All the compassion that we would like to show Shashi Tharoor may not dilute the need to invoke the law of the land with the greatest possible seriousness
The only occasion I have seen Shashi Tharoor was at a Madras Book Club meeting many years ago. If I remember right, he was late for the meeting.
He was not to fault, because he was held up in traffic. He was profusely apologetic, and later went on to charm the audience with his customary remarks.
Shashi’s greatest asset is his pleasant and debonair visage. In all his television appearances, he comes across as a calm and composed individual who speaks with clarity, never raising his voice to prove his point.
He never gives the impression of being arrogant or egoistic. This is why my heart goes out to him and his stepson for having to live through this tragedy. This is the time he needs extra consideration and sympathy, not the witchhunt that is slowly emerging.
It is easy to trample over Shashi because he is down. It is equally easy to inject politics into a personal misfortune.
This is a test of civilised behaviour for all those who did not approve of Shashi’s peccadilloes and indiscretions. There is no doubt he has been grossly indiscreet and callous, not once, but many times.Compassion and legality
A certain disdain for the law is possibly built into him. We will never know whether this was due to the fact that he was far too long under the comfortable shelter of the United Nations. That is no reason however why we should go after him now.
He has to explain himself over what transpired between him and Sunanda Pushkar, to the extent that the law demands. But for this, he needs to have the assurance that he will be judged by facts and not perceptions. All the compassion that we would like to show may not dilute the need to invoke the law of the land with the greatest possible seriousness.
Shashi may or may not survive the rigours of the cold application of law.
It is too soon to predict whether the results of forensic tests will prove any crime perpetrated on a hapless Sunanda, who was as charming as her husband. There is credible evidence only to show that the couple had a widely known spat, possibly over an alleged romantic relationship Shashi had with a Pakistani journalist. Shashi is said to have claimed it was innocent and Platonic and we would like to believe so.
Possibly Sunanda did not, and her Tweets and conversations with a few friends revealed that she was greatly exercised about it.
You cannot blame Sunanda for this quintessential response of a spouse. There is also evidence of verbal exchanges between the couple in the presence of outsiders, including one on a flight last week.
A Union Minister was said to be privy to this as a co-passenger. I am concerned also over reported injuries on Sunanda’s person. How serious they were, and whether they had any link at all to the eventual death of Sunanda, is anybody’s guess.
The findings of the post-mortem examination and expert opinion thereon are crucial.High profile
The happening has all the ingredients of a drama. A high-profile couple is involved. Shashi is a serving Union Minister. Whether or not he should continue in office is a call that the Prime Minister should take. I personally feel that the Opposition should not meddle in this.
Shashi’s relationship with a Pakistani journalist is being touted as one reason he should be thoroughly investigated. The IB and RAW could possibly provide some inputs on the background of that journalist to decide whether this matter needs to be pursued at all.Political pressure
The investigation of a case registered under Section 174 Cr.P.C. is strictly within the jurisdiction of the Delhi Police. I have no doubt it has the professional elan to do a thorough job. But then, there is a popular perception that like any other force, the Delhi Police is subject to political pressure. This is unfortunate but true.
The fact that Shashi will be the focus for ferreting out the truth behind the incident highlights the imperative of a credible investigation. Nothing else will satisfy the public and women’s rights activists who may see the death as one driven by spouse harassment.
I am sure Shashi himself will want a credible investigation. He cannot live for too long in the shadow of suspicion, in addition to bearing the burden of a huge tragedy.
This is why I would advocate a court-monitored CBI investigation. The Home Ministry can suo motu get the case transferred to the CBI, or someone else can move the Delhi HC demanding this. Those in authority, who are Shashi’s well-wishers, may think otherwise. They will be doing him the greatest disservice by shielding him from an objective and clinical investigation.
Let all the facts come out, so that political prejudice does not unjustly halt the career of an otherwise eminently likeable, well-meaning and genial individual.
(The writer is a former CBI Director.)