It can only be suicide or accidental death. These wild conspiracy theories don’t wash.
by Rahul Singh, Daily O
It could be India’s most sensational murder mystery of 2015, even though the alleged murder took place in the beginning of 2014. I am of course referring to the tragic end of Sunanda Pushkar Tharoor, the beautiful wife of the high-profile Indian member of Parliament and former minister, Shashi Tharoor. After remaining inexplicably silent for a year, the Delhi Police chief stunned the country by recently announcing that Sunanda had not committed suicide, nor died from an accidental dose of drugs and alcohol, as had been believed earlier, but had actually been done away with.
Why it took the Delhi Police a whole year to come to this startling conclusion is baffling. Their explanation that India does not have a laboratory to test the viscera in question for poison, sounds both lame and questionable. Even if India does not have such a facility, why did it take a year to send the viscera abroad and get back the reports? The police point to the 15 bruises on Sunanda’s body and a puncture mark, to back their claim of violence and poisoning – bruises and a mark that were visible a year ago.
The timing of the police announcement is also suspect. It took place, with a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-dominated government in power. When Sunanda died the Congress-dominated coalition was in power. And Tharoor was a Congress minister and also close to the party’s president, Sonia Gandhi. Is the police announcement connected with the change in government? It would seem so: The Indian police and even the main investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI), though they are meant to be immune from political pressures, are notorious for bending towards whichever party is in power. This could be the BJP’s way of embarrassing Tharoor and the Congress party.
Be that as it may, the needle of suspicion has fallen on Shashi Tharoor who, to avoid media glare, fled to an Ayurvedic health spa in his home state of Kerala (since then, he gave a brief press conference on January 9 evening). Meanwhile, his detractors have been baying for his blood. I was on a TV show the evening of the police announcement. The anchor of the show had already made up his mind on Tharoor’s guilt, as had most of the panelists, which included two women lawyer-activists. I could hardly get a word in, so worked up was the anchor and the panelists against Tharoor.
At this point a personal disclosure is called for.
I have known Shashi Tharoor, on and off, since his college days. His uncle (father’s brother), Tharoor Parameshwar, was the managing director of the magazine of which I was the editor, the Reader’s Digest. In fact, Shashi’s father, Chandran Tharoor, also worked for a short while with the “Digest”. Shashi was an outstanding student who went to the USA for higher studies, before joining the United Nations (U.N.). He rose in the U.N. to the second highest rank and when the top job, that of secretary general, fell vacant, he put up his candidacy, with the Indian government actively supporting it. Both the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi were said to have had a soft corner for him.
Though Tharoor failed in his U.N. bid, he returned to India, joined politics, with the Congress giving him a “safe” seat in Kerala, from where he was elected to Parliament. He went on to become a minister. His undoing was his involvement in the lucrative cricket IPL and his somewhat messy personal life. He bought a stake in a cricket team and gave Sunanda, who had become his girlfriend (both had been married twice before), “sweat equity” worth a large sum in the team. His controversial cricket deal forced his resignation as minister. Meanwhile, he married Sunanda, a head-strong lady and a successful entrepreneur in Dubai. They became a very high-profile and glamorous couple, constantly in the news.
Other women were clearly attracted to the handsome, intelligent and highly articulate Shashi Tharoor. Pakistani socialite, Mehr Tarar, was one of them. Sunanda discovered tweets and messages between the two that infuriated her. Tharoor’s domestic help, Narain, whom the Delhi Police have been questioning, has given a new twist to the case. He has revealed that one “Sunil” was with Sunanda in her hotel room, two days before her death. Narain also claimed that the couple had frequent fights and that Sunanda had told Tharoor that he was “finished”, just before her death. Well-known journalist Nalini Singh, a close friend of Sunanda, is also on record as saying that Sunanda was planning to hold a press conference, the implication being that she was going to expose her husband. Expose what? His supposed infidelity, or something else?
So, was she murdered to keep her silent? And by whom? Apart from Tharoor, who could be the other possible suspects? What would have been their motives? The hotel in which she died has CCTV coverage of those who entered and left her room. It should not be difficult to identify all those persons and narrow down the suspects, if indeed she was murdered.
To me at least, these wild conspiracy theories don’t wash and the most plausible explanation for Sunanda’s death remains what the earlier autopsy report showed: Suicide or accidental death. However, the Delhi Police think otherwise and there is no doubt that many new and intriguing questions have been raised. I suspect the final answer to the mystery will take quite a long while to unfold.