Every murder chips off our veneer of civility, exposing the dormant beast within. But once in every few years there comes along a murder case that stands out from the rest—crimes that dent our psyche, holding up a mirror to our darkest fears and anxieties. The trial of Aarushi’s parents, accused of the double murder of their daughter and domestic, Hemraj, is not the first murder trial that has us by the throat, refusing to let go of its stranglehold on our fickle memory, even after four years since we woke up to the sensational news.
The first murder that can be counted as a modern-day national sensation happened on a January evening in 1925 on Malabar Hill, Bombay. Abdul Kadir Bawla was neither the wealthiest nor the best-known businessman in town, but when he was shot dead by armed assassins in his limousine near the Hanging Gardens, his name was on the lips of all who read newspapers in pre-Independent India. The story that unfolded had the nation riveted: Bawla, with his mistress, Mumtaz Begum, a beautiful singer from Amritsar and formerly in the employ of the ruler of Indore, was waylaid by paid assassins who shot him dead. They then tried to abduct Mumtaz at knifepoint. Fortunately for her—and the press—some British officers passing by came to her rescue. Armed with only a golf club among the four of them, the officers grappled with the murderers, managing to catch one and hand him over to the police, as the others fled.