More than four years after they were first sent to Dasna Jail, nearly ten years after the death of their only child, Nupur and Rajesh Talwar were acquitted of a crime of which they had been convicted based on almost bizarrely circumstantial evidence.
Imagine being the Talwars. Imagine waking up to find that your daughter, a few days short of her fourteenth birthday, has been killed in her own bedroom, her blood splashed on the walls. Imagine being hounded for details by the national news media, conveniently based within cycle-rickshaw-ing distance from your Noida home. Imagine being questioned by the police even as news crews swarm your home. Imagine having the body of the main suspect turn up in your terrace two days later.
Also read: Aarushi Trial: Are the Talwars the only possible suspects?
Imagine being arrested within weeks of cremating your child; imagine your husband being arrested within weeks of cremating your child. Imagine being told you did not show enough grief over the death of your child. Imagine details of your sex life being discussed in the newspapers. Imagine being accused of the murder of your own child. Imagine facing the prospect of death row over the alleged murder of your own child. Imagine being sentenced to life in prison.
Imagine sitting in your cell, as movies are made about your life and books written.
Imagine, after four years, being acquitted.
Imagine being the Talwars, nine years after the greatest tragedy of their lives, having spent half that time trying to prove that they were not the architects of that tragedy.
And will they be left alone now that the Allahabad High Court has acquitted them? The prosecution is already livid that they have got away “scot-free”, and plans to appeal against the acquittal in the Supreme Court.
Read exclusive SIFY coverage of the Aarushi Talwar murder trial.
The Talwars must fight again, before they can mourn the loss of their daughter, mourn the years they have spent as convicts, mourn the labels with which they will have to live for the rest of their lives.
It is often said of the justice system that a hundred guilty men can walk free, but an innocent should not be hanged. The CBI, which by all accounts has presented the most skeletal circumstantial evidence to wring a conviction out of the case, wanted the Talwars to be hanged.
The botched investigations by the police and CBI have been detailed by Avirook Sen in several columns for Sify, including the latest
, and in his book detailing the Talwars’ side of the story.
Historian and biographer Patrick French arrived at the conclusion that the Talwars could not possibly have murdered their daughter after a detailed journalistic investigation
into the murder and the police case.
But from the start, most people were keen to find the Talwars guilty. And with that end in mind, they worked backwards to various theories, which included one that it was an “honour killing” to hide the “disgrace” of Aarushi, 13, having an affair with the domestic help, Hemraj, believed to have been around 45 at the time.
The reasoning was: “If not they, then who?”
Also read: Aarushi trial: The many holes in CBI's version of events
But does our judicial system allow for conviction on the basis of conjecture, and conjecture not even by thorough elimination?
No one has been able to answer: “If it was they, then why?”
What could motivate a parent to kill a child?
We found some answers a couple of years ago, when Indrani Mukerjea was convicted of the murder of her older daughter, Sheena Bora. Her co-conspirator was her ex-husband, stepfather of the victim. But that case had a confession and a witness. Indrani Mukerjea was accused of the murder only after her driver testified.
In the case of the Aarushi murder, there has been no witness. There have been narco tests and red herrings. There have been theories. But there is no proof. No one is even certain about the weapon which was used in the crime. No one can come up with a plausible motive that doesn’t sound like the undoing of a low-budget thriller.
And yet, the Talwars have spent arguably more time in jail than out of it, since the murder of their daughter. Their appearances in court have been greeted by journalists screaming, “Did you kill Aarushi?”
They have been held guilty until proven innocent.
Justice for them will be seeing the killer of their daughter punished. Instead, they have spent years fighting a conviction based on the loosest of theories. And their fight is not over.
Through our teen years, we read detective stories where murders were committed in locked rooms and empty houses. When one captured the imagination of the entire country, the authorities did not even need a motive to convict the chief mourners of murder.
In a case where justice has been both delayed and denied, can there ever be closure?
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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage.