Leading to the Trials
I, no doubt saw the day light, but not from the place I expected it to see.
I was given a hair cut for first time since my arrest, made to shave and bathe in hot water.
The blindfold, was comparatively a decent one, cut to size from a black hued linen cloth then the earlier one, a napkin which, due to overuse and without ever having being washed, was similar to a dirty cloth wrapped by lepers on their wounds was clamped are my eyes. Thereafter I was ceremoniously led into one of the rooms which looked like a vacated office.
The blindfold was removed and I found myself faced with a Sikh Officer, a gunner. The other occupant of the room was Mr. Chaudhary.
`Rathaur this officer is recording the S of E of Sepoy karam Singh. As you requested to call him here for the recording of your evidence, we have accordingly done so,' revealed Mr. Chaudhary smiling wickedly.
At the revelation I was dazed. I found myself being paralysed while nothing the surreptitious moves, but quickly recovered from the shock, made up my mind not to give in to their dirty tactics and replied, `Well, sir, I never told you to do so. But all the same it does not matter,' and giving a meaningful smile asked `does it, sir?'
The officer asked Mr. Chaudhary to produce the accused. Mr. Chaudhary shouted for Chotte Sahib to bring in Sepoy Karam Singh but Karam Singh was not there. Probably he was not even informed that his S of E was being recorded. The officer insisted that Karam Singh be produced and thus he was produced, exactly after an hour's delay.
Karam Singh was trembling; trembling under the known fear. He looked at me with the eyes of a sacrificial goat before the slaughter.
Chaudhary asked me to make Karam Singh cheerful! A crude joke!
When the officer got ready to record my statement, precisely at that moment major Jolly interrupted. Jolly took the officer away for some secret discussion.
I saw, while giving my statement, the twosome standing near the door. `To hell with them. I must proceed according to my plan I thought and started disclosing about the torture, just after mentioning about my stay in Samba where Karam Singh was my driver. As soon as, I spoke about the torture, the officer asked me to restrict to, only Karam Singh's case.
`But, sir, how can I do that, unless I have given the background to the circumstances which led to the disclosure of Karam Singh,' I protested.
`Look here. I'll read over the charge to you. And if you have anything to say strictly about the charge, then say so. Don't go into what happened to you. I am not here to enquire about you. There will be ample opportunities to say what you want to, when your S of E will be recorded. Okay?', the officer replied in bitterness.
Thus finding him uncooperative and venomous in his attitude, I saw death, clearly, hanging around. In desperation I looked at the door where the demons were standing, listening to my statement. The expression on their faces was such, as if they would eat me alive. I felt my strength was failing me. And in a hopeless bid, to make the officer relent to at least one of my requests, I said `Sir, please! I beg you to note down whatever I am saying and save me from these murderers. They will otherwise kill me, for sure. Sir, for God's sake even if you don't want to write what I say, I implore you and request you to at least give me a sheet of paper, where I can write a note to the Commandant, and I'll request you to give the same to him in the Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre.....'
`Sorry' the officer interrupted, `I can do nothing. I am a neutral person; friend of neither party - I realise your peoblem, but am in no position to help you.'
I suddenly found myself enraged at the attitude of the officer. I thought to myself, why couldn't he do this much? Just to give the note to his CO? Eh? And he thinks himself a gentleman, and an army officer! My bloody foot. But anyway if I have now taken the plunge, then let me either sink or swim.
Then I gave the statement and denied any knowledge of Karam Singh's activities as per his charge.
The officer explained the contents of my statement to Sepoy Karam Singh in Hindi, and asked Karam Singh if he wanted to ask any questions from me. Karam Singh denied.
At this point the officer showed his real colours.
`Look Karam Singh, in your statement you have said that it was Captain Rathaur who gave the package which you handed over to Major Khan, in first week of January 1976. Then why don't you want to ask any questions?,' thundered the officer.
Karam Singh, probably drawing courage from me said, `Because I was terrorised and pressured to do so.'
`But who did that?' The officer interrupted shouting at karam Singh.
`Please, sir!,' I butted in, `You're doing that now and still asking who did that? What does this mean?... If you're neutral as you have claimed yourself to be, then kindly note down whatever is being replied by the accused. Don't goad him and speak to him in threatening language, as you're doing.' I said, in a raised voice.
However, the scene of the drama changed. The demons appeared on stage to play their part. They told the officer to record the remaining portion of the statement after lunch.
I was led back to the cell, and with my spirits dampened, brought to the mother earth, under threats and beatings.
After lunch, I found myself cowering before the demons, like a victim of an inescapable fate.
The recording went off peacefully as it was desired by the interrogators. No questions were asked by the co-passenger of the rudderless boat, poor Karam Singh.
That was the way I found each of my plans fated to wither and fall.
Back in the cell I wept and cursed each and everyone, I did not spare even God as I had done a number of times earlier. What else could I do?
I again viewed everything in retrospect. I could not make out anything of the situation.
I thought, I have lost the false confidence that I was probably able to create among the interrogators.' Could I revive that? even if it was yes, then what? What could I achieve?
There was still one more card, I could play. That was only possible if my wife was permitted to see me. I may then be able to restore the situation.
December 6th was the day of my marriage anniversary. Yet I had no time, nor was I in a position to think of such pleasantries. My brain was racing day in and day out, like a wild horse, contriving some fresh plans.
I was taken to the interrogation room.
`Congratulations dammit' greeted Jolly. `Dash it, today is your marriage anniversary and you did not tell us? Why?'
I looked forlorn and confused. How did they know it, I wondered.
`It was your own doing. Otherwise today you would have been with your wife.... we had decided to send a telephonic message on December 4th, but because of your stupid and adament behaviour, we cancelled the programme,' said Jolly.
I knew it was farce - a tactic which had lost or rather had no significance for me. Still I enquired, `And when do I meet her now?'
They looked at each other and then Jolly said, `Sorry friend, you have shattered our confidence. A meeting can now only be arranged once you show up yourself in the GCM (General Court Martial) of Karam Singh.'
`When would that be?' I enquired.
`Within a month.' Jolly informed.
I quickly weighed the proposition in relation to time, when I would have to appear in the court.
Apprising the court about the brutalities with which the scandal was being created, was another alternative in the event I failed to meet my wife till then. I considered everything and said, `Anyway, sirs, now you will not find me lacking in my determination while deposing in the court.' And justifying my earlier action I assured, `You see I have seen no one since my arrest, except you. So it was natural for me to become nervous and falter .... falter when all of a sudden without any warning, I was confronted by that officer.'
`Don't worry. Whatever has happened is in the past. From now onwards you would be given every facility, we'll give any amount of cigarettes you want and make you sit in the sun..... and listen we will also give you paper to write your autobiography, Elaborate on the details since the time you were first taken across, till date.... add some humour while you're writing, include the methods of PAK FIU's functioning and of course a little write up about the beautiful and sultry begums and the various other methods used by them to lure our officers and men into their sexual laps.' At the end Jolly added, `But mind you Rathaur, this brief would be put up to the Chief... So write in a decent handwriting.'
It was another, but the most dangerous tactic being employed by the tacticians and I knew it. It was a decoy, if successful it could cut me to size; entrap and then suffocate me to death.
Why was such a different tactic being used on me? It was not difficult for me to guess. When I guessed I could not help smiling. A sad smile at the vicissitude of fate. The interrogators I guessed, had fallen prey to their own designs. Thinking about their fate I was moved; forgetting the atrocities perpetrated by them.
I thought in retrospect, `Gnr Aya Singh and Sarwan Dass, for reasons best known to them had played havoc with the lives of countless innocent people, by misleading the authorities. In that chain I was the last link, who could be trapped by them or against whom they could depose. For others they could not, because of the time of their arrest in 1975. Though Aya Singh did not know me, nor had he any chance of meeting me, yet Aya corroborated the story, concocted by Nagial, at the time of his reinterrogation! Why did Aya not disclose my name when he had disclosed the name of his own relation during his first interrogation? Why should have Aya spared me. Was this fact alone not sufficient to doubt any involvement of mine? Yes it was. Provided the interrogators had used their minds.
`... And now with me ends their nefarious game. Because I am now the base stone of the inverted pyramid which is being raised by them. With me it will fall, crushing these masons; the interrogators. This fact is probably, known to them. So they are trying to solidify the base, I pondered and then deciding about something said, `Okay, sir, give me the papers, I'll start writing it.
In the cell Mr. Chaudhary gave three letters to me from my wife, and I knew the source of their knowledge about my marriage anniversary. I was also given papers to write my autobiography.
I was under a constant morbid fear of claustrophobia. Weighed down under this fear, yet realising my responsibilities I wanted to advise the interrogators once again, about the true facts. However, from the past experience, I neither had the nerve to explain, nor were the detectives prepared to listen to my reasoning. I stood a chance if I explained the facts in writing. Though I knew the consequences in the event I failed to justify my action. This time I was all prepared to face it; even if it meant death.
Accordingly, the first thing I did, was to write a letter to my wife. The letter was last will; asking for her forgiveness in case I died; and that whatever was written and signed by me, was not my doing. I was forced under brutal torture to write down whatever was dictated, and that I was as pure and innocent as I was born.
Then I wrote a letter and addressed it to Major S.C. Jolly. I wrote :
"My dear Major Jolly,
I am indeed grateful to you for asking me to have moral courage to stand up against the wrong doers. I thought it over at length and I have finally decided to show to you that I have moral courage. But unfortunately the wrong doers are not the ones you people are thinking of. Ironically the wrong doers are Gnr Aya Singh and you, the interrogators. I know you'll be very annoyed to read this and will throw the letter in the dustbin. But be warned! Before you do that read this carefully.
...You were also one of my good friends. Suppose you did not participate in my interrogation, then your name would have also appeared, as in fact it did, in the list of my unfortunate friends. And it was certain at one point I would have been asked, what about Major Jolly? And pointing to the brief, as it was done in other cases, the interrogators would have said, all the evidence against him, in the form of photographs and agreement forms is with us... We only want the story from you. And as it's happened I would have of course said, `No, sir. I did not do that to him.' The interrogators would not have listened to me. They would have then stepped up the torture. After two days I would have been left with only two options, either to die or give your name. And you know I am still alive!
The story cooked by me would have been as follows :
It was end of May 1975. Major Jolly was attending an exercise with the Corps Hqs, when my source arrived. He came to Samba for debriefing the source. I asked Jolly to come with me up to border, because another source was to come that day, and I wanted Jolly should give him the briefing there itself. Jolly agreed.
We arrived at Kandral Post....."
Jolly sir, thereater the story would be the same as it has been cooked in case of Rana. Here after you can read your name in place of Rana. In fact you can read your name in place of anyone about whom I have made the stories. Aren't the stories same?
Bit it did not happen, because you are one of the interrogators. As regards the evidence in your briefcase against us, I knew it even then and I am telling you now. If a person is innocent then there is no question of any evidence against him. Your bag is as fake as my stories. But as it is, biased minds don't entertain logic. So, you too would have found your way eventually to this butchery. And Jolly, sir, I now request you to kindly place your self in my or for that reason in anyone's else position who's undergone the torture, and then try to realise and see the truth..... I have withstood the torture for an unimaginably long timel but I know, you could not have stood the same torture for more than three days. And once you'd reached the critical stage where it is not possible to differentiate between life and death, you would have written the story which would have been either dictated to you by the interrogators or me. Once that was done, you would have been made to do samething to your friends, as in was."
In the letter I ridiculed their action to neutralise the evidence about the jeep and the type of identification parade which was carried out with Aya Singh. Then I wtore, `Whatever might happen to me, but under no circumstances shall I ever depose falsely against anyone in the court. And if you still decide against this, then you're welcome. But let me forwarn you. I will tell you about the atrocities perpetrated by you people; and physical condition of my body would act as a silent witness. I will tell the court how the confessions were obtained and corroborations effected. Let me also try and make you wise; not to live under wrong notions that if not me, then you will get others to act as your approvers. Take this out of your mind. Every single person is innocent. They might as I have agreed till now, be your approver because of threat and pressure of torture. But they will do so only till they enter the court room. Don't expect any innocent person to depose falsely against another. No one with a decimal fraction of morality would do that. And, sir, remember, you in the past have foiled each and every effort of mine to confront you with the true facts. I could have deceived and misled you till reaching the court, and then made you pay for your atrocious acts. But I understand that you have already been misled sufficiently and made to commit blunders, by traitors like Gnr Aya Singh. I feel consciously compelled and obliged being an officer to tell you about these facts. `And in the end I wrote: `I am prepared to pay a share for you misdeeds, provided you are ready to accept your mistakes and make amends. I will try and atone for your sins.'
I finished writing and read the letter with tears in my eyes. Thereafter I slept peacefully for the first time since my arrest. I felt relieved of an immense burden.
When the interrogators arrived the following morning. I sent for Major Jolly and handed over the letter. I said, `This is my autobiography. I request you to kindly read this with an open mind.'
`What does it mean?' enquired Jolly.
`Once you read it, you will find it out for yourself.'
Major Jolly asked for a chair and sat down.
He read the letter, while occasionally glancing at me.
`Hmmm....' Jolly sighed and said, `So that is it?'
`But you don't know bastard, if you had done that to me, I would have shot you dead and then reported the matter.'
`So you think you would have shot me dead. Now I want to ask you only one question. Are you the only one who's got morality? Because none among so many, either taken by me or by anyone else deceptively across the border, have shot us dead. Why? No one among them had the morality to do so?'
Jolly was quiet.
`Believe me, sir, I would have also shot Nagial or anyone else if he had done that to me. But can you do that when you don't even know what has happened? I know you would have killed me. But you could do that only if I had deceived you. That I have not done either to you or any one else. Yet the story, under the threat of torture would have been made as I have done in the letter. In fact that is why I have written the letter to explain to you.....'
`But even if you had made up the story, I have proofs to refute it.'
`Yes, you could refute, provided some one listened to your arguments. And did you listen to me? Instead of listening you've gone to the extent of obliterating the proofs which I had put forward in my defence. Haven't you?'
Jolly looked at me and then left the cell without saying anything.
It was Sunday, December 7, 1978. I was led to the interrogation room. There, Major Jolly and Chaudhary were sitting with drawn faces.
They tried every trick to persuade and pressurise me to side with them. They even went to the extent of assuring me of getting the Chief's pardon. They said they had done that in a number of cases in the past. But I stuck to my decision.
I was led back to my cell which I found was stripped off the bedding and the wooden plank. That of course was inevitable. I knew the torture would follow. And I prepared myself to face the ordeal for the last time, before I thought I died.
In the evening I was again led to the interrogation room this time a different one, and found myself confronted with a new face. The man sat flanked by Major Jolly and Chaudhary. Apparently the man was another Senior Officer.
The SO, without wasting a second let loose a rain of abuses.
`You bastard, a mangy wretched dog of the street, you mother fucker, you son of a pig.....'
`Stop this, I requested you, sir to stop abusing,' I interrupted. I had already prepared myself for the inevitable death. `I shall not listen anymore of these abuses and disgrace, at least not before dying'. I thought, and said, `Stop using any filthy language. I shall listen to no more, I have had enough of it. Though I know I can do nothing which might hurt you. But before dying I can do one thing, that is to abuse you back in the same language. I am sure sir, you would not like that', I said.
The SO was very puzzled and confused and took time to find correct words for an answer, and when he found them, the SO spoke in a deep growl.
`All right, ... all right. I shall not abuse you. But tell me what is the meaning of all this?'
`Meaning of what, sir?' I questioned.
`That now you say you're innocent and so is everyone else. Then why the hell didn't you say it earlier? And I wonder how the hell everyone of you know kandral Post and Major Khan?'
`I have sufficiently elaborated in the letter to major Jolly how it happened. And before that too, not once but a number of times I have told them about my innocence. I even told Colonel Gupta. And the reward I received for telling the truth was torture. As far as Kandral Post and Major Khan are concerned, I suggest it would be better if you ask this question from these gentlemen. They would explain it better.' I said this sarcastically looking at jolly and Chaudhary.
`What torture are you talking about?'
`Sir, the torture, as a result of which I have been mutilated ..... here,' I told this to the SO by pointing to the marks on my face, and added `this type of torture.'
`That's all? The SO as if the marks had no significance for him.
`Show him the others also' Mr. Chaudhary intervened. I looked at Chaudhary contemptuously and said, `Is it of any use?'
`Do you know my dear Captain Rathaur, what you're asking for?' The SO said derisively.
`Yes, sir. I know that. But let me make myself clear to you. I am prepared for the worst. And worst is the only thing that I can expect from people like you. You're saying as if I have not seen during this period what can be expected... death? I don't think you or these gentlemen can give me more than that. Can you. sir?' I said bitterly.
`Rathaur, please calm down and listen to me carefully. I assure you of the Chief's pardon. Dammit what more do you want?... And if you still want to be adamant like a fool, then don't worry we'll get you a fair trial. But remember you will surely be sent away for rotting in the jail for the rest of your life.'
`Fair trial. Eh?' I smiled and said, `I shall be grateful to you, if you can bring me to trial at the earliest. I also thank you for your valuable advice. However, I would prefer to face the trial and if required spend the rest of my life in jail. But definitely, under no cost will I play with the lives of innocent people anymore than what I've been made to do already.'
`Then listen you are a blackmailer. You're trying to blackmail us and the authorities. But remember you're not the only one. There are scores of them begging us; begging to become approvers. I still give you a last chance to think it over.....'
`Blackmailing?' I interrupted, blackmailing whom, sir? And why should I blackmail? What do I achieve more that what you have already offered to me .... The Chief's pardon? Sir, black mailing you would be to obtain the assurance given by you in writing and then attach a copy of that with the proceedings of the first person, I am sent to depose against in the court. And that is a blackmail. What I thought was my responsibility, I have discharged that. Discharged it even under the morbid fear that I am living. I have told you the truth. Now it would amount to wasting your precious time if you're still going to insist... As for other persons, if they are really begging, than most certainly give them the opportunity. Yet before doing that think it over, what I have already said. They are all innocent.... Now, sir, I have done my duty in bringing out the truth to the best of my capabilities and so, absolved myself of any such remark as blackmailer or the likes.'
There was no answer.
`By the way, sir, why ask at all for approvers. These detectives have every evidence against us, collected and locked in their briefcase,' I said looking at the interrogators.
`Shut up. Don't fucking well pass any remarks.' The SO said. He got up and then left saying, `You shall repent this day my son.'
|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 ||