Covering Inderlok Murders
By Maxwell Pereira
maxwelpereir@gmail.com

What is it with our media? Why is it impossible for the fourth estate to be realistic and rational while reporting crime and expecting action on the part of concerned law enforcers? Why the headlines “police are clueless” “police groping in the dark” even before police have started investigations after an eye-catching or soul-stirring crime? Does one expect police to be jadoogars all the time to pull out rabbits from a hat with a ‘hey presto’?

It happened again in the case of the recent Inderlok murders – when on July 31, bodies of seven members of a family were found at their ‘D’ Block residence – all killed at one go. Seven bodies under one roof, with throats slashed - of Om Prakash Rathore (45), his wife Santosh (40), four daughters Manju (19), Preeti (17), Dolly (15), Pooja (14) and son Anuj (8) – discovered in the morning.

True, this by any standards is sensation. And for added horror, there were two more, of senior citizens, done to death the same day in Karol Bagh. Nine victims of murder in one day, enough to prompt more than one newspaper to make this the main news of the day with front-page banner headlines under the masthead.

The multiple-murder sent shockwaves in the capital and created a furore in the locality with locals hitting the streets and ransacking the house of a neighbour, with whom Rathore is said to have had a property dispute – leading to deployment of riot police to tackle the situation. In the city of politics, the incident understandably sought to be blown up into a political issue by rival BJP in the Opposition.

By noon, every television news channel screeching away, each competing with the other to ‘break news’. By evening, reportage graduated to theories and analysis, pip-squeak anchors and armchair analysts commenting on taken-for-granted ‘police lapses’ that led to this horror of horrors – for there had to be police lapses for nine murders to occur in a day, or so the media had to project.

And no, the views of some that it is too early to comment on a case like the one occurred at Inderlok, not palatable. Irrespective of the fact there were no indicators pointing these were either preventable, or murders for gain through housebreaking, related violence or intrusion. Nothing short of pointing fingers at police failure would do, or acceptable.

The police commissioner’s own statement not spared too – that this crime is not an indicator of the state of law and order or security in the city. It was scathingly decried, made the “question of the day” for aroused adverse sentiment to vent itself, and indicted even in editorials by the high and mighty know-alls! Within 24 hours, and since, the media mandarins on a tirade – “police groping, police clueless”. Worse, speculation over speculation – of what the solution could be! Irrespective of what harm these red-herrings and diversions could do to investigations that were on.

The case handed over to the Crime Branch, whose investigators battle on  ‘midst all the adverse projection – to sift every iota of information, or clue picked from the scene, from people talked to, and whatever else. Soon investigators established that only one person committed all the murders, as autopsy reports proved the weapon used for the killing was the same. Sleuths questioned over 200 people and probed various angles, including property dispute, family feud and a possible love tangle of one of the murdered Rathore daughters.

Hard work and systematic investigation pay dividends. Within six days of the discovery of the gruesome act, the mystery is unravelled. An arrest is made of a close relative, unfolding the diabolical motive behind the killing – a deadly cocktail of family feud and greed for money – within the family circle!

Even before this case is solved, police detectives elsewhere from Karol Bagh travelled far to track down the servant of the Grovers – the other couple that were murdered in the city the same day as the Inderlok seven – to return with the culprit firmly in their custody. That case too solved and duly wrapped up. In both cases an exemplary follow-up and astute investigation resulting in a first rate feat on the part of Delhi Police.

For more on the seven-victim murder of Inderlok – the police zeroed in on accused Sanjay Babu after they found him missing at the cremation and other family rituals after the massacre. A nephew of Rathore's wife Santhosh, Sanjay and his family used to live with the Rathores earlier. They parted ways after Santosh asked her sister to move out, as Sanjay’s objectionable activities (which attracted police trouble) were bad influence for her growing-up daughters. This led to acrimony, to nurse a simmering grudge that grew and eventually boiled over to make him butcher the entire family.

According to police reconstruction of crime based on disclosures, Sanjay murdered his aunt's family for money and to settle this old grudge. When he visited the family a couple of days before the murder he had learnt of his uncle getting an advance of 5 lakhs for renting out a portion of the house and witnessed his aunt giving Rs 50,000 to a relative. With also the knowledge of his uncle’s money-lending business, he expected lots of money to be in the house. 

True, there is much more to it that than meets the eye. Many unanswered questions, to wrap matters in a hurry. But the point to be realised is that murders are not solved in a jiffy. Investigation needs time, and meticulous effort. The media needs to be supportive. Not distracting or obstructive. Needs to appreciate and not demoralise the community to lose confidence in the agency they forever need to rely on for safety and security in an evolving-for-the-worse violent society.

08.08.2006: 950 words: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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