(Published on August 28, 2015, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/indrani-mukerjea-case-why-are-we-addicted-to-sleaze-news-columns-pi2kcDfebcjbg.html)
Picture Courtesy: Sify.com
Picture Courtesy: Sify.com
Just as the debate around the Aarushi murder case has been stoked – again – we now have a new murder case, where a parent has been accused.
The arrest of Indrani Mukerjea on a murder charge in the Sheena Bora case has left us with a trail of newspaper and web articles examining the sordid relationships and intrigues in the media mogul’s family. There are even YouTube videos for those who need graphics to understand the facts of a case.
First came the allegation that Sheena Bora was killed because she was in a relationship – of course, the media called it ‘having an affair’ – with Indrani Mukerjea’s stepson Rahul, her husband Peter Mukerjea’s son from an earlier marriage.
Then, came the revelation that Sheena Bora was not Mukerjea’s sister, as initially reported, but her daughter who had been passed off as a sibling, along with Mikhail Bora, her son from a first marriage that had been kept secret.
Her second husband, Sanjeev Khanna, with whom she has a daughter, has now been arrested.
The police have set out several theories, including that Khanna and Indrani Mukerjea killed Sheena Bora to ensure that their daughter inherited a fair share of the Mukerjea fortune.
The media has set out several more theories. Tehelka, in an article which has since been removed, suggested that the motive for murder may have been money that was siphoned off by the Mukerjeas from one of their channels and deposited in Sheena’s account. The Indian Expresssaid Indrani Mukerjea was impersonating her daughter for a year after her death, and making calls to friends as well as Rahul. India TV, as is typical of most of our news channels, decided to put up a slideshow proving that Indrani Mukerjea was a “party lover and globe trotter”. Because, clearly, that means something. What does it mean? We’re not sure. Maybe that Indrani was not super maternal, because what mother loves parties and globe trots, eh?
What disgusts me is the relentless discussion of Mukerjea’s and Sheena Bora’s personal lives. There have been those who have done the math, and suggested that 43-year-old Indrani was an ‘unwed mother’ when she had Sheena, who was 24 at the time of her death in 2012. And there are those who delight in the fact that Mukerjea has been married to three different men, and has children with two of them.
The country’s obsessive interest in the case, and the willingness of the media to dig deeper and deeper for murky details of who was having sex with whom, points to India’s preoccupation with sexual escapades that are most likely irrelevant to the case itself.
Forget the courts, we will conduct our own trial, we seem to think. And we will base all our theories on sexual jealousies.
This aspect of the Indian media consumer was best illustrated in the Aarushi Talwar case, where most of the country was eager to believe she was murdered by her parents for having an affair with their servant Hemraj. As if that was not enough, there was also a popular theory that both Rajesh and Nupur Talwar were having extramarital affairs. Of course, this evolved quite naturally into their being part of a wife-swapping party circle.
The media reports on the Jiah Khan death case dealt mainly with what appears to have been her turbulent romantic relationship with Sooraj Pancholi, the son of actor Aditya Pancholi. That also gave the media the opportunity to recap Aditya Pancholi’s alleged affairs with various actresses.
And, of course, there was the infamous Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor death, where everyone was anxious to believe Shashi Tharoor had killed his wife because of her discovery of an affair he was having with a Pakistani journalist.
To have an opinion about a person involved in a murder case, or to have a theory on the case itself is one thing. But to broadcast it as if it were fact is quite another.
In the case of the deaths of women, and especially women from celebrity families, we seem to gravitate towards the idea of a crime of passion, or an honour killing.
If this could have been caused by a forbidden relationship, all the better.
The nonexistence of proof is irrelevant to our conclusions.
Or, there is that one word explanation for why no proof exists – ‘connections’. A family that is ‘well-connected’ could have disposed of the proof, and so we feel like master investigators, dissecting their lives and possible motivations.
It is natural for a murder case to generate excitement and interest. But it is a symptom of the ugliness of media coverage, and of its consumers, when the focus is entirely on the sex-and-sleaze aspect.