The curious case of self-styled admonishers

January 27, 2011

Pictures of a 30-year-old man attacking slain teenager Aarushi’s father made instant headlines on TV stations on Tuesday.

In 2008, 14-year-old Aarushi Talwar and her family’s domestic help were found murdered at her residence in the suburbs of the capital. But the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) failed to find leads in the case, following which it filed a closure report in December last year.

Utsav Sharma, who attacked Dr Rajesh Talwar with a cleaver outside the Ghaziabad court, later said he was angry with the lack of progress in the case and believed her father was “wrong”.

Last year, Sharma also attacked Haryana’s former top cop SPS Rathore, who was accused and later convicted of molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra in 1990.

An Iraqi TV journalist perhaps popularised this form of protest in 2008 by hurling his shoes at former U.S. president George W Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. A year later, Chinese Premier Wen Ziabao bore the brunt of the shoe attack during a lecture at the Cambridge University in London.

Back home, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram also ducked a shoe attack by a Sikh journalist.

Meanwhile, Sharma, a gold medalist in Applied Arts from Benaras Hindu University (BHU), is an instant hero among the online community. Messages are being sent to garner support for him while he is in judicial custody, and two communities in his name have come up on Facebook with a fast-growing fan base.

Is Sharma then a hero or a villain? Perhaps, Sharma’s actions are a manifestation of civil society’s palpable anger over cases where either justice has been delayed or denied.

Take the Ruchika case for instance. The teenager was allegedly molested by Rathore in 1990, after which she committed suicide. It took years for an FIR to be filed, and Rathore was convicted after a gap of seventeen long years.

Sharma’s and other vigilante actions point fingers at India’s tardy judicial system, the need for speedy trials and more effective investigating procedures.

Sharma, who came all the way to Delhi from Varanasi, blames the system while his mother, a psychiatry professor, says he has a mental disorder.

While it may be easy to attribute his behaviour to mental disorder or a fit of emotion, a section of civil society relates to him and believes what Sharma has done is not unimaginable. His popularity on Facebook is a testimony.

While such protests do grab instant attention and eventually fade in public memory only to return with a fresh incident, the course of law in India, in Aarushi’s case for instance, remains unaffected. Share your opinions.

One comment

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There have been various incidents where people, maybe one or a crowd, who think it right to render out a punishment. I’m not sure why at all should Sharma be brandished a hero. Aarushi’s case is a classic example of the failure of our investigative/judicial machinery. People were walking all over the house when the house should have been sealed for forensics. This case has so many loopholes, I doubt it’ll be solved. Although I do hope it does.

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