Hemraj’s body lying right there. Instead, they launched a tirade against the father and tore his reputation to shreds without an iota of evidence.

ASK THE Talwar family and their friends whom the Noida Police never approached and you will get a completely different picture. Of a father who doted on his daughter. Of a daughter who had a mother for a confidant. Start with the mother Nupur and she says, “I was her best friend and so was she mine. I encouraged her to talk about everything. Young teenagers go through a lot of things at this stage in life, physically and mentally. She knew she could share anything with me and her father.” Speak to Fiza, one of Aarushi’s closest friends who met her on her first day of school at DPS Noida, nine years ago. Since then, a volatile Fiza and a quiet, calm Aarushi had been the best of friends. “She was a complete introvert and always very forgiving. I would snap at her sometimes but she would tolerate me. I snap a lot, but she would always ignore me when I was in a bad mood because she knew I didn’t mean it. That’s why we were such good friends,” Fiza says. “But sometimes, she was so quiet that she wouldn’t stand up to the bullies. That would irritate me.”

Fiza, 14, describes Aarushi as someone with raw innocence and a streak of gullibility. “She would never catch our jokes, she was very innocent. At this age, our generation knows stuff, but even if she knew stuff, she wasn’t crude about it,” says Fiza. Aarushi wasn’t the prankster sort, she was the kind friends would play pranks

Photo: Vibha

on, recalls Fiza

But the soft-spoken 14-year-old who loved looking at herself in the mirror at every chance she got (even in kitchen windows, says Fiza), had her moments of spunk, especially when it came to dancing. The two had been taking jazz-ballet classes together at Ashley Lobo’s dance school, and often they could be seen breaking into a random spirited dance in the school corridors, or walking down the field with a song in their heads and a jazz move on their toes. Her future ambitions included studying at IIT as also becoming a doctor, and even dancing professionally with the Ashley Lobo troupe.

Fiza immediately rules out ludicrous theories of Aarushi having some sort of relationship with her domestic help Hemraj. “It is absolutely ridiculous. She was never alone at home, her parents always left her at her nani’s house, so there is no way she had any interaction with Hemraj alone. When I was at her house, Hemraj would come in the room to serve some food, but that’s it. I wouldn’t even notice if Hemraj was at home.”

If anything was on Aarushi’s mind, Fiza is certain she would have confided in her mother or one of her friends. In fact, she was so close to her mother that Nupur Talwar knew about the boys she liked. “She would always tell her mom everything, including about boys. She wouldn’t hide anything, and her mom trusted her and was very lenient with her. Her mom treated her like an adult; she was that mature. Once, we went out in a group and her boyfriend joined us and she told her mom. Another time, one of her boyfriends sent her a bouquet of flowers home, and when she told me I was like ‘oh my god, what did your mom say?’ but Aarushi said her mom was cool with it.”

More than being honest, Fiza says that Aarushi was also very quick to feel guilty. “She bunked PT (physical training) once and was caught. She felt so guilty later. She was very goody-goody and never wanted to get in trouble. We teased her for getting scared easily and being a ‘chicken’,” Fiza says. She recalls a particular incident when the two were staying over at friend Vidushi’s house (Vidushi is the daughter of Anita Durrani). “It was Vidushi’s birthday. At around 6pm in the evening, we wanted to sneak out to eat momos, just for the thrill of sneaking out. Aarushi was the only one who was initially hesitant and scared. But finally she agreed,” Fiza says.

Ask Fiza about theories that Aarushi had chanced upon an affair Rajesh Talwar was having with colleague Anita Durrani, and she says: “It’s just not possible. They were like a joint family. When her parents had gone to America last year, she was staying with the Durrani family. Anita aunty was like her second mom.”

Equally unbelievable for Fiza is the idea of her own parents being involved in the murder. “It is all nonsense. Her parents loved her so much they doted on her, they wanted the best for her. I could see how their lives revolved around Aarushi. After a certain age, we don’t have birthday parties, but Aarushi would have a party every

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

year. This year, she wanted to have a party at a place called Fluid that is pretty expensive, but her dad told her it’s okay,” Fiza says. She adds: “Her dad was like any other dad. She wanted a digital camera for her birthday, that was the only thing she didn’t have. Her dad told her he’d get her an 8.1mega pixel camera; she said she’s okay with just 5mega pixels. On the night it (the murder) happened, her dad had surprised her with the 8.1mega pixel camera.”

Fiza’s mother Masooma Jha has also been a close friend of the family. She says, “All these theories have left me in complete shock and disbelief. I have been with them, I have seen how distraught they have been and what a tragedy it has been for then. I think Rajesh has been more distraught, Nupur still has a poise in her. Aarushi was the center of their life. ‘What are we going to live for?’ that’s what they told me. And we tried to give them some strength and urge them to live with their child’s memory. It’s a completely perverse mind that has created these theories of honour killing, or affairs within the family, or wife swapping. The theory of honour killing is bullshit. I don’t think Rajesh or Nupur even knew what honour killing is.”

Friends and relatives of the Talwars are being forced to defend Rajesh even though there is little to link him with the murder of his own daughter. Highly placed CBI sources told TEHELKA that Rajesh neither killed his daughter nor did he have any inkling of any conspiracy. Stories of incriminating MMS clips, of the Talwars being a part of a sordid club, have been swirling through Delhi’s drawing rooms where everyone has turned detective. But again, this may turn out to be just another theory. Though the CBI believes that the parents were not in any way connected to the mystifying murders, the same sources also say that they can’t move an application asking for Rajesh’s release from jail until they have the actual murderer.

dilly dally
We will solve the case in 24 hours

Hemraj told Aarushi about her father’s
affairs... The way Aarushi’s throat was
cut points to the work of a professional
such as a doctor or a butcher

Krishna confessed that Hemraj asked
him for a khukri, which he gave him on
May 14. He visited Hemraj at Talwar’s
residence around midnight on May 15

Talwar was having an extramarital affair
which Aarushi knew about. Aarushi
discussed this with Hemraj... Talwar
resented the closeness between Aarushi and Hemraj... Talwar had gone out at around 9.30pm on May 15 and when he came home at around 11.30pm he found Aarushi and Hemraj in an objectionable, though not compromising, position... Talwar was enraged and took Hemraj to the terrace and hit him on the head with a heavy weapon and then slit his throat. He then came down to kill Aarushi after having whiskey, locked the
terrace and slit his daughter's throat

Every time the CBI team visited the
crime scene, some new evidence was
coming up. Some time it is [a] liquor
bottle, some time a blood soaked
pillow and some time other evidence.
The fact is that the crime scene was
not inspected properly

I have strong reservations about
Aarushi's character assassination. The
police need to be sensitised
MAY 27

SO THE FATHER continues to spend days in a place where even the veneer is forbidding. A looming black gate is the entrance to the infamous Dasna jail; infamous because its name invariably finds mention in most human rights reports for custodial killings, death by torture and over-crowding. It houses over 2200 prisoners as against a capacity of 720.

Here, he waits for June 26, when his bail application comes up for hearing once again. But would the CBI have cracked the case by then? Will they, indeed, give him a clean chit or will they oppose the application? Says Rajesh’s sister- in-law Vandana Talwar, “Rajesh and Nupur’s life revolved around Aarushi, her tuitions, excursions, etc. She was what gave meaning to their life. Today, the purpose of their life is no more. For Rajesh languishing in jail, the only thoughts are, ‘Why did God do this to us? We were so happy together. Why did God take Aarushi away?’ He spends his time alternating between missing her, thinking about her and praying.”

Nupur Talwar told TEHELKA that when she goes to meet Rajesh, he clutches her fingers through the mesh and asks, “I have never harmed anyone in my life. Why is God taking this test of us?” She says she’s disgusted with the police and the media. “If there was anything I could change, I would not want to stay in this city or country after the way we’ve been treated.”

Outside, the theories continue to take centrestage. The circus continues, the pendulum swinging wildly. It has already shifted thrice in the space of a month. From Hemraj to Rajesh to Krishna, the Talwar compounder the Noida Police detained and let off. But he’s back in the eye of suspicion and even though the CBI says he has confessed to his involvement, his lawyer FC Sharma insists Krishna is only being made a scapegoat.

The double murder has so captured the middle-class imagination and so glued have they been to their television sets that the media has jumped in to muddy the waters and add to the slew of lies. According to one channel, the Talwars were well connected and hosted highprofile parties attended by well-known media editors. Another took a camera crew into a Jal Vayu Vihar flat and reenacted the murders. In the same flat, its reporter also played the judge with Rajesh Talwar in the dock. Yet another — this one owned by Manu Sharma’s father Venod Sharma — ran an MMS of a girl it claimed was Aarushi while its rival actually reconstructed how the throats of Aarushi and Hemraj would have been sliced.

APPEALS FOR restraint by the family to the media simply went unheeded. When one channel reported that the arrest of Nupur Talwar was imminent, the CBI was forced to douse the fire. By then, Nupur’s “behaviour” had been dissected to sickening details: why was she not visibly shaken, why did she appear like she was not grieving, why did she tell one of her friends that the blow inflicted on Aarushi’s head would have had the effect of general anaesthesia, and why did she throw the keys of the house to the maid from the balcony rather than open the door for her? Santosh Desai, media critic and MD and CEO of Futurebrands, says, “What is particularly striking and disturbing is that the media has amplified rather than filtered the information. It has ended up being an accomplice in the miscarriage of justice.”

He is right. Television channels have not hesitated to use epitaphs like “The killer’s wife” when referring to Nupur Talwar. Mainstream 24-hour news channels have posted queries on discussion forums asking, “Noida murders: was the motive strong enough for a father to kill his daughter?” Evidence was never demanded. Rumours were encouraged, not scotched or verified.

Each time a theory was set to rest, another surfaced. Ask Vandana Talwar about the media and she says, “All these stories about the family are totally concocted by the police, and the media has added mirch masala. There is no evidence or basis for any of these theories.”

In the absence of any clear word from the CBI on either the murderer or the motive, the theories continue to multiply. According to one — and this is from the Delhi Police, whom the Noida Police called in for assistance — Hemraj’s number was under the scanner because he had been receiving calls from Maoists in Nepal. That the surveillance began when he received calls from Raxaul. That Hemraj, who had worked in Mauritius for three years and driven an auto rickshaw in Delhi, was merely working with the Talwars to cool off for a bit. The CBI has added to the confusion by saying that Hemraj had asked Krishna for a khukri the night before the murder. The victim has once again become the suspect.

So, in the speculation that continues at a frenzied pace, the CBI is still interrogating Krishna, questioning Nupur and grilling the Durranis. This has only added grist to the mills. And judgements continue to be delivered. The Talwars continue to be under suspicion because the media and the middle class — in the absence of facts — repeatedly proclaim that Aarushi’s parents definitely appear like they have something to hide.

Sources close to the family reveal that the distraught parents admit to having made two mistakes. As the father of a 14-year-old daughter, Rajesh is apparently ruing the day he decided to keep a male servant, especially since Hemraj’s room opened into the living room, which in turn led to the two bedrooms — one occupied by the doctor couple and the other by Aarushi. The second mistake the Talwars have conceded to is that while they usually locked Aarushi’s room at night and kept the key in their room, the key was left hanging on Aarushi’s door that fatal night.

Look at the facts once again. The Talwars woke up to a whiskey bottle lying on the dining table. Three glasses were also found in Hemraj’s room. Clearly, two or three people gained entry into the Talwar residence that night. So, did Aarushi walk out of her room and into the living room and see something that the other three did not want her to see? Was she killed inadvertently or was it a plotted murder? According to the post-mortem report, Hemraj had not consumed any liquor. Was he killed because he tried to defend Aarushi when she was being assaulted by the two or three other people who came in that night?

More than a month into the crime, basic questions remain unanswered. Was the murder weapon a scalpel or a khukri? Which of the two was killed first? Why were they killed in the first place? And who killed them?

Too many reputations have been scarred, too many people hurt. Will the media-led middle class rest if the CBI points the finger at the compounder and the other domestic helps it is interrogating? Will it help rehabilitate Rajesh Talwar, who has already been declared a killer? It’s time for the circus macabre to end. •

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 25, Dated June 28, 2008

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