Saturday, May 24, 2008

NOT HONOUR KILLING BUT MURDER OF HONOUR

For the last one week, India has been gripped by a sensational double murder in NOIDA on the outskirts of Delhi. A 14 year old girl Arushi, the only child of dentist parents, and their 45 year old servant, Hemraj, were murdered under the most mysterious circumstances on May 15, 2008.

For one week, the local police displayed their famed ineptitude in failing to follow even the very basic rules of investigation. First, after a most perfunctory visit to the flat of Dr Rajesh Talwar, the police hastily declared Hemraj as the prime suspect and even announced a reward of Rs 20,000 to any one giving information about him. This, while the body of Hemraj was decomposing on the very terrace of the flat where the body of Arushi was found! The police simply did not bother to even look around, though bloodstains were there to be seen leading to the terrace whose door was locked. Even after Hemraj’s decomposed body was discovered after two days, they took a couple of more days to examine the closed clinic of Dr Talwar in the same premises!

Much can be written about the complete lack of professionalism in, and lackadaisical attitude of, the police which had earlier been exposed in the most horrifying Nithari killings NOIDA itself in which a businessman and his servant killed more than a dozen children over a period of more than one year after exploiting them sexually. The servant had, in fact, gone to the unbelievable extent of eating the flesh of some of his victims.

Dr Rajesh Talwar was finally arrested on May 23 by the police for murdering his only daughter and his servant. He was apparently having an extra marital affair with a colleague, Dr Anita Durrani. According to the police, his daughter Arushi was against this and had discussed it with the servant Hemraj because of which the two had come close to each other.

On the fateful night, Dr Talwar, who had already downed a couple of drinks, saw the two in a somewhat compromising position. On the pretext of talking to Hemraj, he took him to the terrace and killed him. He then came back and had some more whisky. It is not exactly clear what led him to kill his daughter after that. According to some accounts, he killed her because she threatened to expose him. Others say that when he confronted her about her relationship with Hemraj, she told him that he had no right to say anything as he himself was having an extra marital affair.

A few details about the minor Arushi. An MMS has been floating on the internet for over a year now in which this then 12 or 13 year old girl is shown getting out of her school uniform and being fondled by an unidentified man after she gets naked. India News has been showing part of this clip all this evening. May 24 was to be her birthday and a party to celebrate it had been planned by her, yes, at a pub.

This most foul murder of honour is being casually branded by some as one more case of ‘honour killing’, the likes of which have been taking place in the entire Indian sub continent for centuries. Far from it, the whole case raises some very disturbing questions. Is our educated urban society is any more progressive and liberated than the rural one where honour killings enjoy widespread societal support to this day? Are urban parents neglecting their children in their obsessive race to get richer faster? Are such parents themselves promoters of a permissive culture which they do not want to see their children become victims of? Do the parental rules of permissiveness still have the same uncompromising gender bias that was there say 50 years back?

It is easy to suggest that family values have broken down in India, on the basis of this horrifying double murder. Let us not pretend that 50 years back there was no sex and that there were great moral values all round. The morals, then and now, as shown by Dr Talwar, were and remain mainly for women. Men were, and continue to be, predators with an unquestionable right to hunt. Men can’t do it alone, without a ‘prey’. So, women have always been the other inescapable party to sex. But earlier, women worked overtime to ensure that no one got a whiff of what they were up to. Now, at least in some sections of urban society, they flaunt it, much like men do. A city provides women the shelter of anonymity as well as easy concealment from parents. Often even when parents come to know, they pretend not to.

But when it comes to male children, parents, as always, view such permissive activities indulgently and usually with pride! Their concern for their boys is mainly about the possibility of getting AIDS, not about character or morals. Similarly, extra marital affairs are not a new phenomenon. Only the openness about them is, again in some sections of urban society only. Here too, apart from a miniscule section of society, for men it remains some sort of a badge of honour while women continue to work overtime to hide their part.

The killing of Arushi by her father, clearly with the assistance/complicity of her mother, Nupur, chillingly highlights this hypocrisy and the double standards that have always defined mainstream societal moral values in India. Nupur, in classic fashion, has adjusted to and is living with the escapades of her husband. But, when it comes to her only daughter, she is as rigid and uncompromising as Dr Talwar is. And they both had manifestly no qualms about killing their only child.

This is no honour killing. This a most foul murder of honour. Rajesh and Nupur Talwar had little time for their daughter. If they were so concerned about the morals that expected from a girl child, then they should have known better than letting Arushi grow up on her own in the company of servants rather than theirs. As the MMS shows, Arushi was not only sexually active but was bold enough to be captured on film even before she entered her teens. With her working parents having little time for her and with her father openly engaging in extra marital affairs, there was really only one way Arushi was headed.

There are many Arushis and Dr Talwars out there. Fortunately, most of the Dr Talwars and their wives do not so gruesomely murder honour when their daughters hold up a mirror to them, like Arushi did. This mirror, not surprisingly, only a few can see and accept with full responsibility. The lesson for them is that the only ‘safe’ way is for them to lead their children by example and love and time.

Unfortunately, in this materially booming environment, time is the one commodity that urban, educated, working parents are not able to give to their children. And, despite all their awareness and modernity, there are still a few who will kill their girl child out of a sickening sense of honour while taking no responsibility whatsoever for the mess that they have created in the first place. Fortunately, such demented parents are really very few.