Aarushi murder case: A tragedy of ‘words’

It has been seven years since Aarushi died. While wishing her peace one hopes the tragedy resulting such an act as murder doesn’t get compounded by words, for anyone else

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | May 16, 2015



Oscar Wilde once said on ingredients of a tragedy that “actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second”.

In the Aarushi Talwar murder case, the killing of the 14-year-old was followed by ‘words’ that outdid the act (murder) in their brutality. Numerous conspiracy theories were expounded – they helped little in solving the case but surely led to the complete character assassination of the victim and her family.

Aarushi was killed on the night of May 15–16 2008, along with her house help Hemraj. The killing and the subsequent investigation led to a lot of speculation behind the killings. It was a perfect example of trial by media; only here the victim was tried, as one after another salacious allegations were made against Aarushi and her family.

It has been seven years that I have followed the case. I felt that while the tragedy of the case was overshadowed by the mystery surrounding it, an unreasonable quest of media to sensationalise it left every other aspect of the crime far behind.

There were allegations of Aarushi’s parents being involved in a wife-swapping racket and the 14-year-old witnessing some such goings on and was killed to hide that. Another theory revolved around honour killing.

The case witnessed many twists and turns and finally in November 2013, the parents of Aarushi, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, by the special CBI court. The case from the very beginning was shrouded in mystery, which makes for anyone to decide upon the innocence or culpability of the parents a difficult task.

However, that the killing of the innocent girl was followed by a bigger tragedy, of irresponsible coverage by media which compelled the apex court to issue strictures restraining media against publishing malicious content, cannot be contested.

In 2008, when the killing took place, as an aspiring journalist, I was still enamored by the ‘breaking news’ and ‘exclusive story’ phenomena. But as the case unfolded and in pursuit of getting something new about the case, some elements of media published news that could have embarrassed the most loyal followers of yellow journalism; the charm of ‘exclusive and breaking’ started fading away.

In his book, ‘India: A Portrait’, Patrick French has written a chapter on the Aarushi case. He quotes Talwar saying, “I had lost my beloved child, so why were they doing this to me?” “The cops thought we were an ‘immoral’ family because Aarushi made 300 calls a month to her friends and went on Orkut and Facebook. These people are backward. They are not fit to do their jobs. They said I did an honour killing because she was having an inter-caste relationship with the servant. My wife and I had an inter-community marriage, so how on earth would I think of doing what they call an honour killing? I told them Aarushi was reading two books, Shantaram and Chetan Bhagat’s ‘3 Mistakes of My Life’. So the police say, “Hah, you’re saying she was reading this book because she has made three mistakes in her life? What are the three mistakes?” wrote French.

This was the irony of the case. Everyone from media to investigative agencies was jumping the gun and readily assassinating the character of a dead girl. From detailed scrutiny of the biological attributes of Aarushi to judging her choice to have ‘pajama’ party, everything became a point of reference to solving the case.

He further writes, “Each day,” said Nupur, “you wake up and you think, oh no, I’ve got another day to go through. We never did anything wrong. No police and media have admitted they were mistaken. If I go somewhere, everyone will stare at me. You can see people recognising us, and spreading the word”.

Creating this entire atmosphere where the burden of their young daughter’s death was coupled with a questioning and contemptuous stare by the society was the biggest tragedy created by us. It has been seven years since Aarushi died. While we can only wish her peace, we can also hope the tragedy of such act is not coupled with that of words for anyone else. And for this a little restraint will be required.

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