It’s not just Jeffrey Dahmer who would store body parts of his victims in the refrigerator who heads the murder cult. Or Rodney Alcala, killer of five women who in the middle of his killing spree was a contestant on The Dating Game and won—fortunately his date survived the evening out. Murder is as much part of the Indian narrative as Hitchcock. Little wonder, the Aarushi Talwar murder case attracts Bollywood; the Talwars have been offered `5 crore to tell their story. In India, murder is being written in bloody paragraphs driven by sadistic lust, jealousy and greed. In February, three sisters were raped and murdered and thrown into a well. Chopped-up parts of bodies turn up at railway stations with frightening regularity; last month, a hate-filled lover in Kanpur sent the severed private parts of a doctor by courier to the police; BSP leader Deepak Bhardwaj, the richest Lok Sabha candidate in 2009, was shot dead in March; his son Nitesh was charged with murder over a land dispute; so was the politically powerful liquor baron Ponty Chadha.
National Crime Records Bureau’s ‘Crime in India’ report, 2012 states that violent crimes increased by 65 per cent in 2012 over 2011. Love affairs gone wrong were the third most common murder motive—2, 549 killings, up by 184 since 2010. Andhra Pradesh topped the list with 445 such murders, followed by Uttar Pradesh with 325, and Tamil Nadu with 291.
Says criminal psychologist Anuja Kapur: “If law enforcement is weak, many people fall through the cracks. Many commit crimes knowing there will be no punishment while others commit crimes not caring for consequences.”
The jealous husband who baked his wife inside a tandoor in a Delhi restaurant caught a break in October when his death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. A nun killed and thrown into a well in Kerala allegedly exposing sex and scandal in the Church is a much-followed case. A green activist was shot dead in Bhopal allegedly by a jealous sexual rival. A serial killer who left bottles of beer beside the bodies of victims is still at large.
“Impulse is the strongest factor that drives most people towards depravity. That one-second-high gives them enough impetus to go any extreme. In that moment, they can harm people in the society and themselves too,” says Dr Rashmi Joshi, psychologist, psychoanalyst and clinical hypnotherapist at Psychological Aura, Wellness Clinic India.
Changing socio-economic conditions raised aspirational clashes after post-liberalisation migrations to cities. The murder of Pallavi Purkayastha by her Kashmiri security guard in her apartment in a posh South Mumbai building is an example. The 25-year-old lawyer was killed in August by the security guard who had allegedly been stalking her. The December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape was committed by poverty-stricken immigrants, so was the Bombay Mills rape case. Delhi’s real estate boom brought rural machismo, expanded cross-border mafia operations, and changed the criminal—journalist Soumya Vishawanathan fell victim in Delhi in September 2008 to this toxic change. The changing psycho profile of the urban and suburban Indian is a confused mixture of financial and social ambitions.
Dr Monica Chib, senior consultant psychiatrist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, says, “There could be many factors responsible for this, which may involve brain abnormality, psychiatric disorder, personality disorder or environmental factors such as dysfunctional home, alcoholic father/mother, and societal pressure to name a few.”
Last Tuesday, 27-year-old Girish Kote was arrested in Mumbai for stabbing his wife Madhuwanti and chopping her body into three pieces. Then he wrapped the body parts using plastic and duct-tape, kept two parts in the fridge and the third in the bedroom. The couple reportedly had frequent fights over money.
“Earlier Indian society was more supportive, nurturing and caring; but over the course of time, it has been noticed that families do not have elders to guide the young, motivate and counsel them,” adds Dr Chib.
PASSION AND PERVERSITY
Apart from social pressure, the consequences of an unhealthy sexual obsession make murders happen. Bhopal-based RTI activist Shehla Masood lost her life in a love triangle involving three city celebrities—herself; interior designer Zahida Parvez and BJP leader Dhruv Narayan Singh. On a sleepy morning in August 2011, Masood was shot dead in front of her house, allegedly on the behest of Parvez, who allegedly had become jealous of Masood’s alleged flings with Singh.
The details of all sex-related murders are salacious: the CBI found a CD that showed Parvez and Singh in intimate situations; a diary in which their sexual encounters were written in detail along with used condoms between the pages like some dried petals of depraved passion. But many fight back with fatal consequences to life and liberty. Psychologist Dr C R Chandrashekar says, “The crimes are committed for the same old reasons—kama, krodha, lobha, mada, matsarya.”
These reasons only can explain a gory murder that happened in Hyderabad on June 25, 2003. Police found the bleeding body of a financier packed in a gunny bag. T Prabhakar, the moneylender and printing press owner, had tried to seduce one K Sailaja, who had asked him for financial help. After promising to succumb, she administered him acetone, a nail polish remover. She made him drink more of it the next day even as Prabhakar lay unconscious. Though her two children were at home, she chopped off his body parts and packed them in gunny bags. Blood was dripping from the corpse. She went shopping for two large suitcases, but the blood gave her away.
Sexual exploitation has often led to murder. Dr Satish Chandra of Kanpur who was murdered by his protégé Preeti Valmiki in May is in the blood list. If Valmiki is to be believed, Chandra had been sexually exploiting her for over a decade since she was 14-15 years’ old, getting her to his house on the pretext of teaching her to become a doctor or a teacher. “Instead, he continued to exploit me for years and years,” Valmiki told police. However, when she noticed that the doctor had started eyeing her younger sister, Valmiki drugged him to death. Then she cut off his genitals and couriered it to the Govind Nagar police station before surrendering there the next day. In her confession, she said she had decided to get rid of the “beast”. The ‘beast’, however, surfaced in Lucknow in the form of Dr Avadh Kapoor who dispatched his wife Richa with an overdose of insulin. When Richa discovered he was having an affair, Kapoor convinced her that she had diabetes and needed daily insulin doses. Richa did not realise it was the beginning of her end. Slowly, Kapoor increased the daily dose, and she died in July. Pathological reports showed she was not diabetic. The doctor was arrested.
Explaining this societal disintegration, Dr P G Jogdand, professor and head, Department of Sociology, University of Mumbai, says: “In the family, the tight bond between individual members is diminishing leading them into becoming enemies of the society.”
The “murder” of Sandhya Singh in Mumbai last year proves Dr Jogdand’s point. Why Sandhya, then 50, sister of music composers Jatin-Lalit and actors Vijeta and Sulakshana Pandit, left her home with `20 lakh worth of jewellery on December 13 last year is a mystery. A British geologist found her skeletal remains on January 28 this year while photographing birds in Navi Mumbai. Sandhya’s son Raghuveer, a drug addict, is the murder suspect. He used to fight with his mother over money. He has been arrested, but no evidence has been forthcoming so far. “Solving a murder case depends on eyewitness, expert opinion, recovery of weapon, body and other evidences, circumstantial evidences. In cases where the accused is unknown, the motive could only be postulated making it more difficult to solve the case,” says D M Phadtare, deputy inspector general of police, Maharashtra.
Mental health experts have concluded that most sadistic killers are sociopaths who feel no remorse and do not empathise with the suffering of his victims whom he perceives as mere tools for the gratification of his desire. Schoolteacher-turned-serial killer Mohan Kumar was one such cold-blooded killer. Caught, he confessed to killing 19 women, who he had lured for sex with promises of marriage, and were fed cyanide in public toilets. “Some people claim they hear voices which command them to kill people. Some psychopathic personalities have fantasies to kill others. Insecure people commit such crimes to assert themselves on others,” says Dr Chib.
In Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, 19-year-old pharmacy student Ayesha Meera was killed and subsequently raped in her hostel on December 26, 2007. One of her legs was tied to a water tap with a rope. The words—H Prema Chiruta—were written on her breast with a sketch pen and a letter purportedly written by the killer recovered from her room. Blood was splattered all over the bed and bloodstains led to the bathroom. In September 2010, Pidathala Satyam Babu, a disabled illiterate villager, was convicted and sentenced to life. However, Meera’s family claims that Babu was a fall guy and the real culprits are still at large.
Dr Diana Monteiro, consulting psychologist at The Hyderabad Academy of Psychology, says abnormal behaviours are present in all and can intensify due to biological, psychological and socio-cultural aspects. “Certain people show this obsessive compulsiveness which can be due to either cerebral disorders, genetic or depends on the way one is raised or nurtured,” she adds.
Though the US has gained the most notoriety for its serial killers, India’s role of dishonour has some dramatic villains. Kolkata’s ‘Stoneman’ credited with 13 murders, cannibal Surender Koli of Nithari fame, Raman Raghav who killed homeless people in their sleep, ‘Auto Shankar’ who murdered nine girls and Motta Navas who killed pavement dwellers in their sleep during a three-month period in 2012 are monstrous examples. The latest to capture the headlines is a lady-killer; 47-year-old K D Kempamma alias Cyanide Mallika’s killing fields were Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Mallika would befriend rich women who frequented temples, gain their confidence by promising to perform rituals to banish their troubles. She would mix cyanide in their food and decamp with their valuables.
METHODS OF MADNESS
Dismemberment, as many cases show, is perhaps the most favourite method of murderers to dispose the bodies of their victims. Criminal psychologists have concluded that this is caused by the desire to deconstruct and depersonalise the victim. For example, in Odisha, army doctor Somnath Parida would have managed to keep the body parts of his 62-year-old wife Ushashree “still under wraps” if it was not for Ushashree’s suspicious relatives. On June 21 evening, Nayapalli police checked his house in Bhubaneswar after Ushashree’s brother complained that his brother-in-law was not letting anyone into the house for the last several days and he feared for his sister’s life. To their shock, the police team stumbled upon 22 boxes containing the woman’s body parts. After murdering her on June 3-4, the parts were kept in chemical solutions to prevent decomposition and raise a stink. The doctor would use strong room-fresheners and keep the air-conditioners on. Parida’s explanation was that Ushashree had committed suicide and since her last wish was to be cremated at Shirdi, he preserved the body parts. He is sticking to his story. But it’s not the just the wealthy who murder and dismember their victims: in May 2011, a young tribal girl in Odisha beheaded an old woman accused of witchcraft and walked miles to the police station and calmly presented the head to shocked cops, even posing for the cameras with the severed head.
The debate about the death penalty is gaining strength, especially after it acquired political overtones following Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru’s hanging.
It is the age of sensationalism where sensational TV has brought in a cultural transformation; murder hypnotises. Desperately seeking to retain audience interest, the media is a sensational courier of horror. Crime shows on television get high TRPs. The impact of television, the heavy penetration coverage that sensationalised each and every factor of the case strips even the victim of all privacy. But murder has no politics. In the gruesome catalogue of evil, it brings a delicious shiver of horror to the public. As the great Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt said, “It’s only in love and murder that we still remain sincere. It is the sincerity if hate.”