Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Black Diwali 2012

13 Nov 2012 was Diwali (Deepaavali in Malayalam), the festival of lights! Some how I was not in a mood to sent out my usual greetings through e mail. To those who had greeted me I had replied almost perfunctorily. My mind was full of the activity planned for the after noon- the Defense Minister was coming to Palakkad to inaugurate the 50th year of public life of O Rajagopal, former minister of state of various ministries under AB Vajpayee. It was indeed a rare occasion. Not that a congress minister was inaugurating a bjp function but a defense minister was coming to Palakkad. I had tried to mobilise some veteran soldiers to protest on the occasion. I wouldn't go into the list of our grievances here. The activities of Indian Ex Servicemen Movement in returning medals to the President of the country, the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, and signing petitions signed in blood has been somewhat adequately reported. Here, the various organisations I contacted and am part of, were only interested in presenting memorandums, which  I knew would have helped only to subsidise the expenditure on toilet paper, if he had been one of those using such a process. Antony being from Kerala I knew he wouldn't be and so memorandums would be a total and sheer waste of precious paper. So I tried to do the next best thing. I got out a leaflet in Malayalam-titled 'For whom the soldiers make sacrifices'- and decided to distribute it to the participants at the entrance to the hotel where the function was being organised. I had put in a word to the President of the Block level unit of Indian Ex Servicemen's League and while he had outright said that it would be impossible for him to help as an organisation I had suggested that there was no need for him to help as an organisation but the members could come as individuals. If they were coming they could be there before the hotel by 3 pm. (The function was to commence in the auditorium attached to the hotel at 3.30 pm!) He had just smiled.

I reached there with 1000 copies of the leaflet and a banner having the following slogans- Soldiers against Traitors; Pattala dhrohi 'pattala' manthri raaji vekkuka (pattalam means armed forces and raaji vekkuka means resign); Pathirodha senakale prathirodhatthilaakkunna Prathirodha manthriye puratthakkuka (the defence minister who is puttting the defence forces on defence should be removed); raajya surakshakku bheeshaniyaaya raajya raksha manthriye naadu kadatthuka ( excommunicate the defence minister who is a threat to the security of the nation); raajyadhrohikalkkethire sainikar (Soldiers against traitors). Police personnel were overflowing and I had to wait for another 10 minutes or so to see if anybody else would come. I saw one of the organisers inside the gates and since he had invited me to the function I decided to say hello to him. And that turned out to be my undoing. He saw my bag and wanted to see the notice. After seeing the heading he decided that  it had to be brought to the notice of the Dy SP standing next to him. That, plus a look at the banner, the Dy SP snapped 'arrest'. My saying that I was only going to distribute the leaflets on the road, outside the hotel compound and the banner was to be displayed facing the hotel on the roadside did not make any difference. I was soon in a jeep and taken to the police station.

I asked to make a call (I do not carry any mobile!) and was denied. The SI was courteous enough to lie that the telephone at the reception had only incoming facility. But he read through the leaflet and asked some questions, admitting that whatever had been written would be of interest to fellow soldiers. Of course he shared his own understanding that the soldiers were extremely happy with what Antony had done. I blamed it on self serving media for such misinformation campaign.

Of what I overheard of the conversation between the police personnel one bit struck me- O Rajagopal is from BJP, right? So why should Antony be here to inaugurate this function? And the conversation veered on to 2014 elections and the possibility of trade offs between Congress and BJP. I wanted to intervene saying that it was the BJP govt that bailed out Rahul, the Congress prince, when he had been arrested in the USA in 2002. But I kept good counsel- with the devil, use the barge pole!

Anyhow, sitting there my thoughts wandered off in different directions. Maybe I will have to soon take a call on 'jail bharo' -when one would refuse to provide sureties and refuse to argue in courts too!- because there seems to be no other way. The law and order situation is so preposterous in our country, sooner than later people will have to take law into their own hands. Those who are responsible for enforcing law and order seems to be under the impression that what they think and do is the ultimate in law. I myself have no doubt that had I been exposed to even a fraction of the injustice that I see around me today, at the age when I opted to join the army, I would have been a successful naxalite or maoist! A wry smile crossed my lips while imagining how my wife would deal with tracing me out if I had to spend the whole night in the police station! Will be some learning process for her, I told myself. After all adversity is the greatest teacher!

Around 7 pm the SI on duty told me to get two people to bail me out.  And when I repeated I could not because I did not carry a mobile, I was allowed to use the telephone at the reception! I rang up Dr P S Panikkar who told me he was on his way to the police station!

Anyhow, a media friend had got wind of my arrest and he had alerted those in my activists circle- Dr Anuvarudhin and Vilayodi Venugopal. Soon Dr P S Panikkar, Mr Muhammed Shafi and Mr Akbarali were at the police station to bail me out. I was told that the charge was under Sec 35 or so of the Act of 61(the SI on duty was not sure, but he said that it was for creating disturbance in a public place and added that it would be a penalty of Rs 100/- unless contested.)

Anyhow, those 5 hours at the police station, with no familiar faces around, was a new experience. It has only reinforced my understanding that we have a long, long way to go before we can call ourselves a civilized society, leave alone a democracy! I have no choice but to continue with this fight for justice society. Personally I am unlikely to make any worthwhile impact but the concept will always dominate human conscience and should succeed ultimately.

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