If only the dead could speak, I am sure Aarushi Talwar would look India’s judiciary in the eye. She would likely ask them some tough questions: Even if the almighty had planned such a tragic end for me, isn’t it the failure of our law and order machinery that nobody has a clue about my killer? Why did senior officers of Uttar Pradesh police fail to make a breakthrough? Why has the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) been unsuccessful in unmasking the murderer? Is it incompetence or sheer lack of will?

Aarushi’s murder proves that an anarchist and immoral mob mentality prevails in the world’s largest democracy. It seems we are all living in a gigantic, loud drum-house where some people are trying to make a feeble but ineffective plea for truth and justice.

Today, when I again dig into the inbox of my memories I realize that since May 2008, a suspense thriller has been taking shape before us. One day comes the news that a 14-year-old girl has been found dead in her bedroom in her Jalvayu Vihar home in Noida. A probe begins. By the evening, the police realize that Hemraj, the domestic help is missing. Assuming that he was the murderer, the speculation starts. The next day Hemraj’s body is found on the terrace of the apartment. The girl is killed in her bedroom and the domestic help’s body is on the terrace. There is no sign of robbery. The neighbours next door don’t have a clue about what happened. Who killed these two? When were they killed and why?

There is as much speculation, as there are questions.

At that time the Mayawati government was in power in Uttar Pradesh. She was very sensitive when it came to crime. Senior officers based in Lucknow began to apply pressure on the local police. Regional police chiefs from Meerut also jumped into the fray. Every day a new theory was floated. People talk about a trial by the media. But all kinds of insinuations were being fed to reporters. Apart from character assassinating the murdered girl, even her parents and family friends were not spared. If you collate the newspaper clippings and news videos of that time, you would realize how our police apparatus is expert in creating distortions and half-truths out of other people’s misery and how the gullible media plays the police’s court jester.

By its own estimate, through some calculations, the UP police had ‘solved’ the case. But a number of questions remained. So the case was handed over to the CBI. The same CBI which wields the magic lamp, fears nobody and solves the most complicated mysteries like Sherlock Holmes. It is another matter that some people prefer to call this efficient outfit a ‘caged parrot.’

The IPS officer assigned to the case was perceived to be brilliant. Being from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, it was believed that Arun Kumar will get to the bottom of the case. But nothing came of it. The CBI submitted its closure report. It implied it had not managed to put together the evidence, but the court wasn’t convinced. So the balance of justice began to tilt. Today, when the Allahabad high court has conceded that there is not enough evidence against the Talwars and they can walk free, the question is: Is there something that has been buried or concealed somewhere?

Is there a conspiracy behind this? Or, have the police and the CBI proved to be ineffectual? Whatever be the reason, one can’t deny that the death of a young girl and the transformation of a family’s happiness into mourning have been a waste. Questions are bound to be raised about what the Talwars were punished for. They lost their daughter, spent years behind bars, their career was destroyed and now after coming out of prison, they are looking at the challenge of leading the rest of their lives.

It is sad that a number of officers who scripted this tragic tale were decorated in India and abroad. Better results were expected of them but what happened was the opposite.

Is it not a matter of anger and sorrow that the nation’s system which feeds on hard-earned taxpayers’ money treats them so cruelly? By this time, when this murder mystery has become an urban legend, if there is anybody who can lift the curtain on this murder, it is Aarushi herself or Hemraj. But what can one do? Unfortunately, the dead cannot speak.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin.

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