Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire
The train steamed into Jammu railway station with the majestic grace of a proud bride and glided to a halt.
Jammu is the last city in J & K connected by rail, with rest of the country. It was the same place I had, a few years ago, moved about with princely pride.
I was ushered out of the compartment, blindfolded, handcuffed, and led away from the platform, to where the transport meant to carry our party was parked.
I felt terribly humiliated. I could count in my mind the numerous eyes staring at me with contempt and curiosity. Among the spectators there might have been a few who knew me, I thought. But I brushed the thought aside the thought better of it.
Once inside the vehicle, I speculated about the destination. Could it be Jammu, Nagrota or Udhampur? But how to find out?
The escort officers had stopped talking to me as soon as they'd alighted from the train. So I tried to orientate myself from the speed and turns, the vehicle took.
`So its not Jammu,' I thought the moment the vehicle stopped at the traffic check post.
It did not matter where I was being taken. What mattered and troubled my mind was my financial condition. It was beyond my means to engage and pay the fees of a civil lawyer even if the trial was held in Jammu. And if the trial was held at a far away place, then that meant I would be required to meet the additional charges of the counsel. So I considered the possibility of opting for a suitable defending officer. I tried to remember if I knew any such officer.
The vehicle stopped. I heard people talking in subdued and muffled voices, I could make out nothing except that the destination was Nagrota.
I was led up the stairs into a room, my blindfold was removed. And for the first time after my arrest, I saw the rays of the rising sun.
Inspite of shivering due to lack of clothing in the bitter cold of the Jammu region, I found my dead spirits stirring within my body. Automatically my hands were folded in salutation to the Sun God rising behind the misty mountains.
After a brief prayer I opened my eyes and looked to the side through the open door and felt a great relief to find myself in a different situation and among different people. At least I thought so, but this was also short lived.
There was some delay in the handing and taking over, and after the formalities were over, the escort officers came, shook hands with me and bade me luck and good bye.
At the same time two officers, one a Lieut. Colonel and the other a Major, entered my rrom. The the Major left immediately along with the escort officers.
`I am your Commanding Officer,' The Colonel said, `from now onwards, you have been attached to my unit for discipline. I have been ordered to record your S of E ... Now I would command you to behave ... while you're here... under my command please don't try to escape. There are two sentries on guard. They have not been given any ammunition. But at the slightest hint of your intention, I'll do that. Do you understand that?'
`Yes, I do. I do understand my liabilities as an officer under arrest and the duties of a Commanding Officer. I'll give you no problems at all. In fact let me assure you that there is no cause of any anxiety or alarm due to my behaviour,' I said and after a pause added, `But since you're my Commanding Officer I would like to inform you briefly that I have been tortured brutally. Therefore, I request for an immediate medical check-up I am completely innocent and I have been made to sign a false confession that was dictated to me at the interrogation centre in Delhi.'
Then I showed him various injuries on my body. But to my surprise I found, the CO took an indifferent attitude. I noted a marked disinterest on the CO's face.
Without further talk the CO, a Sikh gentleman, started to leave, but I stopped him.
`Please wait a minute, sir.' the CO looked back and I continued, `May I know the name of my CO, and the unit he commands; I mean the unit to which I now belong?'
`Anything else?' The CO questioned in reply.
This is no reply, I thought. However, it was not difficult for me to gauge the intensity of hatred. Infact I had to some degree, expected the attitude of people, as it was being shown by the Colonel. In the army, since espionage is the worst crime, so a mere word of it is sufficient to send a surge of hatred directed towards any offender. No one is prepared to listen or believe a word of such an alleged offender, although he may be innocent.
Probably I would have done the same or even worse, if some one else was in my position. And why not, haven't I done so, when I had first heard about Captain Nagial, I analysed the situation.
I said, `Yes, sir. I want to request for some favours from you,'
`And what are these?'
`First, I be permitted to sit in the sun. I need the sun badly as I have not seen the sun for a very long time. Two, I have no bedding. Three, I be provided with some reading material. And lastly my wife be informed officially about me and the charges levelled against me. I also request you to arrange for her meeting with me so that she is in a position to arrange for her meeting with me so that she is in a position to arrange for a legal advisor for me.'
`Is that all?' The CO asked.
`Yes, sir, for the time being,' I replied.
It was about lunch time when I was startled and shocked to see KSS, enter my room.
`How are you bastard?' KSS roared and continued, `so, what have you been doing in Delhi?' Eh? you thought Kanwar Sahib has disappeared so you could play around with your YAR Hmmm. Well if you think so then you're fooling yourself my son. I won't leave you till you're in your grave ...'
I was numb with fear. KSS continued abusing me. But my senses were so paralysed that I ceased to make any sense out of all that was being said to me. It was the fear of the torturer who was not human.
I came to my senses only when I heared the Colonel saying,
`I have been ordered to record your S of E. Do you know what are the charges against you?'
Before I could say anything, KSS took the paper, presumed to be the charge sheet from Colonel, saying, `yes Colonel Sahib, of course he knows.' And then looking towards me said, `You son of a bitch, don't you know?' Then without even waiting for me to reply, turned to the CO and said, `Kindly leave us alone, if you don't mind Colonel? I have to talk about something to this dirty bastard.'
The Colonel obliged.
I once again tried to establish the identity, when I saw KSS literally bossing over the CO, but failed. On the contrary I was overcome by a renewed wave of fear. I did not miss the fear even in the CO's eyes. The Colonel was also scared of KSS.
Thus I was forced to conclude that whoever KSS might be, he has been given unlimited powers. And on reaching this conclusion, I decided to confront him.
`All right you clown, now tell me what have you decided? look, you know me much better by now. So don't by any chance suppose that you can fool around with me, as you did with your friend, Major Jolly. And by the way give a cool thought to the possibility of what can happen to you in case you opt to act stubbornly. As a suggestion I can tell you it might be worse than anything you have already undergone. Having served in the Intelligence, I am sure you know the existance of an interrogation centre very close from here,'KSS paused expecting an answer, then added, `I give you a chance to think. I would be back by evening. Meanwhile do consider the promise given to you earlier - not withstanding your rash acts till now. The option is yours. You gain by standing on the right side and lose most miserably if you opt out of it.'
KSS went away leaving me in a confused and bewildered state. I felt torn between fear of renewed torture and my efforts to save the situation. And I decided to face the truth even if it meant torture.
On 28 December 1978, 4 P.M, a Major wearing the Gorkha uniform without a name tag, entered the room. He woke me up, from the ground where I lay sprawled. There was no item of any furniture in my new cell which was called single officers room.
The Major whom I later got to know during my trial, as Satpati, literal meaning the Lord of Truth, told me that he has been appointed to record my S of E. He asked if I wanted to make a statement vide Army Rule 23.
I declined. At this, the Major looked at me conveying the impression `What to do'signed, got up and left.
He again came back after an hour and asked me, `Do you wish to make a statement?'
`Haven't I already told you, that I don't?'
`Well, in that case what about your 45 page statement which you have already given?' The Major asked.
`I thought that was not your business to ask me to seek clarification, about what I have already done. You're supposed to be a neutral body, the past should not interest you. And sir in any case my CO has not yet heard my case. The recording of evidence, I suppose can only take place after he has given me the opportunity to hear me.' I said while trying to check my temper.
From the attitude of the people and my CO, I was convinced about the unsympathetic behaviour, but not to the extent of ignoring my rights, being accused and directly violating the rules and regulations to that effect.
Major Satpati produced two sheets of paper and said `I am not concerned what you do. But if you accept your statement given earlier, then sign on this or else you may sign the other one.'
I took the sheet which read, "The accused declines to make any statement". I signed and dated it 28 December 1978.
When Major Satpati prepared to leave, I asked him, `When would the other witnesses, if any, be recorded?'
`Tomorrow,' Saying the Major left.
After lunch the same day the CO had come along with a working party and I was moved into the adjoining room which was interconnected by a door with the room where I was first taken to, and locked.
The light connections were snapped, all windows and door panes were covered by pasting papers. In the door pane a peephole of 6 by 4 inchs size was left for the sentries to look through. Thus the room was turned to a proper "cell" with an only exception, the room was bigger in size and it also had an attached bath room. Though there was no water in it, because like the electric connections, water taps were also made non-functional.
Shifting me from one room to another, blocking the glass panes and snapping the water and light connections had taken a little more than half an hour. During this period, the CO had personally supervised the work and given directions, without ever once looking at me.
After he left, the side and the main doors were locked from outside, shutting me, completely away from the outside world. To make the matter worse a pair of handcuffs with an unusually heavy and long iron chain, was clamped on to my hands.
This was highly ridiculous, and it unnerved me completely. I could not dream of this treatment, being meted out to an army officer in the officers mess, not to talk of the secret interrogation Centre. It was most horritying. The intentions of the authorities to fix me were visible from their attitude. But I assured myself, the time had come where I should strive to foil the plans of the trimurty of Military intelligence.
None of the requests made to the CO were complied with. I spent the night shivering, in almost four degrees centigrade temperature, without a bed or any proper clothing except for a bed sheet and a Khes, the only items I had carried with me while leaving Kamptee in August that year.
Everytime I went to the bathroom for urinating I had to shout for the sentry to send the guard commander to open the handcuffs, one end of which was tied to the window bar. By morning, my badly mutilated body became numb due to cold.
Seeing me convulsing in pain the guard commander took pity on me and gave his own blanket to me, saying, `Sahib use this but please don't tell anyone that I gave it to you.'
I was moved by the show of kindness by the NCO. I remembered my benefactor, the sentry in the interrogation centre who used to give birees and occasionally a word of encouragement. I compared the behaviour of officers and men, and felt terribly ashamed to learn that I too, belonged to the cadre of brutes, but timid people, called officers!
The next morning I sent the NCO to find out the progress on the requests made by me to the CO. But the NCO couldn't do anything since there was no one to listen. However, I was able to get a bedding later, due to his frantic efforts. The bedding consisted of eight blankets! The gross weight of these shreds called blankets was not more than three kilos. It appeared after looking at the blankets, that special pains and efforts were made to search them out from a salvage dump.
But these blankets were still better than none at all.
Nothing happened till the first day of the new year. No one came to see me. Neither my CO nor the Lord of Truth for recording my S of E. I kept speculating why no one came. And when I knew the cause, it was too frightening and horrible.
On the night of first january 1979, I was asleep when I suddenly heard a shout, then clicking of door lock and before I could wake up properly some one kicked me on the shin. I howled in pain, but shivered with fear when I saw KSS accompained by Gnr Aya Singh.
Both of them tried to persuade me for about half an hour.
`Now, look Rathaur, I give you my word that nothing will happen to you if you only do what you'd earlier promised to do... you can ask Aya Singh, he is a free man now. He's not even been charged with the offence. So you see its up to me to help you similarly,' explained KSS.
`Yes Rathaur, kanwar sahib is a man of word. So you agree. Agree you damn fool.' It was Gnr Aya Singh suggesting to me, a Captain of the army!
`And if you don't then the consequences would be unimaginable for you.... You won't even be alive to repent this mistake of yours. Do you understand?'
During the whole length of the conversation, I did not talk. I listened to everything in a state of dizziness. Then KSS left ordering the NCO to bring me out, while Aya Singh stayed on.
`Damn it, you agree. You know that if I did not spare my own relation Captain Nagial, I would not spare you either.' Aya Singh whispered.
`What have I done to you Aya? Why do you want to take the curse of God, by implicating a person like me. We don't know each other to conceive of any enamity. Then?.... And what about Nagial, is he also an innocent victim of yours?'
Aya nodded in affirmation and said, `So you see.... and it will do no good to you either unless you fall in line like me.'
So after all I was correct about Aya Singh. I thought.
Blindfolded and handcuffed I was led out of the cell, while I shivered more due to fear than the cold. I thought about where I was being taken.
The place was not far away. I found Major Satpati sitting across a table. There was another officer sitting in the corner of the room, whom I recognised as the officer who had received the escort party at the railway station. I did not know his name. Though I learnt during my trial that he was Captain Ranvir Singh GSO 3 (Int) of HQ 16 Corps and was supposed to be the "Independent witness" of the recording of my S of E. Then there was KSS sitting on a table horizontally across Satpati. Gnr Aya Singh however, sat next to me.
The place was a store room stacked with furniture. It had a small gallery as a passage near the door that blocked the door from sight.
`Sit down,' commanded Major Satpati, and once I had occupied the stool, he asked, `do you wish to make a statement?'
I was too shocked to say anything.
`Did you hear me? ... I am asking, do you wish to make a statement?'
A sad smile passed over my lips. I said, `Sir, how many times would you wish to know? Haven't I already signed the statement while declining to say anything?'
`Heh... heh.. heh.. Well done. Well done my son. You think its so easy to decline?' said KSS, gloating. He was interrupted by Aya Singh who said, `Please KSS Sahib don't speak to him like that,' then turning to me he said, `come on Rathaur, don't be stupid. What's the problem? Damn it, you will be soon out of this like me. So be nice and get rid of the miserable conditions you're living in.'
`Nice? What do .....'
`Stop it, you fucking traitor.' Cupping my face with hands and leaning forward, he spoke in a most threatening language, `And look bastard if you don't sign over the acceptance of your confession, then you won't live to plead your case. Do you know what can happen to you? If you don't then I'll tell you. Its simple... you can be taken out during night as you have been taken out,' he, paused and munching each word said, `shot dead and then it would be declared that you were trying to run away... Okay? Everything is possible in the army and I am sure you know that. To kiil you becomes all the easier, to cover up we have your confessional statement. Now make your option, quick. Don't waste our time?'
I had not even dreamt that such a course of action could also be taken in the army. However, there was no reason to disbelieve what I heard. Yes that way everything was possible. They can shoot me and all can come clean out of it. I believed each word that was said.
When Satpati reminded me to hurry up a second time, I quickly appended my signatures, with a trembling hand, wherever Saptati pointed me to sign.
Everything had turned dark for me. I was happily being led back into the dungeon.
I enquired the time from the guard NCO. It was 12.30 in the night. The recording of my S of E was thus over.
In no organisations of any civilised country has it ever been heard to adopt a barbaric and unconstitutional approach while carrying out investigations into allegations against its members!
And India also, claims to be among civilised countries!
It was a different thing that nothing about its civilised ways was known to the outside world.
I remorsefully thought: I have come out alive from the frying pan and have now been thrown into the fire!
|Preface | Temporary Duty | The Move Order | The Train Journey | The Reception | The Army HQ | Close Arrest | The Interrogation | Background | The Intelligence | The Security | The Devil | The Confession | The Foundation Stone | The Great Detectives | The Corroborations | An Approver | Confrontaions | Hibernations | Leading to the Trails | Fairy Tales | Into the Fire | Army Procedure | As a Winess | Meeting with Family | Habeas Corpus | Death of Democracy | The Trial | Prosecution Case | The Defence | The Press | Rebuttal | Aftermath | Mystery | Postscript | Annexure I | Home ||