I was never taken out of my cell, except at the time of confrontation with Jagdish and Rana. For a month and half I never saw even the toilet, because of my inability to move due to my fractured ankle, and also a severe pain in the bones of my feet, which I used to feel while walking. The soles were battered so badly that even after a considerable lapse of time, walking for me was like stepping on burning coals. And when, the swelling of the body was reduced, it produced excessive itching and the skin peeled away, erasing the evidence of beating except the wound injuries, that healed but left multiple scars; or the broken limbs that were deformed. The ear injury, apart from deformity, had caused partial deafness.
Although there was to be no further physical torture, I was to face the worst type of mental torture. The fear.. the fear of a constantly hanging sword, the absolute solitary confinement, no one to talk to - no reading material to district my mind - nothing to look at except the plain white walls of my habitat, was an atmosphere well suited to make even a mentally sound person insane. I felt that life was being slowly squeezed out of me. I was swimming with a strength which was long since lost, without any sign of a shore. I was horrified under the conditions in which I was made to live. At times I started comparing if the physical torture was better. At least there was something to do while undergoing the physical tortures. The mental pain was even more severe than the physical one. I would shudder to remember the horrors I had recently undergone. `Under the circumstances I am surely going to die. Either I will die of torture or I will die of a heart attack', I would think while feeling my violently throbbing pulse and wild pounding of the heart. Then I would drift into a thought of commigging suicide, but shake the idea off for two considerations, one: it was a cowardly act and two; everything would be lost if I died.
Life is a gift of God. It is an unatoneable sin to allow the devil to crush it - to snatch it, without putting up a formidable struggle. Mahatmaji preached, I remembered, "A tyrant who commits atrocities upon the innocent, no doube is a sinner but those who suffer meekly are sinners equally". Determined to live, I thus took the help of my imagination, to keep myself busy. For hours at an end I would keep imagining fantastic things. The imaginations gave vent to my religious feelings and finally led me to meditation.
The lives of great seers and sages, the stories about whom were told to me by my father in my childhood, stood by me in my most trying time and became a source of a strange strength to pass the time. `After all those great men embraced solitude voluntarily, in search of the truth.... so I should consider this as a gift of God.' And I did consider the confinement, a gift.
At times my mind used to revolt, causing excessive excitement and nervous breakdowns, which used to only calm down tieh tears that came like a cloud that had burst.
The other thing which I detested, like I detested the interrogators, was the cooing and crooning of pigeons, which had nested and were breeding in the false ceiling of my cell. I could only hear but could never see them. So when the pigeons cooed, I felt my heart was being stabbed. At such moments I used to shut my ears to avoid the sharp and unwanted sounds. However the forlorn squawks of an unknown bird in the darkness of the night, would tear the shroud of gloom and give me an eternal peace. May be I had found a companion of my grief, in that bird. After hearing the squawking, I would drift into oblivion, to find out the cause.... what the bird had lost - what it searched for in the wilderness of dark - what made it remain awake? Comparing myself to the bird, I would seek the differences between the two of us, always to varying conclusions, till suddenly, I would be brought back to the world of hard reality, by the pathetic cries, shouting of numbers and other slogans by the inmates of the neighbouring cells. I lived in a disturbed routine. Sleep for me, had become a matter of past. I would keep staring at the ceiling and count the squares, which were nine in all. The squares helped me to keep a count of days and the dates.
Then I considered myself very fortunate to find live companions in a pair of rats. They were very small, probably a week old when they started intruding into the cell through the thin space between the floor and the lower edge of door, to eat the crumbs of food I used to scatter. After some time as the rats grew fat, they could not despite, their best effort leave the cell, through the same space they used to enter from. So the rats, first forcibly and later willingly, shared the cell with me. Since they could not leave the cell, the rats dug a rat hole under the wooden plank. Slowly I started feeding them with my own hands. Though, initially scared and hesitant, with the passage of time, they became friendly with me. I trained them to play with me. During the night, as in the day time, they remained in the rat hole, I used to play with them for hours - watching them running, chasing each other, and jumping from corner to corner. Sometimes the rats would climb the wall unsuccessfully - and fall with a thud, and then would look at me with scorn, finding me laughing at them for their unseccessful efforts.
I did not know what happened to the rats after I left the cell. I often remembered my friends of grief and speculated about their fate; whether they ever left the cell or not, or provided similar company to some other victim who occupied the cell after me, or yet they simply perished.
I learnt a bitter lesson from this friendship with the rats! Humans proclaim themselves to be intelligent and better civilised than animals. But paradoxically, they are nothing but a collection of degenerates, worse than even animals. They claim to be loyal and faithful, but they are cheats, civilised but barbaric; wise but stupid: kind out wicked. They are always on the look out to skin anyone for trivial gains. On the contrary animals maintain their friendship till they live, if some one has been able to cultivate and understand their friendship.
I was even disallowed cigarettes. I would try to crush the desire in vain. Then imploringly, I would beg for a cigarette or a biree from occasional visitors to my cell, including the doctor. However, the doctor never spoke to me and the remaining visitors game me only abuses. So I turned to the sentries. The sentries were afraid, but out of pity they occasionally gave me, the only brand they smoked; birees. And the birees became the most valuable commodity for me. I relished birees as if it were the costliest and the finest imported brand. While I smoked, I inhaled in such a way, so as to leave no evidence while exhaling; and kept a sharp eye on the sentry through the peep-hole, ready for action to remove any evidence of smoke, in case of a visit from the Chotte Sahibs or the interrogators. on such occasions I would quickly extinguish the biree and kick the stub out of the cell through the space between the door and the floor, with the tip of my finger and would start limping to show, if I was exercising my fractured ankle. Though I and the donor of birees, exercised great caution, one day the latter was almost caught. The sentry had hardly slipped the lighted biree through the space, when I heard the Chotte Sahib growling and approaching with the swiftness of the wind. I saw, a deathly paleness descend on the face of the sentry, and immediately heard the door of my cell being opened, like a storm; and with that the Chotte Sahib appeared and snapped, `What? What were you doing? Why weren't you getting your monther f___________?'
Though I had become immune to the abuses, I took them, poignantly. Smiling outwardly, to hide the bitterness within, I offered the sahib to search for himself saying, `Sir, I was only trying to walk.'
The Chotte Sahib, disbelieving me and rightly so, searched every inch of the cell, for any trace of biree. But the act had been done and the evidence obliterated.
Not finding anything, yet sure of himself, Chotte Sahib tried to locate the evidence by smelling Rathaur's mouth. But alas! He couldn't, for the himself smoked biree and the little scent that Rathaur might have was, thus neutralised. Chotte Sahib then turned to the sentry, who, by then had been assured by me and was smiling contently. I had winked at the sentry in assurance while the Chotte Sahib was busy searching the cell.
`Why? I saw you squatting and throwing a biree to him?' Chotte Sahib enquired from the sentry while looking puzzled. `Why were you squatting?' He thundered.
`Well Sahib, I have got to stand for two hours, `the sentry replied and explained that he was not squatting, but trying to relax his back by bending a little and swinging his hands a bit.
Thereafter the Chotte Sahib left muttering, probably cursing or still speculating about, his perceptory senses which had failed him.
Once the Chotte Sahib had gone, the sentry enquired with the help of sign language, where the biree was. I replied in the same language, indicating that I had swallowed it. The sentry smiled and left more confident about supplying me with the precious commodity; the birees.
Later I gradually developed and won over the friendship not only of my guard, but also the guards of the other inmates of the cell. They looked at me with awe and wondered, how I had stood the most horrifying torture. The truth dawned upon the guards, through a whispering campaign, started by me. I conveyed it to each one of them, about mine and the others innocence, by asking simple questions, like, if you were brought to the this place and tortured the way we are being, then how long could you have sustained it? - Then there were only two alternatives for you, to either die or to accept the dictates! I resorted to the campaign only to avoid the poignant looks of the sentries who considered me a traitor. I could bear the torture or any such thing, but it was difficult for me to bear, their hostile looks charged with hatred.
The simple theory propounded by me, was to my surprise, and relief accepted by the guards without a stutter. They believed in what was a stark truth, the tortures. Though the same was not believed by the interrogators and their staff, who obviously were oblivious to the degree of human resistance to torture. However, what could the sentries have done, even if they knew and understood what the truth was, except to commiserate with the victims. For the sentries themselves were extremely scared, lest someone out of them was put through that horrible torture. Those among the guards who had participated in beating me, were full or remorse. They requested me to forgive them as they had acted on the stern orders from the interrogators, without the least wish of their own. `Our hearts burn, sahib to see this massacre.' some of them would at times express their feelings. And why only the sentries, none could do any thing. Though ironically there was no dearth of such people who could do things to put an end to the sordid drama. But they did not do so; not even till the end.
I would find muself torn between several emotions, struck with different plans overriding each other - passing and then rejecting each one, and again reviewing them seriously to put the best of all, in action.
One such plan was to snatch a rifle from the sentry, lock the sentry inside the cell - disarm others who stood in the gallery at rifle point, liberate the victims from other cells, overpower the guard room and then the Chotte Sahibs complex... ask one among the Chotte Sahib to ring up interrogators and inform them to come at the earliest, saying one person had died. On their arrival overpower and lock up the interrogators in one of the cells... cut the telephone wires and then using the interrogators jeep, rush to the Army Chief's residence and apprise him about the massacre.
The plan was most alluring. In fact I worked out each detail including the timings minutely. Innocently enquiring from the sentries, I found out the location and distances of the guard room and resting place of the Chotte Sahib. Fifteen steps away was the guard room from and in the line of my cell; and after thirty steps if I turned right and walked another fifteen steps, I would find the Chotte Sahib asleep at around 2 A.M. The guard room had only one door and the windows were fitted with iron bars. The best place to impound the interrogators was the gate somewhere outside.
It was no problem to call the sentry since it was a normal practice for sentries to enter the cell, blind fold me and then lead me to the bath room, anytime I wanted. And the sentry often would keep his loaded rifle inside the cell against its wall.
I also studied the exact location of the interrogation centre. The aids I used to ascertain the location were, the sounds and rumbles of aeroplanes during landing and take off at Palam airport and the firing range often used by some army units. I made out a mental sketch and drew out a route for escape. `The Airport is in the direction of North West whereas the long range to the South West. Halfway between the two is the slaughter house, somewhere near Mehrauli village,' I concluded.
However, I also knew fully well, that the plan was fraught with dangers. Failure at any point would give conclusive evidence against me as well as the others. That we tried to escape was sufficient to earn conviction. Could I afford to undertake such a risk? What was the guarantee, the plan would succeed? More so, when I was handiccapped. Even if I had recuperated from the effect of tortures, yet I could not walk properly due to fractured limbs. Nothing succeeds like success, I knew, but I also calculated the disaster which inevitably was to follow in case of failure of the plan. I would in that case jeopardise the lives of the poor guards without any fault of theirs. The plan was also rigid in nature. The failure would mean stripping clear any alteration and modification which otherwise I might command. Considering the risks, I decided ultimately to forsake it.
Though I abandoned the plan outwardly, I plunged into a reverie, considering the plan was put I nto action and it had failed, I would think, I was convicted and sent to a jail. From the jail I had broken away and become a dacoit... After having organised a gang of dacoits on a commando pattern, in which I had ample training. I would raid the army units, stripping the kots and magazines of weapons and ammunition. I knew the weak points which were to be exploited. My own unit was to be the first target. I would then visualise my gang being expanded, of which I was the Chief. Then I would abduct the interrogators and the Chotte Sahibs who had inflicted upon me untold miseries. I would avenge by torturing them similarly. I would kill them denuding them off flesh bit by bit and make them pay for their devilry, I would grit my teeth in anger. After all wasn't it a service to God, to erase from this earth the devils like the interrogators? Thus I would justify my proposed action. This used to be the pitch of my thinking against the perpetrators.
At this point I would start considering and would be overwhelmed upon realising the resulting horrors of innocent people ensuing from my proposed actions. I would shudder to imagine the miseries inflicted upon countless innocent people and their children. To just punish a handful of people, those whom I considered satans, was great price which the innocent had also to pay. And, at this point I would outrightly discard my thoughts because I knew by then what the pain was like and what it meant to bear such a pain. A person who himself was made to bear the brunt, would never imagine or wish inflicting similar pain on others!
As I lived with torn emotions, I then would turn my mind to invent other means to weigh the failure of my original but discarded plan. I would consider joining the underground Nagas or Mizo rebels.
From time immemorial it is the society which is responsible for turning simple, sincere and loyal people into hardened criminals, for trivial gains and at time not even that.... Why does it happen? I and my friends today are being termed forcibly as traitors just at the instance of profligates like Gnr Aya Singh. Where did I lack in devotion, in loyalty to the army and patriotism to the Nation? Why is everything being washed away in a flood of rain, when there is not a speck of cloud? So if this is the price to be paid, by calling me disloyal, when in the act of loyalty I have not hesitated to sacrifice the welfare and comforts of myself and my family - if I am termed as a traitor, when I was always ready to embrace discomforts and made the men under my command, work squeezing out every last bit of energy when it came to duty and if the same men alongwith me have been termed and branded as they are, then why shouldn't I, with the same devotion and loyalty destroy this decaying and corrupt organisation called the army? I would think in a highly agitated, state of mind. When I cooled down, I would however, discard the thought as usual. It's too profane to even, consider and entertain such thoughts. After all whatever it may be, the organisation is like my mother, feeding me and my family. Mothers are not dishonoured. They are meant to be served, respected and protected. And if viewed correctly, it was not the doing of the army. The responsibility is, apparently, of the interrogators or at the most of some one responsible in the Military Intelligence Directorate, and that also only to the extent of making faulty plans, selecting untrained, unscrupulous and highly prejudiced and biased minds, with immense unconstitutional powers and lastly for leaving so delicate an affair to such persons as the interrogators in complete seclusion, I would think.
It's well known that power corrupts, it may corrupt even the strongest willed person. If such unlimited powers are given to a weak person he is bound to entail a belief of a super human. And the more weak a person is, the greater tyrant he becomes. Thus the interrogators who were equipped with such unlimited powers, were the weakest people in mind, logic and thoughts. For them, the power entrusted in good faith is beyond their capacity to handle. Intoxicated with power they thought themselves as super human beings, who were holding the strings of numerous lives. They unleashed a reign of terror on such lives outdoing the soldiers of the great Nadir Shah, notorious for his cruelties, in their quest of unearthing an imaginary spy ring of the ramifiction.
Why were such things allowed to happen? Why did no one show any interest to find out, what was happening and why all of a sudden so many officers and men had taken to spying? These questions baffled me. May be, soldiers are generally simple and straight. Espionage for them is the worst crime. So the top brass felt outraged and, instead of making enquiries callously chose to believe in the nicely corroborated cooked-up stories about spies. Alas! If only he would try and find out. I would console myself by indulging in such wishful thinking. And when caught in the whirling grip of extreme state of agitation which would lead towards tranquility, ultimately ending up in my decision to renounce the world and become a hermit.
It was the most unfortunate that no one looked into the vital facts and to term the stories as a farce; not even the Army Chief, who probably felt outraged and deceived by the so called spies. He blindly resorted to sign the arrest warrants.
It was at the end of November 1978 that I was shocked to learn from the Chotte Sahibs that Rana had disclosed the names of no less than 51 officers and men including the Brigade Commander. I also learnt that the entire Defence Ministry including the army Chief were running around in circles. I also learnt a number of other things from the Chotte Sahibs, with whom by now I was able to make a little friendship. And why not, after all I was their approver! What could they do without me?
Sentries told me that Rana would incriminate anyone just on the mere sign of a raised ruler or a chappal.
The Defence Ministry and the Chief of Army Staff were highly justified, running around in circles. The security of India and the prestige of its armed forces was at stake! But alas! They ran in wrong circles. Their actions directly helped the perpetrators. They cured the disease without diagnosing it.
Hearing about Rana, and not knowing what to do, I burst into an uncontrollable laughter. I laughed and continued laughing even when my weak guts were miserably paining. The duo came and while trying to make me stop laughing they themselves burst out into laughter; each laughing for a different reason. Then they asked me to disclose why I was laughing, but I did not know why I had laughed.
`I want to know about Rana' I asked.
`Why? What do you want to know about him,' replied Jolly.
`I understand he's alleged to have named so many persons, which sounds unbelievable.'
`Hmmmm. Rathaur if you can take over a dozen in a short period of little more than a year, then Rana has to account for his full tenure of stay at Samba.... You know we are trying to flush out the last spy,' Mr. Chaudhary replied in a voice full of arrogant authority.
So that was their way of calculating the numbers. I signed.
I once again became serious and decided to bring the affair to a conclusion. That I could only do it if I was taken out of the cell for the recording of S of E (Summary of Evidence). I could also bring out the sad state of the human slaughter house, if my wife was allowed to meet me. The interrogators had promised me, that she would be allowed to meet me shortly. So out of the two situations, whatever took place earlier, I decided to react. I thought, `Rathaur you got to react before the situation gets worst.'
It was December the 4th, 1978, when Mr. Chaudhary came to my cell and asked in a most affectionate voice, `Rathaur get ready. You're required to give evidence in respect of Sepoy karam Singh. Are you prepared?'
`So finally the day has come,' I murmured and said, `Yes, I am.' I put on the uniform which was given to me. I waited to be taken out, while trembling like a leaf. I didn't know whether the trembling was due to an excitement of seeing the sun and the day and bringing the atrocities to light, after a period of nearly four months of darkness; or due to the lurking fear in case the plan would also fail. Whatever it was, at least I felt a surge of real joy overwhelming me.
Of course the same was to be very short lived ; as usual.
|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 ||