[MJR] TV arguments that go nowhere

01 May,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


Few crimes have been more astonishing and more bitterly fought over in the public domain than the murders of 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar and the domestic who worked in her home, Hemraj. Unlike the Jessica Lal murder case – where everyone know who the murderer was and the scandal was the cover-up – everything about this double murder remains open-ended four years later.


The role of the media, however, came into question from day 1. it started with the intrusive and speculative reporting about Aarushi’s own life – with ridiculous segments on TV channels about how Aarushi would have celebrated her next birthday, had she been alive. Then, the initial police investigation added more grist to the rumour mill – were the parents swingers, had Aarushi and Hemraj become too close because of the parents’ activities and as a result, had the two been shut up because they knew too much? No evidence was presented to prove any of these speculations, yet the Noida police had no problem putting all these theories into the fray.


Then the expected happened -various domestics were blamed. it didn’t help that Hemraj himself was blamed, by the parents as it happened. His body was found the next day since neither the police nor the family even bothered to check the whole house after the murder of the girl was discovered. His body was on the terrace – not really that far away.


The media at this time, rather than focus on the salacious aspects of the case and dramatising this young girl’s life, perhaps should have put the police under the scanner for destroying evidence, for not treating the Talwar home as a crime scene and for careening between believing the Talwars implicitly to treating them as criminals.


Television on Monday night revisited the Aarushi case as her mother Nupur finally appeared before a court after giving the authorities the run around for a year and was sent to jail. We have seen the Talwars presented as both victims and perpetrators. The media has taken sides and many have sided with the Talwars. The arguments presented have been sweetly naive -how can parents kill their children and neighbours say the Talwars are nice people. The dentist couple also had high profile patients like historian Patrick French who have launched a spirited defence.


On NDTV, there was some soul-searching about whether the media had gone too far, Headlines Today enjoyed chasing Nupur Talwar all over Delhi and told us all about the jail she would be staying in and how she would be treated. On Times Now, we were treated to an expected fight fest. One of the lawyers for the Talwars, Pinaki Mishra, historian French, activist Ranjana Kumari and TV journalist Ashutosh Tiwari and Arnab Goswami himself slugged it out. Or rather, Mishra and French batted for the Talwars, Tiwari for the media, Kumari hardly got a chance to speak and Goswami seemed unsure whose side he was on. He did however ask why no one was bothered about the domestics who were accused at the Talwars’ behest and then let off. Mishra wanted everyone to know he was taking no money – how this impacted the case was unclear. Should his paying clients now feel that he only pays attention to cases he does free. French said that everyone said the Talwars were nice people. imagine writing a history of, say, Hitler, and then telling us many people liked him. it’s hardly a defence.


The Noida police and the CBi, who really should be under the microscope, were not grilled. So one more TV argument that goes nowhere.


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