Saturday, September 5, 2009

MURDER MOST FOWL: ARUSHI WON'T JUST GO AWAY

The Arushi murder case keeps throwing up nasty surprises that all point to a massive cover-up operation in which the hands of both the CBI and the UP police are looking dirtier with each revelation.

It may be recalled that 14 year old Arushi, only child of Dr and Mrs Rajesh Talwar, and Hemraj, their servant, were murdered under most mysterious circumstances on May 15, 2008, in the Talwars' home in NOIDA.

Initially, Arushi's father was arrested for committing both the murders, with the UP police claiming that it had solved the case. It, however, failed to find any evidence to support its claim and the case was handed over to the CBI after a lot of hue and cry. On July 11, 2008, the CBI also announced with much fanfare to the nation that it had solved the case and that Arushi had been murdered by Krishna, Dr Talwar's assistant, Rajkumar, servant of Dr Durrani who was a friend of the Talwars, and Mandal, servant of another neighbour. Following that boast, however, the agency failed to make any worthwhile progress in the case, and soon enough admitted that it too had no proof against anyone. That is where the case stands now.

The latest twist in the seemingly never-ending chain of damning revelations is that the vaginal swab that was sent to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) was not Arushi's at all, but was of an unidentifiable woman! Only the NOIDA police or someone with a motive who had "purchased" unfettered access to forensic evidence gathered by it could have switched the swab. The CBI has known about this for about eight months now, as per a news report.

Yet, instead of filing a case for destruction of evidence, it has formed a committee to look into the "lapse". Lapse? Without the swab, it simply cannot be proved that Arushi had been sexually assaulted. This so-called lapse is no less serious than the murder itself.

This is not the only instance of destruction of evidence that points towards the involvement of well informed and connected individuals. Apparently, both the police and the CBI did not find any incriminating evidence either from Arushi's bedroom, where she was killed, or from the terrace, where her servant Hemraj was found murdered. Surely, three drunk, semi-literate guys could not have been so smart as to destroy all evidence is so professional a manner.

I have written earlier in some detail about how this murder most fowl is a serious indictment of the investigative agencies. The latest development only reinforces that deduction. Arushi , it appears, is just not going to go away.

Does the latest development bring the needle of suspicion back to Arushi's father? Read what I had posted just after the CBI admitted that it had no proof against anyone.
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Just four days back, I had written that the CBI, which had taken over the sensational Arushi murder case and claimed with much fanfare on July 11, 2008, that it had solved the case, was unlikely to file a charge sheet against any of the three accused whom they had arrested. On September 4, Vijay Mandal was granted bail by a court on the ground that the CBI had no proof to name him as an accused.

Today, India’s premier investigative agency has surprised the nation by throwing in the towel. It has finally admitted that it has found no proof against anyone in the case. Worse, it has announced a reward of Rs1 lakh for anyone who gives them further information in the case.

Even when the CBI hid claimed on July 11 that it had solved the case with arrest of Krishna, Rajkumar and Vijay Mandal, there were serious doubts in my mind about its claims because some vital points had been ignored. They were as relevant on that date as they are today and merit being repeated here:

Nothing heard by the Talwars. The CBI had stated on July 11 that they had physically opened the door to Arushi’s room and found that nothing could be heard from her parents’ bedroom with the AC running. It was also mentioned that upon being assaulted by the accused, Arushi tried to shout, but she had a bad throat. The trespass into Arushi’s bedroom was not done by an individual making a careful entry. Four men under the influence of liquor entered her room in the still of the night, manifestly with the intention of sexually exploiting her. In her room, they even had a fight, due to which, as per the CBI, Hemraj left the room in a huff. Whether the other three did assault her sexually or not before or after hitting her with a blunt weapon is not clear. But, it needs no intelligence to understand that four hot-headed drunk men would have made enough of a racket in Arushi’s room for quite a while. Dr and Mrs Talwar were not sedated. It is really difficult to believe that they just did not hear the commotion, if not the muted cry from the bad throat of Arushi. Yet, the CBI chose not to subject Dr Talwar to a narco test. That too despite one of his polygraph tests not yielding a satisfactory result.

Blood stains on Rajkumar’s shirt. The CBI has obviously not found incriminating bloodstains on Rajkumar’s shirt that they had sent for analysis. The question is: what about the shirts of Krishna and Mandal? Krishna was, as per his relatives, sleeping with them in a small room all through the night. If he did manage to quietly slip out, how come when he came back, he changed his clothes and hid those that were bloodstained, yet undiscovered, without anyone getting to know about it? What about Mandal’s ‘murder’ clothes? Where are the clothes that Dr Talwar was wearing that night?

Destruction of all forensic evidence. No incriminating forensic evidence at all was found by either the police or the CBI from Arushi’s bedroom and the terrace where Hemraj was killed. Were three drunk guys having no criminal background so smart that they destroyed it all after committing the crime? Were Dr and Mrs Talwar so foolish and ignorant that they allowed all and sundry to enter Arushi’s room the day after the murder and destroy such evidence?

Where are the mobiles and the murder weapon? This question was relevant on July 11. But the CBI chose to ignore it then. It is unanswered even today, despite the ‘confessions’ and ‘leads’ obtained during the narco tests. Without them, the CBI will look as foolish as the NOIDA police did earlier, and has no case.

The way both the NOIDA police and the CBI have bungled this case points to a very fundamental malaise that has hollowed the core of India’s ‘elite’ civil services that includes the IPS. In case after case, the professional incompetence and lack of integrity of India’s police officers has been exposed. Yet, nothing happens to them. Heads never roll. All that happens is that the concerned officers are removed from public and media glare for a while by transferring them to another place. Soon all is forgotten. And such officers continue to rise in rank and are entrusted with even more responsibility!

In the Arushi case, while the concerned IPS officers were transferred, one has not heard of even that action being taken against Arun Kumar who, on July 11, claimed that the CBI had found the real murderers and had given a clean chit to Dr Rajesh Talwar, till then the prime accused, without subjecting him to narco analysis like the other accused were.

Be warned. This is the kind of material that may well land up heading the BSF, CRPF, CBI, IB, RAW, NSG, NSC and more. Is it a surprise that 61 years after Independence, these ‘elite’ police officers have not been able to effect any fundamental organisational and functional changes in a 19th century police set up put in place by a colonial power to subjugate its subjects? If anything, they have made things worse for ordinary citizens with blatant corruption at all levels and an arrogance that would have embarrassed even the British of the Raj.

There is no agency beyond the CBI that can question it for its failures. India’s politicians, who should have had the vision and the responsibility to set things right, have led from the front to corrupt this and other organisations by using them as private agencies for petty and partisan political and personal purposes. When the real rot is right at the very top, how can you expect integrity and honesty from those below?

The Arushi murder case stinks. Something horribly wrong has been and is being done with a disturbing nonchalance. One cannot help shake the feeling that a lot of money has something to do with the botching up of what should have been the one of simplest of cases to solve.