[Assam] [assam] India's middle-class murder trial stokes concerns about changing values
bbaruah at aol.com
Sat May 12 10:00:39 IST 2012
The Guardian UK (May 12, 2012)
India's middle-class murder trial stokes concerns about changing values
Teenager Aarushi Talwar's parents are accused of killing her and their
male housekeeper in a trial that has divided public opinion
Jason Burke in Delhi
guardian.co.uk, Friday 11 May 2012 14.54 BST
Nupur Talwar is escorted from prison to court. Photograph: Manan
The trial of a middle-aged, middle-class couple accused of murdering
their daughter and a male domestic help has opened in Delhi amid
massive media attention and concerns about its role as a focus for the
fears of many about changing values in India.
Rajesh and Nupur Talwar, successful dentists from the prosperous suburb
of Noida just outside the Indian capital, are accused of killing
14-year-old Aarushi and Yam Prasad Banjade, a 45-year-old male
housekeeper, and hiding the evidence. Investigators say the girl was
murdered when her parents found out about a sexual relationship between
the two. The couple say they are innocent victims of a miscarriage of
The story has laid bare fault lines in a society caught between
entrenched traditions and rapid development.
Columnist and TV executive Sagarika Ghosh said the case had "become a
concentration of the many concerns in contemporary India: about upward
mobility, about professional women, about working mothers, about the
relationship between employer and 'servant'. It's a microcosm of the
The case has also highlighted concerns about the failures of Indian law
enforcement agencies. Police and government investigators are accused
of having botched successive inquiries into the double murder four
years ago and of pursuing a vendetta against the pair to cover up their
The couple have welcomed the hearings, saying they will finally clear
"In our country, you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.
They have made us guilty and told us 'prove your innocence'. I have to
go to trial," Rajesh Talwar said earlier this year.
The body of Aarushi was discovered by her mother on the morning of 16
May 2008. Her throat had been cut, there were signs of a violent
assault and a blood-stained bottle of whisky stood nearby. Initially
suspicion fell on Banjade, the servant, but then, 36 hours after the
police had first entered the apartment, his body was found on the roof.
He had suffered similar injuries.
Shortly afterwards, Rajesh Talwar was arrested for murder, then
released, then re-arrested along with his wife following further
investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), a national
Throughout, the Talwars' defenders have pointed out that most of the
forensic evidence in the flat was destroyed by police themselves or by
the media who were allowed to roam freely on the crime scene and that
postmortems were inconclusive. They also say that successive inquiries
have contradicted each other over key elements.
The Talwars' critics – as well as frequently quoted "sources" within
the police and CBI – claim that the popular and pretty Aarushi was
killed by her enraged father when found in bed with Banjade. Such
murders to "preserve the family honour" are still common in India and
often accepted even among the new middle class. Last week, a senior
police officer was quoted as telling a man whose daughter had been
abducted and raped that he should either kill her or himself.
The true scale of such murders is unknown. Police routinely demand
bribes from bereaved parents to reclassify such deaths as accidental.
Campaigners against so-called "honour killings" have seen the failure
to convict Rajesh Talwar as a further example of the failure of police
to take such cases seriously, particularly officers in conservative,
poor and corrupt states like Uttar Pradesh, where Noida, despite its
proximity to Delhi, lies.
Rajesh Talwar is also accused of killing the servant. Though murder of
domestic help is rare in India, abuse is not. Many Indian middle-class
households have up to half a dozen servants, most of whom come from
poor rural areas. Most work long hours for little pay and with no job
The case thus touches on a series of hugely sensitive issues.
In a court order last week, a judge denied bail to Nupur Talwarsaying
"everything is possible in these days of modern era where moral values
are fast declining and one can stoop to the lowest level".
Ghosh, said the case was "not about evidence" any more.
"It has become an example of the paranoia that people have about a
crisis in Indian values. Lots of people fear progress," she told the
Friday's hearing was taken up with legal arguments. The trial will
continue next week
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