Why Does the Nee­dle Swing?

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FOUR YEARS af­ter the mur­ders, peo­ple still mainly want to know — who did it? But by now the Aarushi-hemraj case has be­come so en­tan­gled that there is no easy way to get an­swers. The truth lies in the de­tails. Let’s be­gin with the ba­sics. The mur­der vic­tims: Aarushi Tal­war and her fam­ily’s do­mes­tic staffer Yam Prasad Ban­jade, aka Hemraj, were mur­dered on the night of 15 May 2008 in­side the fam­ily flat in Noida, UP. Aarushi’s body was dis­cov­ered on 16 May while Hemraj’s body was dis­cov­ered on 17 May. The CBI’S sus­pects so far: 1. Dr Ra­jesh Tal­war (Aarushi’s fa­ther) 2. Kr­ishna Thadarai (Ra­jesh’s den­tal clinic as­sis­tant) 3. Raj Kumar (do­mes­tic staffer with the Tal­wars’ friends Drs Pra­ful and Anita Dur­rani, who lived nearby) 4. Vi­jay Man­dal (an­other do­mes­tic staffer in the Tal­war neigh­bour­hood). Hemraj, Kr­ishna and Raj Kumar had all been re­cruited through the Tal­wars’ pre­vi­ous do­mes­tic staffer, Vishnu, and were friends.

The CBI pro­posed to close its in­ves­ti­ga­tion in De­cem­ber 2010, stat­ing that it con­sid­ered Ra­jesh Tal­war guilty but didn’t have enough ev­i­dence to charge him with the crime. The CBI court then shock­ingly or­dered that not only Ra­jesh, but Nupur Tal­war also be tried for mur­der, crim­i­nal con­spir­acy and destruc­tion of ev­i­dence. As this goes to press, Nupur has been de­nied bail by the ses­sions court in Ghazi­abad and is in Dasna jail (un­like the CBI’S four other sus­pects, all of whom were given bail). The par­ents’ Supreme Court ap­peal to over­rule the CBI court is still pend­ing.

Part of the mys­tery of this case has al­ways been that it seemed to be like an Agatha Christie locked-house mur­der, and the CBI court or­der against the Tal­wars also con­cludes that there couldn’t have been any out­side in­trud­ers that fate­ful night. The court bases this on the un­der­stand­ing that the house was se­cure with­out any sign of forcible en­try and no rob­bery ac­com­pa­nied the mur­ders — but doesn’t ac­count for the fact that Hemraj’s room in­side the Tal­wars’ flat had an in­de­pen­dent door to the out­side world.

The or­der also quotes the do­mes­tic maid’s tes­ti­mony that she found the house latched or locked from out­side the morn­ing af­ter the mur­ders — so some­one must have ex­ited the house and locked the par­ents in­side their home. The CBI has also not ex­plained some of its other mys­ti­fy­ing claims, such as how its ‘ex­perts’ con­cluded that Aarushi was killed by some­one close to her, or why they be­lieve that the door to Aarushi’s room was open when she was at­tacked.

What is more rel­e­vant now is the fact that the Aarushi and Hemraj mur­der mys­tery is likely to go to trial in the CBI spe­cial court in Ghazi­abad. As the trial ap­proaches, there are some se­cre­tive points about the case that will be of ut­most in­ter­est to cit­i­zens con­cerned about jus­tice, to cu­ri­ous who­dunit readers and view­ers, and to those jour­nal­ists hunt­ing for a sen­sa­tional break­through in the story. The CBI has its work cut out for it in the trial — here are 10 key ques­tions that lie at the heart of this mur­der mys­tery that the agency needs to ad­dress:

WHY IS the CBI ig­nor­ing alarm­ing ev­i­dence from its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, such as the foren­sic re­port con­firm­ing that Hemraj’s blood was on a pil­low cover seized from Kr­ishna’s room? While it has of­fered an ex­ten­sive re­port on its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Ra­jesh Tal­war, why is the CBI not re­veal­ing any de­tails of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of its three other sus­pects de­spite the strong clues of their in­volve­ment?

WHY DO Raj Kumar’s for­mer em­ploy­ers Dr Pra­ful and Dr Anita Dur­rani claim that the CBI is mis­rep­re­sent­ing their tes­ti­mony about Kumar’s al­ibi the night of the mur­ders? They claim that Kumar was free of all du­ties by be­fore mid­night on the night of the mur­ders, and that his bathroom was out­side their house’s main back door so he could come and go when­ever he wanted.

IF, AS the CBI says, Ra­jesh com­mit­ted the mur­ders un­der sud­den provo­ca­tion, why didn’t his clothes from that evening have ei­ther of the vic­tims’ blood on them? A strong thread of the dis­course

The Tal­wars have been ask­ing for ad­vanced foren­sics like touch DNA. Why is the CBI re­fus­ing to do that?

around this case has been one of class bias. Crit­ics ask, with just cause, whether those who be­lieve the Tal­wars in­no­cent, do so be­cause they are ‘Peo­ple Like Us’. With this in mind, the ques­tion to ask is: why is the CBI bi­ased against the tes­ti­monies of the un­der­class?

The CBI con­firms that two days be­fore the mur­der, Kr­ishna was in­fu­ri­ated with Ra­jesh Tal­war be­cause the lat­ter had scolded him for mak­ing an in­cor­rect den­tal cast. The Tal­wars’ driver Umesh Sharma has told the au­thor­i­ties that Kr­ishna later ex­claimed to him that he would deal with Ra­jesh Tal­war. Umesh Sharma has also said that he found Ra­jesh to be in the same clothes on the morn­ing of 16 May as he’d been on the evening of 15. The Tal­wars’ maid’s de­scrip­tion to the au­thor­i­ties of Ra­jesh’s clothes on the 16th morn­ing also matches driver Umesh’s de­scrip­tion of what Ra­jesh was wear­ing on the 15th night, which were with­out any blood­stains.

IF AARUSHI’S par­ents had tam­pered with the crime scene, why would they have left the big­gest clue — the Bal­lan­tine’s whiskey bot­tle with many fin­ger­prints and both vic­tims’ blood­stains — sit­ting in plain view on their din­ing ta­ble for the po­lice to find the next morn­ing? If they were guilty, why did they protest the CBI’S move to close the case last year and in­sist that in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tinue? If they have some­thing to hide, why are they ag­i­tat­ing for ad­vanced foren­sics to be ap­plied such as touch DNA?

WHY WAS the CBI’S first in­ves­ti­ga­tion team on this case re­placed by a sec­ond one, es­pe­cially since the first team had an­nounced it was about to chargesheet the cul­prits? Why does the CBI now not men­tion the first team’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions — such as its sound re­con­struc­tion test at the Tal­wars’ house in June 2008 that con­cluded that sound from Aarushi’s room couldn’t be heard in her par­ents’ room; or its UV Light Test­ing on 1 June 2008 that ap­par­ently didn’t pick up any blood­stains to in­di­cate that Hemraj was killed any­where ex­cept the ter­race?

THE TECH­NOL­OGY to solve this mur­der mys­tery ex­ists. Touch DNA is a tech­nique that’s been used in crim­i­nal cases world­wide since it can an­a­lyse ev­i­dence even af­ter years of con­tam­i­na­tion. Why is

the CBI re­fus­ing to sim­ply put all spec­u­la­tion to rest once for all and get touch DNA test­ing on the ev­i­dence it has gath­ered, such as the whiskey bot­tle with stil­lu­niden­ti­fied fin­ger­prints?

WHY DO ex­perts at the All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sci­ences (AIIMS), New Delhi com­pletely con­tra­dict the CBI’S lat­est the­o­ries about the mur­der weapon? The au­thor­i­ties first posited that the mur­der weapon was a khukri (a curved Nepali knife), then they shifted to a scalpel, then to a golf club (or per­haps a com­bi­na­tion of golf club and scalpel). Now, the CBI found Kr­ishna’s khukri to be clean of any hu­man blood, and its only ev­i­dence for the golf club the­ory is that two of Ra­jesh’s clubs in his golf set were cleaner than the oth­ers — dis­re­gard­ing these two in­con­clu­sive ac­counts leaves you with the ex­perts’ opin­ion pre­sented in a re­port in The In­dian Ex­press on 7 June 2008, which said that AIIMS ex­perts con­cluded 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”.

DOES THE CBI be­lieve or not be­lieve in the re­sults of the mul­ti­ple lie de­tec­tor, brain-map­ping and narco-anal­y­sis tests the sus­pects have un­der­gone? For ex­am­ple, why does the CBI still con­sider it sus­pi­cious that Nupur Tal­war couldn’t ex­plain where the key to Aarushi’s self-lock­ing door was on 16 May morn­ing (till it was dis­cov­ered later), even though Nupur has suc­cess­fully an­swered this ques­tion dur­ing the sev­eral lie de­tec­tor, brain-map­ping and narco-anal­y­sis tests she’s passed, stat­ing that she prob­a­bly made the cru­cial mis­take of leav­ing the key in the door af­ter vis­it­ing her child on 15th night.

WHY DO the post-mortem doc­tor Su­nil Dohre and his as­sis­tants’ state­ments to the CBI rub­bish their own orig­i­nal re­port? How cred­i­ble is it that they some­how re­mem­bered rad­i­cal new facts for the CBI about Aarushi’s body that are not present in their orig­i­nal post­mortem re­port — dras­tic facts such as her hy­men was “rup­tured”, had “an old tear”, “the vagi­nal ori­fice... was un­duly large”, “mouth of cervix was vis­i­ble”, her pri­vate parts were ex­traor­di­nar­ily di­lated and cleaned af­ter the mur­der. These new facts are not only rad­i­cal but con­tra­dict the orig­i­nal re­port, since ex­tra­or­di­nary di­la­tion and clean­ing is in­con­sis­tent with the post-mortem re­port’s claim about pres­ence of whi­tish dis­charge un­der the Ex­ter­nal Ex­am­i­na­tion header of Vagina.

HOW ARE we be­ing ‘sen­si­tive’ to the un­der­class by un­ques­tion­ingly be­liev­ing the po­lice and CBI’S in­sin­u­a­tions that Hemraj-the-grand­fa­ther was in a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with a child, while dis­count­ing the tes­ti­monies of the maid and driver Umesh Sharma?

There’s one last clue to watch out for as this mur­der trial com­mences — at this late stage four years later, which­ever jour­nal­ist now quotes ‘anony­mous sources’ in this case is not worth lis­ten­ing to. The news cy­cle is about to crank up again, and you should watch out for how the me­dia’s anony­mous sources al­most al­ways con­tra­dict the brave tes­ti­monies of the do­mes­tic staff.

In the first 48 hours af­ter 15 May 2008, per­haps it was still easy to solve this mys­tery. Four years later, it will take much more ef­fort — ask­ing some hard ques­tions and ap­ply­ing ad­vanced foren­sics like touch DNA. How­ever, with its res­o­lute re­fusal to de­ploy avail­able tech­nol­ogy, the CBI has an alarm­ingly vague case against Aarushi’s par­ents. But if you ask these 10 ques­tions that the CBI’S own in­ves­ti­ga­tions have thrown up, and ask them in­sis­tently enough, this case can still be cracked.


No bail-out Nupur Tal­war be­ing taken to Dasna jail


Framed?Nupur Tal­war with daugh­ter Aarushi’s por­trait

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