Nagpur/Allahabad: Today afternoon the Allahbad High Court acquited Dr. Rajesh and Nupur Talwars, unfortunate parents of 13 years old Arushi of all charges of murder and cover up of their only child.
“There wasn’t enough evidence to convict them and they must get benefit of doubt” the two judges opined in independent judgements.
It has been nine long years now that the couple has spent in prison for a murder they did not commit. (Though CBI is sure to go to Supreme Court with appeal).
But nine years ago India’s media had already tried and found them guilty!
This case will definitely go down as an example over which, sometime soon in the future, journalists of the day will hang their heads in shame about how they had dealt with this case.
Everyone loves a murder it seems, specially when it lets you sit in your arm chair and become instant sleuths, lawyers and judges rolled into one. Not to mention pop psychologists!
Just read an excerpt from what (in) famous Shobha De had written in her blog:
Believe it or not!!! Aarushi ki sad kahani!
Shobha De goes on to write:
“While it is true that the media has been conducting its own trial night after night and pretty much stating : the dad did it, the response of Aarushi’s parents has beenpuzzling and bizarre , to say the least. Grieving parents behave in a different manner. They are broken in spirit and rendered almost incoherent with grief at the loss of a loved one. An only child at that. Not these two, though. Sorry if this sounds like pop psychology gone wrong… but the conduct displayed by Mr. and Mrs. Talwar appears a bit too calculated, even cold blooded to viewers. It conveys just one thing : Catch us if you can. There is defiance and challenge built into every statement. ‘Where is the proof? What evidence do you have?” Aarushi’s mother keeps demanding aggressively, as if to suggest, “We’ve taken care of every small detail… covered each track…so there!” 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.”
Many gullible readers of her blog, published in mainstream newspaper Times of India, were so brainwashed by Shobha’s logic that they were convinced of the Talwar’s guilt too!
(Shobha seems to have quite overlooked the fact that Nupur was a senior Defense Officer’s daughter. Her father, an Indian Air Force officer, was posted at the High Commission in London. Her mother Lata Chitnis was from the aristocratic family of Shivaji’s descendants. May be this upbringing and this background made her stoic and unable to express her emotions publicly? Is there really a handbook on how one is to behave when tragedy strikes close at home?)
If print media was so aggressive and insensitive, what to say of the Electronic media, specially Hindi channels?
Evening after evening, they went on to loudly sensationalize explosive slander like – Talwars were into Spouse swapping; Rajesh had an affair with another lady Dentist, 13 year old Arushi had an affair with 40+ years cook Hemraj, it was an honour killing etc. etc.
That in the bargain they were doing character assassination of a dead 13 year old school girl, the only child of two grieving parents and a large family, did not bother them the least bit.
It was left to her school mates and friends to take out candle marches to protest Arushi’s innocence and condemn such slander.
So bad and biased was large section of the media that today the Talwar case has become synonymous with deplorable media excess.
Tehelka Editor Shoma Choudhary refered to Talwar case many times when Tehelka founder was accused of rape.
“On 25th, the Aarushi Talwar verdict is going to come out. The media has done so much harm to the Talwars by coming to this presumptuous, premature judgement. If you assume this is rape. And I’m amazed that a man of Arun Jaitley’s stature and legal standing should assume rape before something has been investigated,” said an angry Shoma Chaudhury during one of the many odd moments in her CNN IBN interview, when the Editor in chief of that channel was Rajdeep Sardesai.
Minutes later, she evoked the Talwars again to underline the presumption of innocence, “You have not allowed me to say what was done to the Talwars. I think some of that is happening again. It is not to put myself on some high ground.”
As Rajdeep himself aknowledged later:
The Aarushi case is one where both the print and the TV media have much to answer for. Let me also be honest: the Aarushi Talwar murder case was a great news story and a great TV story. A father was accused of murdering his daughter, so naturally the media was excited. Where we failed was to understand that the bigger the story, the greater the need to exercise restraint.
But in practice, the other principle holds true: Bigger the story, weaker the self-restraint.
As Nupur Talwar’s cousin, a journalist, writes in her detailed account of the whole happening:
The “Noida double murders,” as they became known, spawned millions of armchair detectives duking it out on Internet forums and in living rooms. Every development, every twist, was covered by the media. National talk shows dissected the case. Police were usually anonymously quoted. TV networks hired private investigators.
The media hammered away with questions. How could the parents have slept through the murders? Why did they rush to cremate Aarushi? Why did they clean the crime scene so quickly?
After she bemoaned this state of affairs, more horrors were to unfold – on May 25, 2008, Zee News telecast a show called Crime File where anchor Manoj Raghuvanshi doubling as mind-reader authoritatively claimed that Aarushi had sought comfort in an affair with Hemraj because her father was having an extra-marital affair.
It was hotly discussed then that Balaji’s Ekta Kapoor was ready to come up with a serial depicting the ‘Noida double murder’ but sanity prevailed and she was stopped from doing it.
Much water has flown under the bridge since then, as they say.
We had almost all forgotten about the Talwar story, rekindled briefly when that sensitively made Talwar movie released 2 years ago, but we cannot forget the sordid role we media played in it.
Rajesh and Nupur were acquited today.
We, the media, will not get a clean chit in this matter. Now or in years to come.
—Sunita Mudaliar, Executive Editor