THEY DID say they wanted “Justice for Aarushi!” On Sunday evening, 30 January 2011, the biggest assembly yet of citizens gathered near Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to protest the CBI’s failure to solve the Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade murder case. Most were school and college kids who’d heard about the meet through Facebook and SMS. They lit candles, they marched, they signed statements. There were also placards and shouts of “We Want Justice!” “We Want Touch DNA!” A heedless CBI has refused to deploy Touch DNA technology in the case, believed by many to be a fool-proof way to finally crack who did it. In between breathless chants, a small group of college girls whispered to each other, “I’m sure the father did it. Or at least he had something to do with it.”
What they didn’t know is that it’s the same father, Dr Rajesh Talwar, who’s been agitating the CBI for the last year-and-a-half to use Touch DNA testing.
Five days before the Sunday meet, Aarushi’s parents filed a petition protesting the CBI’s attempt to close the case even as it still claimed that Rajesh Talwar remained the only suspect. They’d like the investigation to continue and the culprits punished. In the Ghaziabad court, the CBI asked for some time to examine the petition and the court took a break. Rajesh headed out of the building to the notary. Nupur was still upstairs at the court with some of the lawyers when they heard an uproar downstairs. Someone told Nupur not to look down since commotions are a regular affair at the court. Rajesh had just stepped out when he was attacked by a 29-year-old man with a meat cleaver. Utsav Sharma slashed Rajesh’s right temple and then took long heavy swipes from his right ear down his cheek with the blade, slicing a critical artery. Rajesh instinctively put up his hands and Utsav hacked at both his hands as well till one finger was dangling by the skin. All this happened in moments before Utsav was overpowered and handed over to the police. Nobody from the recording television crews offered help. By then Rajesh had begun bleeding profusely from his mutilated arteries and muscles. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where the doctors were nonplussed beyond applying some bandages, so he was then rushed to Delhi’s Apollo hospital. In the ambulance, his BP sinking fast and struggling to speak through his bleeding face, Rajesh told his brother Dinesh, “I don’t want to take this further. I’m done. If I go, take care of Nupur.”
THE AARUSHI case has been battering our rawest nerve endings for almost three years now. First it riveted the nation with successive sensational discoveries: Teenager killed, servant suspected! No, servant also killed, father suspected! Honour killing! Class rage! Sexual perversion! UP police useless! CBI team brilliant! CBI team useless! CBI’s second team replaces the first team! Then, as the case spluttered on and on, we stopped paying attention. We took more and more of what the CBI announced and the media pronounced on face value. So that by now, everyone has an opinion. Everyone is convinced. Everyone ‘knows’ things. Everyone has ‘heard’. After all, if the chatterers have chattered on for so long, some of it must be true?
So what have we been told by our media about Aarushi and her parents? Incest, underage sex, extra-marital affairs with family friends, hotel rooms for swinger parties, wife-swapping, influence-mongering. A newspaper presented a comic strip with Aarushi and Hemraj kissing. A television channel showed footage morphed to look like the 14-year-old taking her clothes off. One reenacted the murders in a flat in the Talwars’ colony. Not to be outdone, another reconstructed how the victims’ throats might have been sliced. Yet another beamed an MMS of a girl claimed to be Aarushi. One channel even said that the Talwars were so well-connected they often hosted high-profile soirees with famous media editors!
The State often finds the media to be a natural ally when it wants to wage a proxy war from the shadows. Two weeks after the murders, the press was inundated by leaks of email transcripts from Aarushi’s computer. Her exchanges with three boys and a year-old exchange with her parents were salaciously, and deliberately, presented to project her as a promiscuous teenager.
The grieving, bewildered middle-class doctor couple proved inept at handling the conspiracy theories and titillating fabrications produced by the media. Many in the public began wondering how the parents could have possibly slept through such a night of mayhem. The press kept suggesting from newly ‘leaked’, ‘exclusive’ gossip, such as how the Talwars were in a wife-swapping party on the night of the murder, how Rajesh was actually in an incestuous relationship with his daughter, how Aarushi was not the Talwars’ biological daughter, how the Talwars were suspected of buying out the police, the CBI, the postmortem doctor, the judges. No evidence emerged for these claims. Partial pieces of information were constructed into innuendos, such as how the parents kept Aarushi under lock and key in her room. After years of hectic rumours, many became certain that with so much smoke, there must be fire. Everyone became convinced Rajesh and Nupur must be shady people, even if nobody was quite sure exactly what they’d done.
Lean closer and the rumours begin to vapourise. The media has parroted and invented and insinuated and alleged, but relied more on an original imagination and information ‘leaks’ rather than on proof. The State’s soft war on the Talwars has succeeded, and the media, in this case at least, has worked its charm of mass hypnosis and mass hysteria very well.
Just last month, in a display of the conspiratorial hysteria that has by now settled into the public mind, Shobhaa De ranted on her blog: “The conduct displayed by Mr and Mrs Talwar appears a bit too calculated, even cold blooded to viewers… For a mother of a dead girl to project such steely determination during what must have been the most harrowing time of her life, seems a bit unnatural… Their faces are stony, their eyes, strangely devoid of any emotion… Did [Aarushi] stumble across a dark and dirty family secret? Had she become an ‘inconvenience’ to her own parents?… The crime has been committed by skilled, educated, clever people — that much is obvious… Even if the culprit is eventually found, and the Talwars get off the hook, the country will continue to be stupefied by their stellar performances on television night after night. No tears, no sorrow. Just icy arguments proclaiming their own innocence.”
Not only do you lose your daughter, you stumble upon her bloodied and cut open body in your home. Not only do the police not chase leads, they theorise idly about your daughter having sex, about you having extramarital affairs, about you murdering your daughter. Not only are you not left in peace to grieve, you get pre-emptively thrown into a hell-hole prison without any evidence brought to bear against you. Not only does the country’s premier investigative agency still not chase the leads the police missed, it backtracks on the few leads some of its officers do come up with. Not only does the court not let you examine the bumbling CBI’s defamatory investigation, a vigilante attacker slashes your face and hands with a meat cleaver and leaves you at the door of death. Not only does the court not challenge the CBI’s contradictory closure report, it asks the CBI to file a chargesheet against you for murder. And the media rolls in glee and TRPs. It’s as if someone designed the perfect and most cruel punishment for a parent in modern India. A punishment that continues till date, almost three years later.
TEHELKA’s cover story of 28 June 2008 (Two Funerals and a Hundred Blunders) raised some critical questions in the case that remain pending today. In his infamous press conference where he first proposed the canard of Aarushi’s father Rajesh-asphilanderer- and-murderer, “was [Gurdarshan Singh, IGMeerut Zone] merely covering up for an inept probe conducted by his own colleagues?” “Will the media-led middle class rest if the CBI points the finger at the compounder and the other domestic helps it is interrogating?” And “will the CBI help rehabilitate Rajesh Talwar, who has already been declared a killer?”
Since then, it has turned into a problem of perception. And with the crime itself still shrouded in mysteries, the struggle for public opinion has taken centre stage. Whose word will we believe? The Uttar Pradesh cops? The CBI’s first team? The CBI’s second team? The media? Or the Talwars?
On 29 December 2010, the CBI finally threw in the towel and filed a closure report for the case, stating that it strongly suspects Rajesh Talwar committed the murders but doesn’t have sufficient evidence to chargesheet him. Some media outlets promptly exaggerated some of the statements in the closure report and pronounced further sexual innuendos about Aarushi. The Talwars have responded by filing a protest petition to counter the insinuations in the closure report and to plead for the investigation to continue.
The CBI has a host of flimsy reasons to suspect the Talwars. That the Talwars slept through the double murders. That the Talwars ‘dressed up’ the crime scene after committing the murders. That they diverted the police on a false lead of chasing Hemraj for Aarushi’s murder. That Rajesh refused to provide keys for the terrace where Hemraj was found and then refused to identify his body. That the family tried to influence the postmortem report. That they withheld the suspicious golf club from the CBI. Most of these claims seem to emerge from thin air, as we will see later on.
Today, the south Delhi home the Talwars moved to in 2009 is covered with large photographs of Aarushi. As Rajesh Talwar recovers slowly from the attack and the subsequent surgeries, the couple are at their most exhausted and yet still don’t accuse the servants outright since they don’t finally know what happened that night. Rajesh deduces that someone came into their home that night, which means Hemraj must have let someone in after they went to sleep. But before the Talwars can even get to establishing who killed their daughter, they must somehow fight the invisible enemy, the cloud of guilt cast by the CBI as its parting shot.
The closure report is a peculiarly assertive document, a bureaucrat’s vision of the world outside the window. It’s filled with odd certainties about human behaviour: An intruder who’d just committed two murders wouldn’t have the gumption to have a drink in the same house, knowing the inhabitants were sleeping in the next room. Neighbourhood servants “wouldn’t have the guts” to assemble in the house when the owners were asleep. An intruder wouldn’t put a white sheet over Aarushi’s dead body. An intruder into a house wouldn’t bother to dress the scene of his crime. A “normal” criminal wouldn’t feel the need to delete the data on Aarushi’s phone before dumping it. A man who found his daughter in a ‘compromising’ position with his servant would kill them both.
It’s one thing that the CBI closure report isn’t able to present a sequence and motive for the crime. But the problem is that the evidence it does present is contradictory and sometimes incredible, given the first CBI team’s investigations.
Largely, the CBI seems to rely on short public memory and the hope that the public will read what it chooses into its mysterious Morse code. If you are inclined to suspect the Talwars you’d spot a pair of sentences such as these early on in the report: “The scene of crime was inspected by an expert from FSL Gandhinagar. He gave a detailed report in which he pointed out that the crime had been committed by someone very close to Aarushi.” The reasons for this conclusion are never explained. Dr GV Rao, (who has been a forensic DNA expert for prosecution and defence in 250 cases, including the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, the Naina Sahni case and the Priyadarshini Mattoo case and has developed forensics courses for the National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Sciences), whom the Talwars consulted to look over the closure report, can be excused his light sarcasm when he says, “This statement is very conceptual. There needs to be more accuracy.”
The report elides some of the CBI’s own investigations which cleared the Talwars of suspicion. For instance, let us ask one question that has troubled everyone since the murders. How did the Talwars sleeping in the same flat not hear anything when their daughter was murdered?
A sound expert team on the CBI’s invitation visited the Talwar house in June 2008 and conducted a sound reconstruction of the night of the murder — at midnight with the air conditioners on in both the parents’ and Aarushi’s bedrooms. The team concluded that sound from Aarushi’s room couldn’t be heard in her parents’ room. So the parents are believable when they say they slept through the night of the murders. Today, though, the closure report states that a part of the common wall of Aarushi’s and her parents’ adjacent rooms is made of plywood partition (implying that sound would have travelled easily between the rooms). The Talwars reply that this is patently false since the rooms are separated by a brick wall that has a plywood lamination over it.
Let’s go on. Narco tests are widely disputed. One of the clinching leads for the CBI’s first team under Arun Kumar seems to have come from the narco tests on the servants. The narco tests seem to have clearly shown the servants’ guilt, but in its closure report the CBI’s second team contradicts the first team and states that such testing is “not reliable”. Then why did the same second CBI team push for and conduct narco tests on the Talwars in January 2010, a year and a half after the servants’ tests? In all, both Rajesh and Nupur have undergone nine tests each since the night of the murders:
2008 — Psychoanalysis and polygraph
2009 — Psychological, polygraph and brain mapping (the Talwars had been sent for narco analysis too but the doctors concluded narco was not required since they’d cleared the previous three tests)
2010 — Psychological, polygraph, brain mapping, narco analysis
None of these tests have been able to manufacture as much guilt as the skillful writing of the closure report has.
Another crucial elision in the report is its non-mention of how the CBI’s forensic team inspected the entire premises of the Talwars’ apartment on 1 June, 2008 and deployed UV Light Testing to pick up any bloodstains — they apparently didn’t pick up any stains to indicate that Hemraj was killed anywhere except the terrace. The forensic team also marked the bloodstains on the staircase that were made when Hemraj’s body was brought down by the police upon discovery. Today, though, the closure report says Hemraj’s body was dragged on the terrace in a sheet which left bloodstains on the staircase.
Some more basic things also don’t add up in the CBI’s bigger picture. Why would the Talwars push the CBI to keep investigating the case if they were guilty? Why would they leave the biggest trump of a clue in plain sight on their dining table — the Ballantine’s whiskey bottle with acres of fingerprints and both victims’ blood marks — if they had ‘dressed up’ the scene after committing the crime? Why won’t the CBI conduct touch DNA testing on the bottle and other evidence and simply put all the speculation to rest? Again, why would the Talwars agitate for such testing if they had something to hide?
The closure report is the first comprehensive peek into the second CBI team’s thinking on the case. And in their recent protest petition the Talwars have, for the first time, put on record their own version of how events unfolded in those crazed few days of May 2008. So now we can sift through both their and the CBI’s versions of the story and try to arrive at a more fluent narrative. This is the dizzying story of the Noida double murders.
AARUSHI WAS AWAKE WHEN HER MOTHER ENTERED THE ROOM
May 15th, 2008 was a bright, booming summer day. Nupur Talwar worked at her Delhi clinic from 9 am to 1 pm, picked up Aarushi from school at 2 pm, had lunch with Aarushi and sister-in-law Vandana Talwar at home, and worked at Fortis Hospital in Noida from 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Rajesh Talwar took classes at the ITS Dental College in Greater Noida from 8:45 am to 3:30 pm and then attended patients in his Delhi clinic till 8:30 pm.
Krishna Thadarai was an assistant in Rajesh’s Noida clinic. Yam Prasad Banjade, aka Hemraj, was the Talwars’ 45- year-old domestic servant at home who’d also help at the clinic from time to time. Some reports say Hemraj had previously worked in Mauritius for a few years and had driven an auto rickshaw in Delhi. He was a grandfather whose family was in Nepal. He lived in a room inside the Talwars’ flat, just off the main door.
Raj Kumar was a domestic servant with Drs Praful and Anita Durrani, close friends of the Talwars who lived nearby. Raj Kumar and Hemraj were friends. All three — Hemraj, Krishna and Raj Kumar — had been recruited through the Talwars’ previous domestic help, Vishnu. All four were of Nepali origin.
As per the CBI, Rajesh and Anita, two days before the murders Rajesh had publicly scolded his clinic assistant Krishna for making an incorrect dental cast, which had infuriated Krishna. Rajesh’s driver Umesh Sharma adds that later he heard Krishna and Hemraj exclaiming loudly in Nepali in the car. When Umesh enquired, Krishna told him that he’d deal with Rajesh.
On the night of the 15th, Umesh dropped Rajesh at the house and went to park the car at Nupur’s parents’ house nearby. When he returned to the Talwars’ house to deposit the car keys, he saw Nupur and Aarushi near the dining table and saw Rajesh coming out of his bedroom. Umesh says the clothes Rajesh was wearing the morning after the murders were the same as the ones he saw him wearing the previous evening when he came to return the keys. This opens up a line of enquiry. If Rajesh had committed the murders under sudden provocation, as the CBI says, where was the blood of both victims on his clothes the next morning?
When he arrived home on the night of the 15th, Rajesh noticed that the digital camera he’d ordered for Aarushi’s upcoming birthday had arrived. Hemraj cooked dinner for everyone. After dinner, Nupur insisted they give Aarushi the camera right away, and so the indulgent parents surprised her with the early gift. Aarushi took several photos in her excitement, after which the parents retired to their bedroom. The photos Aarushi took of herself and her parents with her new camera were at 10:10 pm. At around 11 pm, Rajesh requested Nupur to switch on the internet router in Aarushi’s room so he could access the internet. Aarushi was awake when her mother entered her room. She was reading Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes of My Life and told her mother she loved it. (Much later, after they moved house, Nupur discovered the book and found some bloodstains in it. The Talwars submitted it to the CBI). After switching on the internet router, Nupur returned to her bedroom and went to sleep, while Rajesh worked some more on his laptop and went to sleep around midnight.
The CBI says Aarushi’s friend Anmol rang the Talwar landline around midnight to speak with his friend, but no one picked up. The Talwars say Aarushi would sometimes turn off the ringer on the landline at night because her friends would call late, and perhaps she did this on the 15th too. Insinuations have been made out of this failure to pick up the call. This is the kind of minor, illogical detail of family life that can be turned into damning evidence in the right hands.
ONLY 4 SANTA
Merry Christmas to you. I know you will be tired from running here to there giving children what they wanted but I want something totally different. I want the well- being of my family. I want no harm to reach them. Please fulfill my wish.
My second wish is that I wish my parents to always be with me and my friends too!!
My third wish is a bit silly — I WANT A DOG not from you but from my parents. I wish they agree!!!
Aarushi’s was not a dark childhood riven by family conflicts, as the media might have you believe. Ask her friends and you hear reports of a sunny life. See some photos and you find a giggly disposition. Ask her teachers and you get accounts of a brilliant student — that kid you knew in school who topped her exams effortlessly and always raised her hand to help organise activities with the teachers — that girl destined to be head girl of the class.
Rihanna poster on the wall — check. Anne Frank, Khaled Hosseini, JK Rowling and Jhumpa Lahiri on the bookshelf — check. Aarushi had decided early on that if her school, DPS, Noida insisted on tests every Monday, she would simply study beforehand and enjoy her weekends. Weekends were for books, music and the Awesum 4sum — the group she’d formed at the Ashley Lobo dance class she loved. She wrote for the school magazine, pranced in corridors, wrote extraordinarily affectionate cards to her parents. She was considering a career as a paediatrician or dancer.
There were also the bright shades of approaching urban teenhood. Fiza Jha, who had met Aarushi on her first day of school and was her best friend, told TEHELKA in 2008 that Aarushi would look at her reflection at every chance, even in kitchen windows. Aarushi was increasingly obsessed with her world of friends, and was forever chatting or sms-ing or Facebook-ing or Orkut-ing. She was also pretty, had female and male friends, some of them admirers. Mostly her parents tried to adjust and not be too flustered for teenhood hadn’t yet bitten into Aarushi fully — she was secure of herself in the world. She confided to her mother. She joked around with her father.
Speak no ill of the dead. When a 14-year-old is murdered, you’d think it’d be easy to follow that aphorism. But within days of her death, Aarushi’s blameless life, the freedom and the thick companionship she enjoyed with her parents were reflected in the distorting funhouse mirrors of slander.
The fluency with technology, the brilliance at extracurricular activities, the liberated atmosphere that allowed her friendships with boys — all of it would be used to malign her posthumously. The police couldn’t fathom a household where a teenage girl receiving a bouquet of flowers from an admirer leaves her parents unruffled. They were busy insinuating that her school project on drug addiction meant she had dodgy interests. The media were to also make ominous noises about Aarushi’s activities on Facebook and Orkut, about her having 688 ‘transactions’ with a boy from school over 45 days. 688 transactions. An average of 15 phone calls, SMSs, missed calls per day. Any beleaguered urban parent would have explained the phenomena to the UP police — it’s a teenager with a phone. But the police and media were to use this to build a portrait of promiscuity. As Pinaki Mishra, a lawyer who advises the Talwars told TEHELKA in 2008, “The whole lot have been bred on Manohar Kahaniyan, seeing sex everywhere.”
Leaking Aarushi’s emails selectively ensured the public digested a prepackaged portrait, such as the publicity given to an email where Aarushi told her father: “I just wanted to try it out coz I heard from mah frndz … so wotz da harm … I wnt do it again n I kinda noe hw u r feelin.” The mail was a year old, after a small argument about whether she was old enough to go to the movies with her girlfriends, without an adult. The Talwars had reluctantly agreed. The mail was actually Aarushi’s apology to her father for her tantrum, because she was, as Fiza said, ‘a goody-goody girl’. This innocuous apology was turned into dirty insinuations. “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men,” said Cardinal Richelieu in the 16th century, “I will find something in them which will hang him.”
THEY DRANK SOME WHISKEY
Hemraj never got to his dinner on his last night. After the Talwars had eaten, he’d rolled out chappatis and served dinner for himself in a plate around half past ten, but never ate it. Was he interrupted by someone? Or was he waiting for someone?
Approximately between midnight and 1 am on 16 May, 2008, one or more people drank whiskey in the Talwar house. Hemraj’s bed was still tidy in the morning. Someone came into Aarushi’s room, struck her with a heavy dull blow on her head. Someone laid Aarushi down on her back on the bed, covered her with a white flannel blanket and put her military-print schoolbag on the blanket over her face. They took her mobile phone, left her door ajar and hid her room key, in its shoe-shaped key ring, on top of a framed wall sculpture near the house entrance.
They also killed Hemraj in the terrace on the roof. They left a handprint on one of the terrace walls. They left a bloodied shoeprint on the terrace, size 8 or 9, which the police later photographed (Rajesh wears size 6). They locked the terrace door and came downstairs. They took Hemraj’s mobile phone and his set of keys to the house. They shut the main wooden door of the second floor apartment (which locked automatically when shut) and latched the house’s outer grill door, thus locking the Talwars into their house from the outside. Neither the terrace nor the house keys have ever been found till date.
They left the whiskey bottle — with blood smears and fingerprints — in plain sight on the dining table.
The next morning, on May 16th, Nupur was woken by the doorbell, but assumed Hemraj would open the door as usual. When the bell kept ringing, she emerged out of her room. She opened the wooden main door but couldn’t open the outer grill door. She called Hemraj’s mobile phone from the landline; the call was picked up and then cut. When Nupur tried the phone again it was switched off. Nupur says she couldn’t find Hemraj’s set of keys that would normally be on the sideboard and so threw the duplicate keys down to the maid so the latter could open the house. The CBI claims she took the keys from Hemraj’s room.
By now Rajesh had woken up and emerging from his room, noticed the whiskey bottle on the dining table and asked Nupur in alarm, “Yeh bottle yahan kisne rakh di? (Who placed this bottle here?)” He added, “Aarushi ko dekho (See to Aarushi)” and both parents rushed to her unlocked room, where they discovered her dead body under a blanket. By the time the maid entered the house, the couple were sobbing and pleading for help and, given Hemraj’s mysterious absence, accusing him of murdering their daughter. The maid peeked into Aarushi’s room and saw the dead body covered with a white bedsheet, and rushed out of the house to call for help. Nupur called her parents, her brother-in-law Dinesh and their close family friends the Durranis from the landline. The family members called the police.
The morning saw heavy traffic in the apartment, with the police, well-wishers, family and friends all milling through their respective functions in such a tragedy. The Noida police took Rajesh’s statement for him to file a FIR. On examining the body, the police suspected the injuries must have been caused by a khukri, a curved Nepali knife. The sub inspector was followed by senior officers, who were followed by the Noida Police Crime Team, all of whom examined Aarushi’s room and body that day. The Talwars claim Aarushi’s body was inspected several times by these successive teams.
The crime team’s photos later that day don’t reflect the quieter state of the room and body that the couple had originally found their child in that morning. The CBI’s conjectures about the state of the body and the room are based on these police photos.
The police did not secure the crime scene and allowed anyone who wished, including the media, into the apartment. They did not bring in sniffer dogs to pick up the scent of the killers. They could not identify the fingerprints on the most obvious piece of evidence — the whiskey bottle they seized that morning that had both Aarushi’s and Hemraj’s bloodstains. Most of the other forensic evidence was already compromised with the crowding in the house. Without a sense of how much they had bungled their leads and without any actual investigation, in between confident calls to Nupur for more cups of tea, the Noida police too assumed Hemraj was the culprit and was on the run — probably back to Nepal.
THE SOFTEST BUBBLE OF ALL
The Talwars were one of the lucky Indians living inside the country’s expanding bubble of middle class urban life. They were successful professionals who lived with their pretty teen daughter outside New Delhi in UP’s Noida city. They employed a cook, a maid and a driver. Rajesh, 46, is a dental surgeon from a Punjabi family. Nupur, 45, is an orthodontist from a Maharashtrian family. Based in Delhi, Rajesh’s father had been a renowned cardiothoracic surgeon while his mother was a homemaker. Nupur’s father had been a Group Captain in the Air Force who often moved his family from post to post. Both the Talwars had grown up squarely middle class in an insolvent India, and had designed their adult lives to mobilise their fortunes — in both senses of the word — to provide a better life for their Aarushi in a solvent India.
The pair had fallen in love at Delhi’s premier Maulana Azad Medical College and married, with easy familial consent, in a ceremony with both Punjabi and Maharashtrian pundits. Nineteen years after their inter-community marriage, they were shocked that the media alleged they’d killed their daughter because of her imagined romance.
Rajesh is a mild man, quick to get emotional, a rabbit somewhat lost in the circus he and his family have got trapped in. He swings between being nonplussed and indignant about the authorities’ and media’s smears against them. Nupur is an army kid, more measured and reserved in her reactions, a resolutely tough hedgehog without any airs. Both are fiercely protective of each other.
Rajesh and Nupur practised together at their Noida clinic along with their friend Anita Durrani, at their Hauz Khas clinic and at Fortis hospital. After more than a decade of intense work, they’d finally begun to feel a plateau of success. Rajesh had been heading Fortis’ dental department. He also taught at a college.
Their life had been their work — there is no time off for serious doctors trying to build a practice — until Aarushi arrived, and then their life had been their work and their child. They were delighted with their girl child and had no yearnings for a boy instead. They had a few close friends and a small social life. 2008 had begun well. Rajesh had just become one of the first people from north India zone to clear a prestigious qualification from the American Academy of Implant Dentistry — for oral implantology. To celebrate, in March the Talwars had thrown their first proper house party in a decade.
And they had just begun a new phase of enjoying life with a daughter who was entering her teens. Rajesh doted on her. For the birthday she never saw, he’d got her a Sony 10-megapixel camera, something much better than she had asked for. Every Saturday father and daughter would lunch together since he’d get off work early. The weekend before her murder, they’d trawled about a dozen places before paying an advance at Superstar, a local restaurant for Aarushi to throw her upcoming birthday bash. This year, Aarushi had said, she wanted to just celebrate with her friends and wanted her parents to swing by only later. Rajesh chokes up at the memory.
The Talwars also had the piquantly old-meets-newworld arrangement of being a nuclear family with benefits, living with the support system of relatives and friends in the neighbourhood. Their friends, Praful and Anita Durrani, were practically family who lived close to them and had a daughter the same age as Aarushi. The Talwars moved from Delhi to Noida a few days after Aarushi’s birth just to be closer to Nupur’s parents, and shared parenting timetables with them and the Durranis.
In their Delhi home, to which they relocated in 2009 about a year after the tragedy, Rajesh and Nupur have recreated Aarushi’s bedroom. Her books are in her shelf, her photos are on the walls, her desk is arranged and her stuffed Bart Simpson squats at the top of her bed. Every room has small and poster-size images of Aarushi. The Talwars look much younger in these photos.
Rajesh and Nupur have suffered a ruin everyone in the middle class dreads, no one expects. Their child vanished, and with her the life they’d built. The police and the CBI arrived, and with them came a new life accorded by a clumsily scathing State. The media hunted, and with it came original and fantastic judgements upon their lives. And now, finally, a cleaver-wielding youth appeared and tore into Rajesh’s face and his delicate surgeon’s hands, belching up the schizophrenia — let’s allow that easy journalese word — always lurking inside our peaceful bubbles.
HE WAS MELTING ON THE TERRACE
May 16th was another scorching summer day. After the discovery of Aarushi’s murder that morning, her body was taken around 8:30 am by two UP police constables in their jeep for the postmortem. Rajesh’s brother Dinesh and driver Umesh accompanied the body in the jeep. Rajesh’s childhood friend Ajay Chadha followed in his car.
Dr Praful Durrani told TEHELKA that on that morning of the 16th, he noticed what looked like a spot of blood on the door handle leading to the terrace. When he called a policeman to the door, the policeman touched the spot with his finger and flicked it away, dismissing it as rust and announcing that the door hadn’t been opened in weeks. When Durrani showed him what looked like another spot of blood on the floor, the policeman was just as dismissive. Eventually he was persuaded to try to open and investigate the terrace. But a hunt for the key led nowhere and the policeman just let the door be. Durrani says he told all this to the CBI’s first team. The CBI’s second team never took his statement and has not mentioned his earlier statement in the closure report.
The CBI claims that on that morning, Rajesh’s friends Dr Rajiv Kumar and Dr Rohit Kochar, who’d also arrived at the house by then, stumbled upon bloodstains on the locked door handle of the terrace and some wiped bloody footmarks and wiped bloodstains on the upper staircase. The CBI says that when Rajesh was asked for the keys to the terrace, he just looked at the bloodstained handle and went back inside his house; and that the police also saw these bloodstains and directed their investigating officer (IO) to open the door, but were somehow unable to open it. So they let it be.
Rajesh told TEHELKA he has little recollection of what happened that morning since he was still in deep shock — but he does state vehemently the family never stopped the police from collecting any evidence or going to any part of the house. Dr Rohit Kochar told TEHELKA that a group of people noticed the bloodstains on the terrace door that morning, and that since Rajesh was in a very bad state they decided not to bother him and instead called a policeman called Akhilesh Kumar. After Kumar had also seen what the group had seen, they sent someone downstairs to find the key. Kochar adds that Rajesh did come up a few steps and peek at the hubbub upstairs at some point and then went away, but that he never came all the way up to the terrace door to see what was going on. Since nobody could locate the terrace key, the police didn’t bother to force it open. Kochar says he’s told this story to both the CBI’s first and second teams.
Kochar and Durrani’s eyewitness accounts to TEHELKA both point to the same thing — that the CBI is trying to cover up the UP police’s exceptional negligence by transferring the blame to the grieving father.
At the postmortem house the party had to wait a while for the staff to arrive. Soon the police said they couldn’t sit around waiting, so would they please vacate the jeep? Dinesh tried to find a spot of shade in the angry sun and sat on the ground with his dead niece’s body in his lap. Once the doors opened, Dinesh and Ajay were appalled by the putrid, dank conditions and Ajay got supplies to get the place cleaned up.
The postmortem report ruled out rape for Aarushi. When they returned to the house after the postmortem, the family placed Aarushi’s body over slabs of smoky ice to preserve it in the heat. The media’s fury tightened its grip on their home. The last rites began. Nupur was distraught. Rajesh was beside himself, banging his head and moaning. Both sank deeper into their grief.
Once the body was sent to the cremation ground later that day, the CBI says the Talwars’ staff showed “undue haste” in cleaning Aarushi’s room with soap and water. The Talwars say instead that Nupur’s mother Lata Chitnis and their clinic manager Vikas Sethi received permission from the police who were present to clean the house. The Talwars say a) the police presented no objections to this since they said they’d already collected all necessary evidence b) Sethi also asked the police at this point whether they wished to collect Aarushi’s bloody blanket and mattress on the bed, and the police demurred again replying this wasn’t necessary since a part of the mattress had already been collected by the investigating team c) The police suggested to Sethi that, given the media clamour downstairs, the mattress should be taken to the terrace for now. When Sethi found the Talwars’ terrace locked and could not find the key, he placed the items on a neighbouring terrace.
Next, the CBI claims call records of Rajesh’s brother Dinesh show he and friends Dr Sushil Chaudhary and retired police officer KK Gautam got in touch with each other on the 16th — that Sushil contacted Gautam and conveyed Dinesh’s request that rape not be mentioned in the postmortem report — for a reason unexplained by the CBI. How the CBI found the alleged content of their conversations is also unclear. The CBI also says that before the postmortem, Dinesh had tried to influence the doctor who conducted the postmortem, Dr Sunil Kumar Dohare, to speak to someone on the phone. Dinesh categorically denies ever trying to influence the postmortem and adds that the CBI couldn’t find records of any such calls he is supposed to have made from the postmortem house.
The next day, the 17th, Rajesh and Nupur collected Aarushi’s ashes from the cremation ground locker and left for Haridwar to immerse them. The CBI says that that morning, call details and Gautam’s statement show that Sushil phoned Gautam and insisted he accompany him to the Talwar house; once there, Dinesh asked Gautam to get the terrace door opened by the police. According to the CBI, Gautam went up and saw bloodstains on the stairs and drag marks in front of the terrace door and called the police. The police arrived and when no one could produce the terrace key, the lock was broken. Dinesh amends the CBI’s account by saying he and Gautam were conferring that morning about going up to examine the door but that a policeman preceded them upstairs and they simply joined him.
The CBI adds that when the door opened everyone now noticed more bloody drag marks. A putrefying body was covered by a panel from the roof cooler and a bedcover lay draped upon the iron grill separating the Talwar’s terrace from neighbouring ones. The CBI says since Dinesh couldn’t identify the body, he called Rajesh and Nupur, who were on their way to Haridwar, to return home.
Back home, Nupur sat clutching the urn with her little girl’s ashes in the car, since she considered it inauspicious to take the ashes inside. Rajesh went upstairs to identify the body. The CBI says Rajesh did not identify the body upon seeing it and, later, “a friend of Hemraj” identified it as Hemraj. Alternatively, Rajesh claims when he arrived he found the body to be too putrefied and bloody to identify conclusively; he noticed the t-shirt on the body said ‘New York’ and the police informed him the person was wearing a kada — so Rajesh went downstairs to ask Nupur whether Hemraj had worn these two items, and when she confirmed this, called Dinesh to identify the body as being most likely Hemraj.
By the time they returned from Haridwar that day, it had begun to rain.
THE CIRCUS BEGINS
On the 16th morning when the Noida police were first called after the discovery of Aarushi’s murder, they were convinced the servant Hemraj was the culprit. Then, when Hemraj’s body was found the next day the police suddenly had egg on their face and the media threw itself into a frenzy, asking uncomfortable questions about the cops’ sloppy investigation. It seemed like deja vu. The same police force had showed a startling ineptness in catching the Nithari serial killers a few years ago. With their main suspect suddenly a victim and with so much pressure rapidly building up, the cops abruptly turned upon the next available person — Rajesh. On May 18th, they began telling the press the murders seemed to be the work of a trained medical professional, since the injuries suddenly seemed to have been perpetrated not by a khukri but rather a ‘surgical instrument’. Additional Director General of Police Brijalal said, “The way in which the throat of Aarushi was cut, points out that it is the work of some professional who could be a doctor or a butcher.” Who could blame the Talwars, still grieving, for not paying attention at this point? They didn’t see what was coming next.
The Special Task Force joined the probe and the Talwars were interrogated. The police case raced rapidly now: on May 22nd, a Noida SSP claimed the murders were an “honour killing” and on May 23rd, Meerut IG Gurdarshan Singh announced that Rajesh killed Aarushi and Hemraj to hide his extramarital affair with his partner at the Noida clinic, dentist Anita Durrani. Singh was particularly creative in weaving two fantastic sets of retrospective sexual innuendos into his tale — Rajesh had been indulging in adultery and this had driven Aarushi into the arms of Hemraj for solace. The cop happily announced to the media crush, “Dr Rajesh had gone out around 9:30 pm on May 15 and when he came home at around 11-11:30 pm, 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.” Rajesh was supposed to have taken Hemraj to the terrace and killed him, then descended to drink some whiskey before murdering his daughter. The police had nothing to back up these conjectures — no evidence, no witness, no murder weapon. What they had was a sensational story. The media ran with it, of course.
It didn’t help that Singh kept referring to Aarushi as “Shruti” during his press conference.
The Talwars did not know what was happening at the press conference on May 23rd. According to them, that morning, they had been taken to the Police Lines area. When they reached there, Nupur and Rajesh were split up. Nupur was put in a room with her cousin and a woman constable. Hours passed. Nupur got a phone call asking her whether it was true Rajesh had been arrested. Nupur scoffed, saying Rajesh was right there in the next room. By evening when Rajesh had still not returned, she began to panic. She also found she’d been locked into the room with the constable. Nupur in the locked room told the constable she was going to get out somehow. They could shoot her if they wanted but she had to see her husband. Outside, she was first told her husband was in the next room but she couldn’t see him. She called her family and realised the rumour was true: Rajesh was in Dasna jail.
Meanwhile Rajesh had first been taken to a local magistrate. He kept pleading to be allowed a phone call but the magistrate looked scornful and told the police to take him away. Rajesh was taken to Uttar Pradesh’s Dasna jail. The cops threatened him to sign a confession of guilt. Rajesh says, “In the car the cops were talking amongst themselves about where they should go to kill me.” By now Rajesh was numb with confusion but also indignant. He refused to sign, though police kept abusing and threatening him through the day.
By evening the police insisted they had a confession from Rajesh (they didn’t). Since it was conveniently a Friday, he couldn’t apply for bail till Monday. Rajesh spent the weekend in Dasna jail.
The ball had been thrown out of the court, and it was up to the Talwars and their well-wishers to retrieve it. Nupur began speaking properly to the press only after Rajesh’s arrest, since till then the couple had been following the UP police’s advice that they don’t — in retrospect, they say it was the worst piece of advice they’ve followed in the whole affair. The tide of public opinion had already turned against them. Fortis Hospital fired Rajesh the day he was arrested. Friends avoided the Talwars. Alone at home or running between lawyers and courts to get Rajesh’s release, Nupur often felt suicidal.
There arose a smaller tide of support from unexpected quarters — Aarushi’s school friends at Delhi Public School, Noida condemned the police’s mud-slinging in a protest march; Women And Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury inveighed against the police’s proclivity in giving out “character certificates”; members of the Indian Dental Association and former patients professed their belief in Rajesh’s innocence.
After reading Jean Sasson’s Love in a Torn Land about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Aarushi had given it to Rajesh. Reading it then, Rajesh had commented that he was thankful at least India didn’t treat its jailed prisoners as badly as Iraq did.
In custody Rajesh was again threatened to sign a confession. This time he wrote one in English, which his captors couldn’t read — where he said he was innocent. At Dasna jail, Rajesh was in an overcrowded barrack with only a stone floor of spit and grime as his bed. For a toilet there was just a separate room for everyone to relieve themselves. Some numberdars in jail offered him fruit and mosquito repellent in return for bribes. When Nupur would visit Rajesh, he’d clutch her fingers through the mesh and ask, “I have never harmed anyone in my life. Why is God testing us?” Over time prisoners with tooth trouble began asking him for help; Rajesh began seeing them in the jail hospital, where he fixed the dental chair and arranged for better medicines and basic equipment.
There remained the fear that the police would plant evidence on Rajesh or he would be physically harmed. The Talwars successfully requested the case to be moved to the CBI, which happened on 31 May, 2008. Rajesh was released from jail on 11 July, 2008. He had been in jail for 50 days.
Even while Rajesh was inside Dasna, the CBI had started pursuing some other leads in the case. This CBI team began investigations in June 2008 under Joint Director Arun Kumar. In the space of one week beginning 7 June, the Talwar clinic assistant Krishna Thadarai was detained, given a lie detector test and a narco analysis test and then arrested on 13 June. Two others — Raj Kumar, a domestic help for the Durranis and Vijay Mandal, another domestic help in the Talwar neighbourhood — were also arrested.
In a press conference on 11 July, 2008, Arun Kumar stated the CBI had come up with no evidence or motive that pointed to Rajesh and squarely blamed the three arrested servants for the crime. The CBI also clarified that the Noida police’s incredible charge — that Rajesh had been enraged by catching Aarushi and Hemraj in a “compromising” position — was only a canard that had originated from Krishna’s statement to the police.
Kumar reconstructed the crime for the press based on the testing done on the three domestic helps: on the night of May 15th, Krishna, Raj Kumar and Vijay Mandal drank whiskey in Hemraj’s room, went to Aarushi’s room, gagged her and tried to sexually assault her. When she resisted they struck her head with a blunt object. Hemraj panicked and a scuffle broke out among the men. Fearing they’d wake the Talwars, they proceeded to the terrace upstairs where they murdered Hemraj. Then they returned to Aarushi’s room and slit her neck. Krishna had apparently confessed in his narco-analysis test.
In January 2009, CBI spokesperson Harsh Bhal told media the agency had “finalised the investigations” and was ready to file a chargesheet “very soon” on the basis of forensic evidence and confessions of the suspects. However, no chargesheet ever appeared.
In September 2009, the case was transferred to a second team under Deputy Director, CBI, Nilabh Kishore. The CBI spokesperson Binita Thakur told TEHELKA this shift was needed for a “fresh look” at the case because the first team hadn’t got anywhere. The new team backtracked and again pointed a finger at Rajesh Talwar while absolving the servants.
Anonymous ‘CBI sources’ revived the honour killing theory for the media. Nilabh Kishore questioned the Talwars at his Dehradun office on 18-19 May, 2010. A few days later, on 24 May — on what would have been Aarushi’s 17th birthday — a story in The Pioneer announced: “Sources said the CBI has learnt that Hemraj knew of Aarushi’s close relationship with a boy and had been blackmailing her over a period of time… Sources said blood on Aarushi’s pillow belonging to both her and Hemraj showed that they were killed together on the bed. Besides, Hemraj had been hit on the back of his head and Aarushi on the front, which clearly indicates their positions when attacked… ‘Somebody was desperate to ensure that the crime did not look like a case of honour killing,’ said a CBI officer, adding, ‘You don’t need to be a Sherlock Homes to guess who he can be.’”
In response to The Pioneer’s 24 May story, Rajesh Talwar moved the Supreme Court in summer 2010 alleging the media had violated the Court’s 2008 direction to “exercise caution” in publishing any news that might prejudice the investigation or damage Aarushi’s reputation. When the Court issued a show cause notice to The Pioneer, Nilabh Kishore issued an affidavit on 4 October, 2010 stating that “no authorised person in the CBI” had briefed the correspondent for The Pioneer’s report and that the article contained many “factual infirmities and conjectures and is not based on facts”. But this is not the last time we were to see the same factual infirmities.
On 29 December 2010, the CBI filed a closure report that cleared the three servants of all suspicion and put Rajesh as the main suspect. In putting forth its case, the report once again resurrects the Noida cops’ infamously wild theories by repeating that “the UP Police during their investigation had suspected Dr Rajesh Talwar to have committed the crime due to grave & sudden provocation on finding his daughter in a compromising position with Hemraj”; paradoxically, though, the same closure report also admits “there is no evidence to prove that Hemraj was killed in the room of Aarushi”. Also, the closure report is selectively amnesiac — it doesn’t mention why its own first team (under Arun Kumar) had publicly rubbished this theory, or how the second team (under Nilabh Kishore) has disproved Kumar’s findings.
WE’LL HUFF AND WE’LL PUFF TILL WE BLOW YOUR HOUSE IN
Look closely and you find something incredible — with some careful adjustments and deletions, the closure report actually repeats many of the same claims The Pioneer’s 24 May report had presented. Since the CBI had itself rubbished The Pioneer article, let’s examine the similar assertions in its report.
1. Heavy hints but stopping short of explicitly saying that Aarushi had sexual intercourse or was raped before being murdered.
Apparently, the postmortem doctors gave statements to the CBI that add radical new facts not present in the original postmortem report: “The hymen of Aarushi was ruptured and was having an old tear” and “the vaginal orifice of deceased Aarushi was unduly large and the mouth of cervix was visible”. The closure report also claims her private parts were extraordinarily dilated and that they were cleaned after the murder. All this contradicts the original postmortem report, which only noted the presence of whitish discharge under the External Examination header of Vagina, and stated “NAD” (nothing abnormal detected) under the External Examination headers of Genitals and Other Special Descriptions and another “NAD” under the Internal Examination header of Generational [Reproductive] Organs. The postmortem doctor, Dr Sunil Kumar Dohare, also didn’t note any postmortem cleaning of the private parts.
Today, the closure report somehow doesn’t mention the “NADs” but does say “a whitish discharge was present inside the vaginal cavity and mouth of cervix of deceased Aarushi” — this contradicts its assertion that Aarushi’s private parts were extraordinarily dilated and/or cleaned, since if they were dilated or cleaned no whitish discharge would have remained. So either the original postmortem report is wrong or the doctors’ later statements are wrong – but both come from the same people! Incredibly, the CBI claims both the original postmortem report and the postmortem doctors’ later statements are somehow correct and consistent with each other.
If you accept the claim that the doctors were able to summon up details from memory about Aarushi’s body that they somehow missed during the actual postmortem, you still end up with another vexing contradiction in the report — how can there have been a “request for nonmention of rape in PM proceedings” from Dinesh Talwar if, as the CBI finally concludes after investigation with the doctors, “No signs of rape were visible” on Aarushi?
The report continues in the salacious tradition first set by the Uttar Pradesh Police’s press conference. Rajesh Talwar, despite all that he has seen and heard since he lost his child, is still aghast at these particular insinuations. “They not only accuse me of murdering my daughter but also of cleaning her private parts. They have no humanity.” He adds about the media’s reporting about sexual innuendos, “It’s worse than killing a parent. Aarushi is not here anymore. Would they be able to write these things if she were alive?”
2. Suggesting the murders were caused by a golf stick and that a golf club had been missing from Rajesh’s set.
There are mysterious discrepancies about Aarushi’s injuries between what her postmortem says and what the CBI’s closure report says. The postmortem report found four injuries: two incised wounds and two lacerations. The closure report states only two — a blunt one and an incised wound. Also, the closure report finds Aarushi’s blunt head injury to be in the occipital (back) region but the postmortem finds an injury in the “left parietal [front] region”.
The closure report also mentions a “U/V-shaped injury” horizontal to the body but doesn’t connect to it being a typical injury the notch in a khukri inflicts.
The doctors apparently stated to the CBI that the victims’ injuries were caused by “a surgically trained person in a precise manner” which makes the CBI suspect the parents, but the closure report also leaves wriggle room by saying that the “board of experts” constituted by the CBI’s first team (under Arun Kumar) had actually concluded that the cut mark injuries could have been made by a khukri. So which one is it? Why is the CBI unable to decide the matter at this late stage? It says it’s hampered by “non-recovery of one weapon of offence and their link to either the servants or the parents”.
But look again at evidence the CBI doesn’t connect in its report. Krishna owned a khukri but the CBI dismisses this fact since it didn’t find human blood on the weapon. Also, the Talwars point to an Indian Express report from 7 June 2008 which said that experts from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi concluded after examining the postmortem report that Aarushi was murdered with a sharp-edged knife, given the deep cut on her throat (with probably a wooden handle to administer the blunt injuries) — rather than a surgical instrument like a scalpel, which “is so small it can only cut the skin layer by layer”.
In the report, associate professor of forensic medicine Dr Sudhir Gupta said, “The girl must have lost consciousness immediately after the head injury. The blow caused a clot bigger than a cricket ball in her brain. If her neck had been slit first, blood would have jutted [sic] out and sprayed all over the room. But that did not happen. In this case, the neck injury was the last injury.”
As in other sections of the closure report, the section that identifies the weapon of choice is a masterpiece of insinuation and self-contradiction. After that blighted month of May 2008, neither Nupur nor Rajesh have ever spent a night at their Noida house again. (After Rajesh’s release from jail, the couple lived with Nupur’s parents for a while.) From the time of the murder, the various investigating teams had full access to the house. In May 2009, when the Talwars wanted to move house from Noida to Delhi, Dr Nupur Talwar sought and received the CBI’s permission to move their personal belongings. The movers packed up the Talwar’s belongings under the eye of a CBI inspector, and these included the golf clubs still lying in Hemraj’s room, one golf club that’d been found in the loft and the rest of the set from the garage. The Talwars add that the loft had actually been inspected at various times both by the UP police and the CBI, and they saw nothing suspicious in the golf club there.
Rajesh Talwar was a recent and infrequent player of golf. Before the murders, the two golf clubs he used, as an inexpert player, had been in the trunk of his car. When the car was sent for servicing, the clubs were placed in Hemraj’s room. After the murders, they were still in Hemraj’s room in plain sight of every investigating team that ever entered the scene. So also for the set in the garage and the lone one in the loft. All were deemed innocuous like the rest of the household belongings until 17 months after the murder. On 29 October 2009, 17 months after the murder and five months after the Talwars had officially moved their belongings, the CBI asked the Talwars to send Rajesh’s golf set to them. He did so the next day.
In its closure report of December 2010, the CBI says “the dimensions of the striking surface of the golf club bearing No 5 were identical to the dimensions of the injury on the heads” of the victims. In one of its many baffling sub-clauses, the CBI also concludes that “the murder was caused by a golf stick which indicates that the assault was initiated on the basis of a grave and sudden provocation.” Let’s skip the circular logic of this statement. It’s particularly baffling more because the same report also states no biological fluid, bloodstain or DNA of victims was recovered from the golf sticks. This absence of proof is brilliantly changed into proof in the next clause, which says two of the golf sticks were cleaner than the others in the set.
To the eye of the whodunnit reader, this would be a prod to say ‘aha’ until you realise that what it is actually saying is: the CBI found no proof linking the golf clubs to the murders.
Muddying the waters further, the closure report narrates a sequence of events in which the CBI had always suspected a golf club had been the murder weapon and had interrogated Rajesh Talwar about the missing golf club. The missing golf club in this version of events was found a year later by Nupur in the loft who then failed to tell the CBI about it. But why did the CBI leave all the golf clubs in the house, garage and loft for 17 months if they suspected that one of them was the weapon — if, as it claims in its closure report, it was already questioning Rajesh about his golf clubs “while in police custody remand with CBI”? Why did the CBI not seize the suspected golf club when it inspected the loft or when its inspector supervised the Talwars’ house moving, which included the golf clubs? The report doesn’t say. It does say the Talwars handed over the complete golf set when asked for it.
3. Believing the servants’ alibis are solid.
The closure report says both key suspected servants have solid alibis and were absent from the crime scene: For the compounder Krishna, the CBI relies solely on an alibi provided by his family members, who say he was at his house on 15th night. And on May 15th evening, says the CBI, Raj Kumar had gone to the New Delhi railway station with his employer Dr Praful Durrani to receive Dr Anita Durrani. They apparently returned home around 11:30 pm, after which Kumar prepared a late dinner for Anita since she had been fasting that day. Anita ate after midnight and everyone slept around 12:30 am. This is Kumar’s alibi.
But when TEHELKA asked them, the Durranis say they told the CBI a different story. They say they both ate and slept before midnight on the 15th after Anita was picked up from her 10:50 pm train. Raj Kumar had made dinner before leaving for the station. Anita adds that because she was on her usual Thursday fast, she ate before midnight. The couple also say Raj Kumar’s bathroom was outside the house’s main back door so he could go out any time he wished.
Also, the CBI says Hemraj’s call details don’t show any interaction with any of the three suspect servants on 15th May and no outsider made contact with Hemraj. But the Talwars say this is flatly false since a) Krishna and Hemraj were together that morning working in the Noida clinic b) Later that day, according to the Talwars, call records show Hemraj received two calls at 4:58 pm and 5:37 pm from the clinic’s landline — a time period when only Krishna was in the clinic (the Talwars claim that both their and Dr Anita Durrani’s phone records can show they were physically not at the clinic during this timeframe) and c) At 8:27 pm on 15th May, say the Talwars, call records collected by the police show Hemraj received a call from a PCO in nearby Nithari area; the Talwars point to this last fact’s relevance since the police had informed them that when Hemraj’s phone was picked up to receive Nupur’s call at 6:01 am on 16th morning, it was within the range of Tower 1362, which also covers both Nithari area and Krishna’s house.
4. Hemraj’s body was removed from the scene of murder.
The CBI’s own UV Light testing team trounced this theory back in June 2008 when it reported that it didn’t find Hemraj’s bloodstains anywhere except the terrace, so he couldn’t have been killed anywhere else. And the CBI itself admits in the closure report that “no blood of Hemraj was found on the bed sheet and pillow of Aarushi. There is no evidence to prove that Hemraj was killed in the room of Aarushi”.
5. Aarushi’s door couldn’t be opened from outside without the key that her parents had.
The closure report once again presents one of the oldest canards against the Talwars, firmly lodged by now in the public imagination through the media’s misreporting from the very first month of the crime — that Rajesh and Nupur, as the closure report puts it, “used to lock the bedroom of Aarushi during night”. Actually, the parents’ room, Aarushi’s room and the main door of the house all had self-locking Godrej locks — the kind that locks automatically when the door closes. These locks could be opened from the inside by turning the lever, but could be opened from outside only with a key. These locks are often used as security measures in urban homes with domestic help — for instance, Aarushi’s best friend Fiza’s mother Masooma Ranalvi told TEHELKA that each bedroom in her house also had similar locks.
Nupur has consistently maintained from the start she probably made the mistake of leaving the key hanging in Aarushi’s door when she left her child on 15th night after switching on the internet router — she claims to have stated this to the investigating authorities and answered this specific question in the several lie detector, brain mapping and narco-analysis tests she’s successfully passed for the CBI.
6. Stating that call details show KK Gautam’s discovery of Hemraj’s body was “not a mere coincidence” (implying Rajesh had been in touch with Gautam or had known him from before).
The closure report states that call details and KK Gautam’s statement show Gautam’s discovery of Hemraj’s body was “not a mere coincidence”, while Rajesh categorically says he didn’t know Gautam from before and the latter came to the house on the 17th voluntarily accompanying a visitor. Dinesh also categorically denies knowing KK Gautam from before or asking him to use any influence.
THE COAST IS UNCLEAR
As you scan the report, you realise the idea that the murder was initiated ‘on the basis of a grave and sudden provocation’ is never substantiated. As the closure report itself admits, it is unable to actually establish a chain of events linking Rajesh Talwar or the domestic servants to the assault or its grave and sudden provocation. The plot is only lit by a suspicious eye seeking to join the dots in a mist.
Except, like the steady drip of the tap in water torture, the closure report tries to cast doubt on the Talwars. Once again, insinuating that Rajesh Talwar found his young daughter having sex with his manservant, took a golf club and killed his daughter. Then cleaned the golf club and left it in Hemraj’s room. Or maybe he left it in the loft. Or he cleaned the murder weapon and one more random golf club and left these extra clean ones in the garage.
The Talwars continue to demand Touch DNA testing to get justice for their child and to combat the lifelong smear the closure report casts on them through a sheer absence of evidence. Send the golf clubs for Touch DNA testing and establish them as the murder weapon, they have challenged the CBI.
Touch DNA — the tests the teenagers at the recent candlelight vigil were also demanding — is the popular name for LCN DNA testing, an advanced testing process that’s able to show results even 25 years after the crime. It would do more than establish the culprits. It could finally establish what happened that night. Here are only some of the objects in the crime scene waiting for a LCN DNA analysis: the key to Aarushi’s room, the whiskey bottle, the blood from the handprint on the wall, Aarushi’s school bag, Hemraj and Aarushi’s clothes, among other things. According to Dr GV Rao (the DNA forensics expert mentioned on page 46), this method could possibly show whether the golf clubs contain any DNA of the murderer. It would finally reveal if there were intruders in the house that night.
According to media reports, the CBI consulted J Nagaraju, a molecular genetics scientist (and director of the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, the agency that conducted the DNA testing for the Aarushi case) about LCN DNA analysis. Reports say Nagaraju dismissed the reliability of the LCN DNA technology and the possibility of it yielding any fresh evidence.
Dr Rao contradicts this strongly in an article on his blog, writing that “inappropriate advice and lack of ability from so-called DNA experts of the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics or CDFD, Hyderabad has led CBI to get placed in such difficult state of affairs in the Aarushi Case. The foremost point of consideration is that the socalled experts were not experienced enough in Forensic DNA testing, but are qualified in Microbiology [CDFD director J Gowrishankar and CDFD scientist Madhusudan Reddy] and Silk Worm Genetics [Nagaraju] and they do not possess any Forensic Science qualifications.” Dr Rao told TEHELKA, “What I’ve seen from the press reports is false – in my experience, contaminated samples can also yield results with Touch DNA. Once you have the DNA in front of you, you can use many techniques. It’s not standard operating procedure to only do one testing. Touch DNA is the colloquial name for LCN DNA. Touch DNA is when many people have touched the object and LCN DNA is when you need very small starting DNA and then you replicate it many times for a conclusion. In this case, these techniques should definitely be applied before coming to a conclusion that nothing more can be done.”
UTSAV SHARMA, the man who attacked Rajesh Talwar, had also stabbed SPS Rathore (accused in the Ruchika case) a year ago. He slashed Rajesh because, he told police, he was frustrated that such cases go nowhere. Someone has to pay the cost for the media’s reckless frenzy.
In the week following the attack, Rajesh was in the ICU with six units of blood pumped into him and underwent multiple reconstructive surgeries. He’s out of danger now, though his face has sunk, his body contracted, his hands wrapped like a tender mummy. When he talks, the right side of his face stays immobile. He can’t shut his right eye.
In the kind of twisted narrative that defeats irony, the media reports that Utsav Sharma has been placed in the same Dasna jail, in the same hospital room as Moninder Singh Pandher. Pandher and his servant Surinder Kohli have been accused of the Nithari serial killings. So far, Kohli has been found guilty and Pandher has been acquitted. Both await trial in several cases. For the liberals viewing the case it is not an unreasonable suspicion that Pandher may be freed at the end of all the trials, leaving his servant to swing for the gruesome murders. Not an unreasonable thought but also one springing out of class guilt.
And because most of us don’t ask so many questions of the news we hear every night, most of us will not ask: where is the investigation related to the three servants — so strongly suspected by the CBI’s first team — in the closure report? The Talwars don’t point a finger at the servants since they can’t be sure what happened that night. If they did point a finger, it is likely that liberal Indians — those who can be trusted to follow the news and even occasionally protest injustice — will see the Talwars as another middle-class family trying to foist their troubles on the underclass. On the other hand, the Talwars’ driver Umesh’s testimony, which he sticks to, is likely to be dismissed by most of us because he is in the employ of the Talwars — because he is a servant and apparently has no mind of his own. And just how are we being ‘sensitive’ to the underclass by unquestioningly believing the police and CBI’s insinuations about Hemraj-the-grandfather and how he was in a sexual relationship with a child?
Class guilt. Class war. It’s an awkward business, trying to give the middle class a fair hearing. But should the awkwardness of it make us not give the Talwars a fair hearing?
The Talwars have been pulled through some of our society’s darkest anxieties. They never got a chance to finish the formal grieving period after Aarushi’s death since the police threw Rajesh in jail. Do they dare look outward to find hope again? In 2010, the Talwar family and their friends started Aarushi’s Legacy (www.theaarushilegacy.org), a social initiative to provide medical relief to sick and underprivileged children, support parents affected by crime against their children and to reduce crime against the girl child. So far, they’ve done two health check-up camps in Delhi for a few hundred children.
And yet. How to make life sonorous again? What black mourning bows, what minute of silence, what flags at half mast? And after that, what encore? The gleams of life’s miracle, missed. Is there a cure for the hankering for your child?
As this story goes to press, the special CBI court in Ghaziabad has, shockingly, made the Talwars accused in the case, charged them with destruction of evidence and asked the CBI to chargesheet them. While the closure report only put Rajesh as the suspect, the CBI court has gone even further and charged Nupur also with murder. Justice must not be carried out on the basis of a type or a class. Justice must be delivered upon an individual case. If in the unlikely event the murders of Aarushi Talwar and Hemraj Banjade never interested you or repulsed you with their pulp fiction narrative, turn instead to the gripping social document that is the CBI’s closure report. It may tell you far more about India than what you want to know. It may tell you what could happen to you — if your bubble burst.
First published here