NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE - 32

NOBODY LIGHTS A CANDLE

Anjali Deshpande

32

Grover took the bundle of notes from him and counted them carefully. He did not like taking cases of such low level employees. They even got money stuffed carelessly in their pocket and pulled them out like a handkerchief. They would get twenty five grand but would not spare twenty five paise for an envelope to put the bills in.

After he had finished counting the notes Adhirath pushed a slim file towards him. It had the order for his suspension, the notice for enquiry, the photocopy of three sheets of the daily diary, and a photocopy of two pages of the attendance register. There were also clippings from four newspapers that had reported Sathiya’s killing. There was also the clipping of an editorial that had condemned the growing lumpenism and anarchy of the police and hope that the government would leash in such overenthusiastic policemen who assumed the job of judges and hangmen.

“Such an unconstitutional act strikes at the roots of constitutional democracy. However dangerous a criminal the police cannot be granted the right to take his life,” it said among other things.

In reports with headlines like ‘Murder of an Unarmed Man in Broad Daylight,” it was said that an unarmed man was shot dead around noon and sources had told the reporter confidentially that the killer was none other than the constable of the local police station. The report also said that the man killed was reported to be a known gangster.

Grover opened the file, glanced at the papers inside, at the daily diary and inspected the attendance register carefully. He opened his drawer and placed the currency inside and said, “What happened that day? Tell me the whole truth. You may have heard that you should never hide anything from your lawyer and your doctor.”

This is the beauty of the black coat! That day Adhirath had come prepared with a short and succinct account and he did not want to hear the story saying these cases are fought on technical grounds. Now he has seen all the papers and grasped the technical grounds but he wants to hear the full story because there is money in his drawer. Adhirath heaved a sigh, looked at the door and licked his dry lips.

“I have time,” said Grover and getting out from behind the table he opened the door a crack and asked his munshi to get them some water and told him not to let anyone in till the client had left.

“Sir, the case is that there was a gangster called Sathiya,” Adhirath began. “Lumpen, filthy lumpen. Would kidnap girls, kidnap young boys. Took protection money. Used to supply drugs also. Small time but he was a peddler all right. He threatened the pavement shopkeepers and took money from them. Used to run a cable service. Peddled smack also. He had the backing of a poltician from a neghbouring state. That is what was said. You know the police knows all this but it can’t prove anything. We knew what the man was up to but we never could hold him for more than a few days for we never got any evidence or any witnesses.” He knew he was repeating himself but he was now shaking with anxiety. The munshi brought in water and he downed the glass in a gulp and tried to calm himself.

Grover brought his fingertips together and locking and unlocking them said, “So you guys got him killed. Hoon?”

“If we wanted to get it done we would have done it a long time ago. When he killed that boy at the dhaba then these newsparperwalas did not come…”

“Which boy?”

“There was Sir, a poor boy of nineteen or twenty. For a trifle this man slit his throat like you cut the throat of a chicken. Have you seen a chicken being slaughtered? You place a cut on its throat and throw him in a box and it flaps around for a long while before dying. That is how that poor boy must have died spurting blood. That dhaba owner, he was standing there and said he had seen nothing. He was so scared he did not even claim the body of his employee whom he may have paid less than minimum wages and exploited to the hilt. You know sir, when a dead body arrives the IO has to spend a grand or two from his pocket. Get the body picked up, pay the driver of the cart. You know the bhangi charges a half bottle of rum for a postmortem. Doctors don’t take cash but they will ask for something or the other. Some will say get my mobile recharged so you spend 500 on that. Some will ask for the best quality shoes. Then you have to go looking for the parents of the dead boy. Does the government pay for all this? You have to keep pushing files with bills in it and after six months you may get a little bit that too after paying the accountant. We have to organize the funds ourselves. We paid to get his body released from the mortuary, and to cremate him, for the last rites. Five six hundred were spent only on this good deed.”

“There is so much corruption,” said Grover withdrawing his hands with the interlocked fingers and behind the desk.

“With an unclaimed body the cost can come up to two thousand five hundred or three thousand,” Adhirath kept saying.

“Where did your involvement begin? From that murder?”

“Yes. I caught hold of the goon. But nobody was willing to say anything. Had to let him go. He would threaten me everyday whenever I ran into him. Had we wanted we could have bumped him off then. But our hands are tied. This job of the belt and badge is very bad sir. People think we have a lot of power but we are all hollow inside, completely hollow.” Adhirath was getting carried away.

“Come to the point,” said Grover glancing at his watch.

“That is where I am coming,” Adhirath said. “Who are we to get anyone killed? It seems he had a falling out with the MLA. Must have been blackmailing him. Actually, we don’t know what was going on between them. But it so happened that my wife fell ill. IU took a week’s leave. She had come home from the hospital. I was at home only. The ASI called me to tell me the news that Dalchand had shot the bugger dead. He knew the goon hated me a lot. So he thought he was giving me a good news. I ran to the thana Sir. I took out the attendance register and signed my attendance in it. I also noted in the daily diary that Dalchand was with me on a round of an area far away from where Sathiya had been killed. The SHO was not in the police station. Then what? There was a lot of hulla bullo in the press. Reporters arrived at the thana. I told them that Dalchand was in Bargadiya gali with me on the regular round so how could he have been in two places, how could he have killed anyone? On top of it constables don’t even have a gun on them. They are not given service revolvers.”

“Interesting. So, then whose revolver was used?”

“A country made gun was used. It had been sent to the thana.”

“From the malkhana?”

“No. had it been from our stash of case property would we not have been caught? I just told you sir, the piece was specially sent to us for the job. It was new. Was sent by whoever wanted the job to be done. Politicians do this quite easily. A goon should also know his place. He can’t beat the supergoon. Dalchand was in mufti, in plainclothes.”

Grover shook his head. He had heard many such stories and every time he thought how different even similar tales are.

“So you rushed to save Dalchand, provide him an alibi.”

“That was the mistake I made, Sir. Did it in a fit of enthusiasm. It occurred to me later that if it was planned Dalchand would have an alibi ready. The SHO had gone to court to appear in a case. He had shown Dalchand to be with him. After the murder Dalchand rushed to the court and wore his uniform there. That day he appeared in the court by the side of the SHO. The public prosecutor saw him. Ahalmad saw him. I was proved wrong. When there is pressure there is enquiry. Or else the matter would have been forgotten. We were the ones who had registered the FIR of Sathiya’s murder. We never found the country made pistol. It had been returned. And it had been broken into components. The pipe was taken out and another fitted in its place. Evidence erased. It is difficult to organize all this at the level of a thana. There were people with more power, above us, involved in it.”

“Hun,” said Grover. He had understood the whole case in a jiffy but he had to give the client some value for money. When the goat himself was rushing towards the butcher to sacrifice his life who would be foolish enough to spare him? The matter was investigated. It was revealed that the additional in charge of the police station himself suspected that his constable had committed the crime, he had tampered with the records to save his subordinate’s skin. Such men are dangerous.. They are capable of doing anything. A departmental enquiry was ordered and the man was sitting across the table wanting to know what to do.

Grover was looking at the papers in the file. In the attendance register Adhirath had inserted his name between two names in very tiny letters and signed there. As the number four. Below it the number 4 had been altered to make it look like 5 and it was so clearly tampered with you could not fool anyone. The numbers after this too had been changed till it reached the serial number of ‘9’. The serial number on the next page began with ‘9’. That had not been changed. The second page was neat. Nothing had been changed on it. Only the serial number ‘9’ being repeated as suspicious but it could be attributed to a mistake on the second page, beginning once again with the number ‘9’.

“All these serial numbers here, have you done all this over writing, turning 5 to 6 and writing 7 above 6 , all this? You did all this?”

Adhirath nodded. There was no over writing in the diary but it was written in very brief that they were going out to patrol the area. There was something strange in the column noting the times of activities. The officer writing above Adhirath’s had put in the time as 12.35 pm. Below this Adhirath had made an entry of a round and entered the time as 12.10 pm. The time of return was shown as 2.37 pm. But that was much later after many other activities and their timings had been recorded.

“Many evidences there are against you,” said Grover. Adhirath’s heart sank. What was new in what he said? He has to find a way out of the mess he had landed himself in.

“If you take my advice, say that you had continued to be on leave. Who knows who did what in your name? You do have the application for leave in the records don’t you? In their file? In your superior’s file? It was sanctioned, right?”

“I took out the application from the file.”

“Why” Grover was taken aback.

“I tried to show that I had taken leave for only three days and joined when I was supposed to. On that day.”

“You could have done that without taking out the application form the file. You could have shown that you joined early.”

“Then they would have definitely suspected that I did it deliberately to save Dalchand. That it was part of a plan. I had to show that everything was natural, routine.”

Grover stared at him, incredulous.

“Okay, it does not matter. We shall return the application to its place. Your SHO should help you out.”

“He perhaps would. But I tore it up.”

The man seemed determined to lose his own case.

“Tell me,” said an exasperated Grover, “Why would you do that?”

“Sir, it is our duty to look after our subordinates. I thought Dalchand had fight with that bugger and shot him in the heat of the moment. It never occurred to me that all this could have been planned to its last detail. I made a mistake Sir.”

“Now there is only one way out. Deny everything. Tell them this is not your handwriting. Let them get it examined. That will take some time. Even if the handwriting expert’s report goes against you we shall go to court. Right now you say you were looking after your missus.”

“Dalchand will not be a witness for me…”

“He has to say what was planned for him. What can he do? But he will not depose against you. He will only say he does not know what happened or who wrote what in the register, for he was out.”

Exactly what Pushpa had advised him. When she advised him for free he paid no her words carried no weight, he had even humiliated her. To get the same advice he had paid good money to a man who was not going to appear for him because he had reduced the amount of his fee. Or maybe because this was one case this man could lose. Adhirath left feeling cheated.

email: anjalides@gmail.com

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