The public is outraged yet again. This time though, the catalyst is not the government. It is an ordinary girl, atleast she used to be; who went to Mumbai to make her dreams come true. Little did she know, she was going to become a nightmare for someone else. If no one else, the government sure would be thanking Maria for stealing the show, granting them a goodnight’s sleep.
The case of Neeraj Grover’s murder has aggravated the people and mainly because of the way it has been perceived by the court. MW Chandwani, the session’s judge has displayed an inane sensitivity and sagacity in his verdict by understanding the plight of the murderous duo, brushing aside those who lost their only young son. According to his prudent judgement, “obviously any man who finds his fiancé with another man will get upset and lose control.” The verdict literally rewards the man who in prolonged rage murdered his then fiancé’s friend/lover/colleague/gibich, whatever tag suits your sensibilities; raped his fiancé, twice; threatened her; butchered Neeraj’s body into ‘x’ number of parts; dispatched it like garbage and took a flight back to his normal life like nothing had happened. Calling what he did a ‘crime of passion’ is symbolic of what the worth of human life has reduced to. While the verdict gives me nausea, it also gives me nostalgia.
Back in 1959, when you and I were probably not even born, a similar judgement was passed in which the then commander in the India Navy killed his wife’s lover at point blank rage. I am talking about the Nanavati case. For those who are not familiar with the details of the case, it is about Kawas Maneckshaw Nanawati, who found out about his wife, Sylvia’s affair with Prem Ahuja, manager of Universal Motors and Nanavati’s close friend. Nanavati confronted Ahuja and enquired if he intended to marry his wife and take care of his children, to which Ahuja replied that he doesn not marry every woman he sleeps with. Three shots rang out of Nanavati’s revolver, taking Ahuja’s life. Keeping the circumstances and emotions aside for a moment if we knuckle down our attention to just numbers, the two cases bear resemblance to each other in more than one ways. The partner of a woman kills her illegitimate lover in rage. The judgement passed in the Neeraj Grover case seems like an echo of that of the Nanavati’s. Both (Nanavati and Jerome) have been charged with ‘culpable homicide’ not amounting to murder, both not given death sentences, both dealt with leniency and had the sympathy of the respective judges. While Nanavati’s criminal act was famously known as ‘the honourable murder’ Jerome’s will be known as the ‘crime of passion’. The only thing that bears contrast in the two cases is public reaction. While the felony committed by Nanavati was lauded and received massive public support (even from Jawaharlal Nehru); Jerome’s criminality is being viewed as some sort of abominable monstrosity. While Nanavati became an overnight hero Jerome has established the status of a malefactor. There is a reason behind the heterogeneity in public reaction. The reason is the aftermath of the crimes committed in both the cases. Let us x-ray the situation.
As judge Chandwani states, one can fathom the painful ordeal of a person who discovers his/her partner in a compromising position with another person. It is normal to be outraged, to be provoked. That is what Jerome probably went through when he figured that Neeraj had stayed the night at Maira’s apartment. Bizarrely enough, Jerome went on to raping his own fiancé; slay Neeraj’s body into several pieces before setting it to fire. I wonder what the situation would have been like; what would his media depiction be like; what would the perception of people be like if he had come to his senses soon after stabbing Neeraj (which seemed quite indispensible). The situation would have been something like this. Maria would have been the desperate seductress trying to make it big like a hundred others in the profession and not a murderer. Jerome would have been convicted (if at all) for culpable homicide not amounting to murder with a few years in jail. He probably would have been the piteous heartbroken fool whose love-story didn’t deserve such a tragic ending, who didn’t deserve to find out that way. Neeraj would have been the other man, the casting couch. People wouldn’t have been seeking justice, shouting hate-slogans and carrying out candle light marches for a person like that. The tables would’ve turned for Neeraj and Jerome. The parents, who are accusing Ram Gopal Verma for putting their son in bad light in his upcoming movie, would have probably been hiding their faces. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but the irony if the situation is perplexing, appalling! It isn’t the crime that has made the case what it is today, but the cover up of the crime, which seems bigger than the crime itself. If not a hero like Nanavati, Jerome could have had the sympathy of many also granting Neeraj’s parents the right to see him one last time.
Tragically enough none of that has happened. What has happened instead is the incorrigible display of the photo of Neeraj’s remains at a press meet, where the media men like wild dogs climbed on each other’s necks to get the perfect shot. And while one team was busy getting the perfect angle, the other was at Neeraj’s home waiting for the perfect timing to capture that drop of tear after the parents saw the perfectly angled photo. We live in an era where the worth of a human life, human emotion is much less than the TRP.
After the Nanavati case, the enterprising peddlers were selling ‘Ahuja towels’ and ‘Nanavati revolvers’, so don’t be too surprised if tomorrow a peddler knocks at your car window to sell you ‘Jerome butcher knife’ and ‘Maria plastic bags’!