Saturday, July 23, 2011

Revenge



This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 22; the twenty-second edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
       The first sensation Junaid felt was pain. Intense, throbbing, scalding. The pain travelled through his veins, all the way to his spine, n then up to the back of his head. He tried to open his eyes, but they were glued shut. Bile coursed through his throat. He tried to force his left eye open first, since that one did not throb like the right one. Voices floated around. Consciousness jolted him to the reality that he was hanging upside down. Khaki clad policemen lounged around a table, interrogating another man. 'P....Paani....Please give me some water'......Junaid painfully formed the words. One of the men in Khaki  cocked his head at Junaid. 
Ah-a, look who has woken up. Apna hero.’ – the inspector came upto him. 
       He pulled Junaid’s hair and jerked his head upright. Noxious fumes emanated from his mouth, as he leered – ‘Saale, kya re biwi ka nanga naach dekh raha tha sapne mein? Arrey Patel, chal isko leja interrogation room mein. Muh nahi khola toh encounter karva de. Waise bhi yeh Momeddian* paida karne mein peeche nahi hote. 4-5 aaj mar jaayenge toh bhi kisiko fark nahi padta.’ 
       The paunchy constable sneered, and dragged him, half-stumbling, half-crawling to the chair that had just been vacated by the other man. Someone threw a cup of salt water on his face. He cried out with the stinging pain. The nightmare started all over again as he recalled the events that led upto this moment.
***
       February 27th 2002 was just like any other day. There was a wedding in the small non-descript town of Godhra and all the Muslims had gathered at the community centre. Colorful Shamianas, kohl-lined women, huge mounds of biryani  in the makeshift kitchen, little boys scaring little girls with their palms colored by goat blood, the little girls screaming, admonishing mothers, advising grandmothers, blushing nubile women, smoking men, hookahs, chillums, henna……….it was a mela of colors, smells, fragrances, sounds. Junaid was one of the many men sitting around the gulmohar trees smoking and passing the time in idle chatter. Dressed in a blue sherwani, he was the Best Man at his brother’s wedding.  He glanced over at the women’s tents and caught his wife scowling at him for smoking non-stop. He winked at her. Shabnam smiled and hid behind her veil. They were expecting their first child and she was glowing with happiness. He whispered his gratitude to Allah and rejoined the men’s conversation.

       It was the sight of the running boys that set his heart aflutter. Something was wrong. The group of boys were running in their direction, horror writ large on their faces. 
       ‘Aapa, Aapa’, BhaiJan, Umma’ they shouted all together at once, making it hard for the men to comprehend anything. 
       ‘What happened?’ The men rose as one, as did the women. 
       Hearts thumped and trembling hands muffled terrified open mouths. One of the boys, sat down, and, in between gulping huge mouthfuls of air, blurted out 
       ‘They burnt a train compartment. The Rashtra-Sevaks were travelling in the train. They have burnt the compartment they were travelling in. They bolted the compartments from outside.  They have burnt a whole train bogie.’….
       Junaid shook the boy. ‘Who burnt whom? Who was in the bogie? Who burnt the bogie? Did u see them? Who, tell me…!’…
       Another boy shouted. ‘I saw them. We saw the men who did it. They were dressed like one of us, but they are not from our village.** They had neither hennaed hair, nor the marks on their foreheads. They were dressed like us, BhaiJan, but they were not Muslims. We saw them so close. There were so many children and women. They were all burnt alive. They were pushed back inside when they tried to escape.’ 
       A collective shout of ‘Ya Allah’ went up.

 

***
       Inspector Solanki and Sub-Inspector Patel scanned the crowd apprehensively, exchanging glances everytime the crowd shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’. This was the part they hated most about their jobs. All this meddling with Politics. It was always better and simpler to belong to an age where all that the policemen had to do was arrest criminals and extract baksheesh. But they knew if  they did not toe the politicians’ lines, they would not have a job anymore. It came as a package deal with the Khaki uniforms, hidden deep inside the pockets. The Rashtra-Sevaks were hardcore Hindu fanatics. Bharat’s lost glory must be brought back at all costs. And the only way was to  drive all the Muslims away and stop Western culture from influencing the minds of Hindu children. 

       Saheb Mackeray’s tongue was working overtime to ‘awaken’ the Bharatiyas in the crowd. Saffron was the color of the day as people, mostly unemployed youth, gathered in large numbers with knives, swords and what-nots. ‘Show these Muslims that this is our country. How dare they touch our Sevak-Bhais and Behens? How dare they roast alive 50 sevaks, without fear, like this? Have we worn bangles? Do they think we are wearing cholis? Answer me,  will you remain quiet when someone does this to your country? Show them that we are tigers and not hyenas like them. Rise and come with me to teach them a lesson’. The crowd roared ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and lunged forward. A tsunami of angry men and women would cause serious trouble. Solanki and others of his rank were called in from Ahmedabad for a meeting, in which Saheb Mackeray had strictly ordered them to take leave and go on holidays with their families, preferably out of the city. The sequel to the 1992 riots was in the making.
***


       They gheraoed the village, baying for blood.  Swords, Sickles, Knives, Saffron bandannas, Trishuls, Rudraksh malas drenched in sweat. Engineers, Teachers, Students, Boys, Men, Teens, Blacksmiths, Officials, Shopkeepers, Masons, Plumbers, Slum-Dwellers, Builders - all bound in their frenzied rage of Hinduism. Systematically, so systematically one would shudder at the meticulous planning that must have gone into it, they went to each house, hacking up the men, raping the women, cutting down children. The babies were held by the feet and bashed against the nearest standing structure. Little girls were stripped naked and their buttocks split open in glee. The women howled like banshees, and ran. Many jumped into the tubewells, but who could hear their howls. The emergency numbers were dialled. But the phones kept ringing. Many set their own children on fire, to save them from this army of 'Rakshaks-turned-Rakshasas'. Junaid’s wife had a sword up her uterus. They brandished the foetus atop the sword, for all to see.*** Within hours, Godhra became famous. By the time the media descended on the village, by the time, the rest of this 'Vibrant' state, came to know of the horrors perpetrated by a handful of men, the raiders had vanished. There were no eye-witnesses. None whatsoever. They had left four men behind. Badly beaten and flayed, but alive. For the records. So that the world would know what happened. Junaid was one of them. After the marauding army had erased its coming, the police came. After they digested their 'samosas' and 'bataka-vadas' and 'cha-naashto', they came. The heroes. The policemen. Solanki picked up the four men. They were not even allowed to have a last glimpse. The nightmare had started for Junaid. And for everyone in Gujarat.  
***
       After 15 days in police custody, Junaid was released. ‘Upar se enquiry kar rahe hain. CM bola jail mein ek bhi Muslim nahi dikhna chaiye. Dilli se log aave toh lagna chahiye na ki protection sabka ho raha hain? Jaa aish kar.’ – a havildar informed him.
***
       Revenge. Revenge. Revenge. Revenge. 
       The word went round and round in Junaid’s head. The village where he had returned to, was long gone. In its place was a mound of dead bodies, that pariah dogs, vultures and other scavengers had chewed on. It was difficult to identify anyone from the burnt, mutilated and charred pieces that were once living human beings. The tears refused to flow. The four men now had stones for hearts. ‘We will avenge this. But not now. To strike terror in their hearts, we need to plan. We need to plan and then show them. We will avenge this.’ – they swore on the mud caked with dried blood. 
Junaid stood up. ‘Until I have my revenge, I will not rest.’ 
       The four men looked strangely calm as they locked eyes and nodded. Slowly. Seriously. 
"We are with you, BhaiJan. But we must plan before we do something rash." - Salim said. "We must properly plan first. I know some people in Indian Mujaheedin in Mumbai. They will help us. They are experienced. And But first, we will go to Ahmedabad. Our brothers there are in peril.
       Junaid saw reason where there was none. Yes, he would wait. And then he would have his Revenge. 
***
       Ahmedabad station was deserted. Never before had they seen it so empty. The paan-stained corridors spoke of the violent lashings that had taken place here too. On guard, they crept out and into the Muslim-dominated area of the old city. They stayed with Salim's brother. For four days, the men sat and planned. Righ in the middle of this Muslim-'infested' area, as the Sevaks had called it, was a Hindu pol****They took an oath to wipe out every Hindu in that walled enclave. 
       Less than a month later, the community had geared up to have their revenge. The fajr that day concluded with a cryptic note 'Doodh ma jeher chhe' - This was the signal to start the attacks on the Hindus. Junaid, Salim and the others came out and surrounded the Hindu pol from all sides. Inside while the families huddled to escape the clutches of their neighbours,
       Junaid clambered onto the walls, and poured kerosene over each house. House after house, compound wall after compound wall was conquered with shouts of 'Allah, Allah' over-riding the  terrified screams of children, women, men piercing the air. Suddenly it was all over. In a matter of minutes. The police jeeps came blaring. This time, they arrived on time. CRPF jawans sprang out, lobbied teargas shells. Junaid and his companions scampered back to the relative safety of their pols
       It was while he was springing over the last wall, that he saw her. 
       A little girl of about four or five years of age. 
       Naked. 
       Naked except for the torn away remnants of a soft-toy's hand clutched in her fist. Beside the mutilated body of her mother, she sat, crying in the pitiful way that only a child can.
       Junaid wanted to throw his head back and laugh. 
       His first laughter after 28th February. 
       But somehow he could not muster the, what was it, guts? manliness? courage?...
       No no, isn't this what he wanted? Revenge? To feel satiated? To have his wife's death avenged? To have his village's rape avenged? Suddenly, the little girl looked at him, no not at him but straight through him, as if he did not exist. She continued crying. 


       Junaid wondered, why, if Revenge was indeed sweet, his mouth was all Bitter inside. All Bitter. 

******************************************************************************
- This is the first time I have spoken openly about the riots. On 26th February 2002, I passed the Sabarmati Express stationed at Godhra, on my way back to Ahmedabad from Mumbai, where I had gone for the NIFT entrance exams. I had not even heard of this place until it was in the news the next day. We had barely started to recover from the trauma of the 2001 Earthquake when the 2002 Riots were thrust upon us. 
*Mommedian - Used to describe Muslims in Ahmedabad. For eg. Autorickshaw driver to passenger – ‘Arrey madam, woh to Momeddian ka area hain, 20 rs extra dena padega.’
**'they were not muslims' -  Disputed. There were claims that the doors were bolted from inside and that the Sevaks themselves had burnt their own members. 
*** 'foetus atop a sword' - As per the testimony by the Doctor in the Mumbai retrials – he claimed that the foetus was found inside the uterus of the women and not ‘flung aside’ as the media reported. However so strong was the belief that this had been done, that I remember crying on hearing it.
**** 'pol' - A gated cluster of houses demarcated according to caste, clan etc. 


Oh n btw, if I was allowed to submit my older posts for B-A-T, I would have submitted http://shilpa-nair.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-have-angel-for-sister.html the one I think would do perfect justice to the title Revenge.
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

18 comments:

The Fool said...

A really compelling narrative. The flow was flawless. News items feel so real and personal when told as a story by a skilled story teller. Do check out my take on the prompt when you have time. The Fool - Revenge

Brijender Singh said...

Your choice of some rather bold expletives, the pace of your narrative and of course the plot make it an unputdownable read !!
But for me, the clincher was the last line-if revenge is sweet, why did his mouth feel bitter-spot on !!

Menachery said...

brilliant is an understatement...loved the narrative...

Shilpa Nair said...

@TF - I was looking for ur entry ;p U must have posted after I did, and yes I will stop by :) Thanks for your feedback!!!

Shilpa Nair said...

@Brijender and Menachery - Thank you for your kind words :D This is the first time I read your entries and must say both of you are brilliant at what you write.....I will leave my comments (I couldn't yesterday)....

the critics said...

tears is what i have to express.....you actually been there when it happened?.......anger is all that i have on whom i don't know may be on GOD HIMSELF if he chose to exist.

in the name of race, in the name of god, in the name of language, in the name of pride......when will they start doing in the name of humanity - in the name of love....


this is bold, powerful and sad.....revenge????????? .........a stupid word, a stupid feel indeed

Someone is Special said...

yet another brilliant post from your pen Shilpa... Superb... Wish this post might add a feather to your cap...

Someone is Special

Kunnu said...

First time comment on this blog.

Brilliant would be an understatement here to praise this piece. I felt depressed and angry for those cheap bastards responsible for this whole thing as every sane individual would.

We are a just a piece of meat...a carcass...for them..

Kunal

Aashish Sood said...

heart rending... a very very well narrated piece!

makes me sad!

"ATB for the BAT...

Read mine at Revenge is best when served cold

Regards
Wandering Thoughts "

Sunjoo Krishna said...

Powerful stuff, phew! Should've read the disclaimer on your profile first :). Glad I didn't .

Enchanta said...

Its a pity I cant vote.
Its such a pity!

Vikram Pyati said...

Overwhelming.. There are some write-ups which stay with you for a long long time after you have read them. I am sure this is one of them.
You have poured your heart out on the post and it shows how strongly you feel about the incidents.
And as Brijender wrote, the clincher is the last line.
Great Job !!!

Shilpa Nair said...

@TC, Kunnu n Vikram - The fact that I was an eyewitness to it is what shames me. The Godhra riots must be one of the most successful example of Revenge, unfortunately the revenge was taken at a heavy price. I'm glad u share the 'guilt' I feel. Thank U..!

Shilpa Nair said...

@SIS, Aashish, Sunjoo - I appreciate that u liked it so much :) I wish I hadn't bottled all this up for almost a decade...if I had known writing of it would make me feel lighter.

Shilpa Nair said...

@Enchanta - Chinta Koro na. U liked it is what matters :) Next time, do not forget to post. It is a crying shame to not have u n Abhi write >:(

aativas said...

Your post reminded me of those worst days .. which I fear many more are there to come! The last lines were indeed touching .. wish human beings understand that violence is not the solution and respect each others' faith and life.

Shilpa Nair said...

@aativas :( Were u also in Ahmedabad when they happened? But even if not, I agree with u..

Sadiya Merchant said...

so so soooo deeply disturbing!
n d irony is- all dis loss n wat is d purpose dat has been served!
a controversial subject dat has been handled very wel indeed :-)