The Aarushi case that was in the news for several years (since 2008) had raised a lot of eyeballs all along, sent shock waves in its wake, and shook a hapless couple’s belief in justice. The case that had the nation’s undivided attention for so long is back in the news again, following the launch of a book (by Arook Sen) and the movie (“Talwar” directed by Meghna Gulzar). Both pieces of non-fiction and fiction respectively (based on Aarushi’s murder) seem to bring to the fore a bevy of thickly-veiled truths and realistic theories of what could have really transpired on that fateful night.
Personally, what I found shocking about this case was the way the media reacted to it, and how quick they were to pass judgment about the parents (and their being guilty) on the basis of some theories belted out by the police department. The film exposes the lie behind one such self-purported theory of its main investigating police officer, who based on his “years of experience” thought it was impossible for anyone other than the parents to kill the child. And it was the same officer who couldn’t carry out the basic duties expected of him, such as cordoning off the area around the crime scene, or informing the forensics team and gathering vital inputs that could have helped solve the crime.
As the news bytes (based on the above theory) continued to appear on the television, it naturally swayed people’s opinions, who didn’t find it realistic that an outsider can actually sneak inside the room of that child, and kill her so mercilessly (when her parents were sleeping in a room adjacent to hers). They also couldn’t believe that a mother could remain “staid” and “unaffected” while facing a camera, and unlike any “normal” person couldn’t bring herself to cry or react over the loss of her only child.
The more I read and saw about the case being described in detail in the book/movie, the more I realized how little facts seem to matter vis-à-vis the general opinion. I recently read an article about a University that wrote some fake articles about how the US found some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They then came up with another article saying the US never found them (which was true). However, a lot of people still continued to believe the first piece of news which was more in line with their ideas on American politics. The above exercise was carried out to test what is referred to as the “backfire effect”. In simple terms, this means that when your strongest beliefs are confronted by contradictory evidence, it wouldn’t really change your beliefs, but only strengthen them.
This seems to have happened in Aarushi’s case too, where people though confronted by several pieces of evidences that tilted in favor of the parents (inconclusive lie-detector/narcotic tests of the parents, strong indications of an intruder inside the house) continued to believe in the old theory which was created by a set of administrative officials (who were too lazy to carry out a full-blown investigation of the murder). In the words of Shree Paradkar, a cousin of Nupur Talwar, “People extrapolate from their own experiences. Just because something CAN happen, they think it has happened. Proof and evidence become immaterial.”
There is a scene in the movie “Talwar”, where the two opposing teams throw a volley of facts and theories at one other (while the first is of the belief that it were the two friends of the servant, Hemraj who would have carried out the murder, the second maintain that it were the parents alone who could have killed Aarushi). Though this scene may be a work of fiction, it clearly shows how a belief-backed farrago of lies if shouted aloud several times over can actually score over a subdued piece of “truth” (thought it may be supported by clinching evidences and undeniable facts). And the force of the collective beliefs proved to be so strong that it managed to keep away the winds of rationality from seeping into the court rooms (that pronounced Aarushi’s parents guilty).
It is all at once scary and impossibly surprising that media, the public, and the administration are in no mood to exonerate the parents of a crime that no one knows who committed. But as per the popular belief, it seems only “logical” to assume that it would have been no one else but the parents who would have been involved. Imagine a scenario where the courts were to start giving out the verdict based on the opinions rather than evidences! It seems that is exactly where the justice system of our country is headed to!
The movie makes a hard-hitting statement that the sword (“Talwar” carried by the lady who represents justice) seems to have become rusty over a period of time. The Talwars case indeed a sign of things to come, so we as the self-professed know-all, law-deciding citizens of India better watch out before we get caught ourselves in the web of our opinions.
By Pooja Nair