Archive for June, 2012

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues – Chapter – 19

The Home Secretary and the Chief of the state police were stopped at the front entrance to the shrine. Some of the boys on the main gate insisted on physically frisking both of the officers before they allowed them to enter the holy place. The village head along with a few other elders from the village harped on the futility of this insistence, “the administration so far has been quite cooperative and well behaved. They have not so far ridiculed or insulted our pontiff; besides the entire world is watching through the media. There is no point in humiliating the senior officers of the state”, a head from the adjoining village was speaking to the boys. He was asked to shut up, “let the world see how our great seer has forced the government on its knees just as his ancestors had done to the Moguls and the British”. “The perpetrators of the atrocities must atone for their sins” another boy was arguing. The Home Secretary who did not anticipate this kind of reception was too stunned to speak up. After all he had been told by the big man from the central government, “You may come across a mild resistance at the shrine but under no circumstances the police will be given to deal with neither the situation nor you will permit the police to take any action against him. He said everything on our instructions. The call for separation is just the beginning of the turmoil that is likely to follow in the state giving us the opportunity to remove the elected government from the state. This will also fetch you a lifetime plum posting with the centre government if you are able to pull it through. The chief of the state police must not be allowed to initiate any kind of action. You must take control of the entire negotiation. The great priest Rajamantran must be enabled to come out of it scathe free”. “But how do I manage to go to the place which is prima facie a jurisdiction of the police department”, he asked the big man. “You can leave that to me. The crisis management group of state administration will suggest your name. You must grab the opportunity. You will use your glib talk to find a way through this crisis for the Great Priest”. The big man still controlled the strings at the state secretariat. But being frisked by the boys of the shrine in the presence of entire fourth estate could cripple his total career. He had not bargained for this kind of humiliation. The chief of the state police who had been enjoying the discomfiture of the bureaucrat all along remarked, “Under the law of the land, they have a right to frisk the police when it comes for a raid, lest the policeman carry anything incriminating on his person. His placing such an article in the premises being subjected to raid can jeopardize the innocence of the victims. So I think we cannot refuse the frisking, at least not me”. By now the hesitation of the administration had been conveyed to the pontiff by one of the villagers. He evolved a solution to reach a compromise with the boys. “Our great Priest is well aware of the honors that must be accorded to you as a guest. He appreciates the fact that you have pulled out the forces from out of the shrine. You obviously have paved a way and have come forward to have meaningful discussions. At the same time the great priest Rajamantran will not like to disappoint the boys. He can not put off his disciples who have so tenaciously stood by him. Since you cannot be frisked nor can the great priest Rajamantran be asked to come out and meet you at the door, he has decided to give you an audience from the outer balcony of the first floor. The meeting will proceed in the presence of the members of the press”. Nirbhaya saw through the shrewdness of the pontiff. He knew that he was making a mockery of the state government in front of the entire world, with him standing on the upper storey and the representative of the law talking to him while they were standing on the ground floor outside the shrine. He could visualize the photographs on the front pages of tomorrow morning’s newspapers with the head lines “Law of the land dwarfed by the great Priest’ and “The administration looks up to the humble Great Priest”. But the boys frisking the police could be equally deploring “The pontiff has played his cards well”; he told the civil administrator and moved to the outer periphery. The majestic appearance of the great priest Rajamantran on the first floor of the shrine left every one awestruck. He was in his traditional dress, a bandana on his waist, from which a long sword dangled up to his knees, the crown he wore and long flowing gown gave him the majestic persona, his head held high in the air, he looked like the royal reincarnation of a Greek god on the earth. The great priest Rajamantran majestically walked to the railing of the balcony. He looked down upon both officers of the state government with a contempt he bore for all kind of authority. He knew they were feeling a pain in their necks as they looked upwards at him. “I thought you would come with the strength of the entire force of your country. The small bunch of poor policemen you brought to arrest me will end up losing their lives. We do not want to waste the blood of the innocent youth of this state. Our fight is with the entire country and not with one state. We have declared secession against the union and as such we will like to negotiate with the leaders of the union always. However as an affected party the chief minister of your state Pratap too can join the tripartite discussions. If you want to arrest me you can come upstairs and do it. But I shall not surrender to the state being currently ruled by a nincompoop of a chief minister. He has not been able to do any benefit to the common people of the state. He is bent on assimilating our nation into the majority community. He is interested in annihilating the very signs of our great history. That is the reason he agreed for a poll alliance with the fanatic party of non-believers. He is a criminal of the nation. He must pay for his omissions like a traitor pays through his life. You can tell your chief minister to step down. He should hand over the reigns to us. Let us decide the fate of our community ourselves”. The seer spoke in a self-aggrandizing way. He was enjoying the attention he was getting from the press correspondents around. The reporters were scribbling their notes in frenzy. Some of them wanted to move forward and raise a few queries to the pontiff but they were stopped by the press advisor to the seer. The press advisor was always too eager to cultivate the press for the benefit of the religion, “the signed statement will be issued to all of you later. Let him continue for the attention of the masses around”. The chief of the state police knew it was a deliberate ploy by the seer. He wanted to draw as much mileage from the presence of the press reporters as possible. The rhetoric used by him was also meant to animate the masses that had again gathered out side the shrine when they heard the pontiff speak on the loudspeakers. “Your government is supported by the people who have sold their own mother. They have denied their very existence by declaring their mother tongue different from the one they speak. A few minutes ago you spoke about our sedition. If protecting my own identity and defending the identity of my community is a crime of treason then yes we are the traitors. If speaking my own language; the language that has been learnt by me through my mother’s milk is the cause of breaking away from this country, and then yes we want to be free. If utilizing the waters from my own resources for irrigating my fields that produce wheat for my brethren is against the laws of the country then so be it. We will defy such laws. If following the tenets of our heritage and culture gives the other community sleepless nights then they have to go from here and vacate our land.” People were enraptured by his speech making. There was a pin drop silence around. The photographer handling camera of the government controlled electronic media recorded every statement. He focused his camera’s lenses on the defiant body language of the great Priest. “In spite of the draconian laws and the oppressive attitude adopted by the government, we will give in but not in front of you. We want to surrender at the seat of the power of the state. My men and me will hand ourselves to your police at the town of Depalgarh where your secretariat is situated. You will have to wait till all of us are ready to move”. The Home secretary standing underneath had not bargained for this. His instructions from the big man were quite expressive “no arrest of the great priest Rajamantran will be permitted. Allow him to get away with an upper edge over the state government”. The chief of the state police realizing it was getting too far intervened at this stage, “you are a subject of the state sir! And the laws of the land govern you as much as they rule over the commoners. The laws of the land will undoubtedly be adhered to as set in the IPC or Cr PC. The question here does not relate to your conceding. We have the authority to put you under house arrest. But keeping in view the services rendered by the great shrine to the society we are not taking any such step. But it is obvious the laws will become operative the moment you or any of your boys decide to take the laws into your hands. We agreed to withdraw the forces from around the shrine to let you come forward to discuss and negotiate with the chief minister any issue you want to. I am sure you do understand the position of the state police and the home department. You can move to any part of the country should the state decide to withdraw the accusations against you. At this stage I am afraid I have to perform my duty as the police chief of this state. Either you will come with us or we lay a siege to the shrine and put every supporter of your shrine to inconvenience”. The great priest Rajamantran saw his predicament. He knew that he was in no situation to fight his battle with the police any further. “The confrontation must be avoided at this juncture, any police action at a time like this can jeopardize the whole game plan”, he thought to himself. “We shall travel to Depalgarh in our own vehicles along with our men and not sit in the police vehicles “. “That of course is acceptable “, the Home Secretary blurted in a hurry. “That will at best be a face saving from the political bosses in the center” he mused. The chief of the state police spoke to Tanwar on the walky talky set. He briefed him on the proposed plan of surrender. The police escort will be reduced to the bare minimum to accompany the caravan of the seer. The rest of the forces will drive on at a distance at the rear should the same be required for any last minute change in the moods of the great Priest. The automobile in the front had been decked up with flowers beads and garlands. Two of the hymn singers sang an ode to the Goddess of Power, which was followed by the religious hymns. The women traveling along with will repeat whatever the main singers sang. The motor vehicle in which great Priest traveled carried a large -size chair which had been decorated with marigold and rose flowers. The boys from the shrine had put on the colorful balloons and multicolored festoon on the vehicle carrying the great priest. The great priest Rajamantran sat like an emperor on this throne like pedestal. A good number of young men carrying guns covered his chair from all sides. The truck behind was full of young men armed in traditional war dress; each of the Young men carried a gun, and a sword hung on his side. The villagers were lined up on both sides of the streets as the motorcade started its journey towards the capital town of Depalgarh. “Long live the great Priest”, “truth will ultimately triumph” and it is time of the brave to rule”, the slogans were heard from all sides. The air around was charged up with emotions. Some of the women devotees threw themselves in front of the convoy. They were beating their chests “you can not take him away like this”, they were shouting. The police station in charge of the area looked towards the seer for intervention. Nirbhaya wanted to get the women forcibly removed but the pontiff had alighted from the vehicle he was sitting in. He was addressing the women with folded hands,” our most august and revered audience! I shall request you to please allow us to move. We are going with the servants of the law of the land of our own free will. The police have not had the temerity to put us under arrest. We are surrendering of our own. They should be allowed to do their job. The duty towards the Almighty, the religion, and the faith or even to the job for which one gets some remuneration in return comes foremost. It was the duty of one of our greats to lay down his life to save the community form the draconian rule of the Mughal. It has become my religion now to relinquish my freedom to save our community from the tyrannical and oppressive measures adopted by the state. The Aurangzeb’s of the world cannot repress the risings of the rebellion of the great society like ours. A thousand years of rule of the Mughal could not change the mind set of the multitudes willing to lay down their lives for their faith, how can a government which is there only for a couple of years do it. Have faith in Almighty who shall soon deliver me back amongst you”. The women got up from in front of the caravan. They stood mesmerized on one side of the street with their hands folded, tears rolling down their faces. The cavalcade started its onward journey. As it gained speed people started running along with. The flower petals were showered from the upper floors of the houses on the seer, as he sat on the majestic throne. The motorcade soon reached the main grand trunk road and took a turn towards the capital town. The pontiff asked the chief of the state police if the journey could be stopped for a while. He moved his face in the direction of the “Sanctum Sanctorum” and said his prayers. He was vowing to himself to soon reach that great seat and rule the masses from there. The events were leading him towards that. The people gathered there went crazy. They adored him. They worshipped him. They all loved that even in this hour of crisis he prayed and paid respects to the gods. Any iota of doubt if any one had about his sincerity vanished with the catharsis that followed this gesture. The rivers of salted waters from their eyes washed the accusations of his being a rebel, a terrorist or a non-conformist. The confirmation was reestablished at this point. He addressed them again “from here onwards we will not want any one of you to accompany us. Please go back to your homes to attend to your daily routine and the normal course of life. Your children need you. Your fields need tending. Your families need the warmth of your presence. I will not like any of our mothers, sisters and brethren to forget that the duty towards God and the religion should not prevent us from the worldly responsibility. The religious politics are not meant for the familial folks. Your sons are with me. They will protect me along with their faith. We will soon be back. I assure these young men will soon become capable of fighting the oppressors. Each one of them will take on a millions of perpetrators of crime against us. This is ordained by our founders. It is bound to take place as fated”. People reluctantly moved back towards their villages. The chief of the state police heaved a sigh of relief, as the column started its onward journey to the capital town.



The ancient shrine standing tall and chiding the tiny village mud houses had been built many hundred years ago. It stood like a vast mansion in the open fields surrounded by a large cluster of villages. The massive stricture had always been defying all authorities of the destructive nature of time. Its strong and thick walls were raised to a greater height to prevent outsiders to see what went on inside the four walls. The wooden planks on the front doors had given the shrine the look of an ancient fort. These planks rose from the ground level to the upper most storeys in a single piece. It was well neigh impossible for any invader to break these planks even with the help of mightiest elephants in olden times.
The same shrine has been consistently under police seizing for past two days in a row. The chief of the state police Nirbhaya after getting authorization from the chief minister Pratap to enter the shrine had personally given the directions to the team lead by Tanwar.
“I believe that the great priest Rajamantran some how had got wind of what was coming. We have found the entire place barricaded by hoards of villager. The masses of villagers have covered the shrine up to a few kilometers. Each road, each bye lane and the routes through the maize fields have been occupied by humans. We had to stop the police posse much before the periphery of the shrine. The local police area in charge, the area magistrate and the collector all have reached the place but they are expressing their helplessness. I cannot move the forces further until an order is issued to remove the accumulation of humanity encircling the shrine. Either we issue order to the cavalry to move in or a few rounds of firing will be essential to clear the people. I doubt if either will help. We can expect a tough resistance from the boys of the great Priest. These boys could be armed very heavily. We can see them just behind the surge of villagers. There can be virtual bloodshed at this place”, Tanwar’s report had come in immediately after he had reached the spot. The chief of the state police Nirbhaya had informed chief minister Pratap of the seizing of the shrine. He was also informed about the large battery of the local national and international press correspondents. They had gathered there to pick up the latest news and report the scoop to their respective readers.
The electronic media has been covering the happenings. It had put up the live coverage on the main news bulletin of their network for their viewers’ benefit, and curiosity. A telephone call from Pratap to the station director and the threat to close down the station brought some sense to the officials of the television. “Sir you must understand our position. We have to report to the Ministry of Information and broadcasting that is under the control of the central government. It is their insistence that the coverage be shown live to let the common public view what is happening at the sacred places”.
“In that case you may have to move out of the state within next hour. I will ensure a case of subversion is registered against you and your staff at Baikunthpur for instigating the common man against the state. I hope you can make your bosses see reason and understand the legal implication of such an action by the state administration. The local police will bundle your outfit out. Your reporters will be put under house arrest in such a situation. You are aware that I do not believe in the intimidation of the press yet this onetime please refrain from forcing me to take steps that could be detrimental to your freedom”.
“In that case I may have to get permission from…” the director was about to utter when Pratap gave him a way out “I suggest you carry a news capsule rather than showing the entire episode live. You can send someone to record my appeal to the villagers surrounding the shrine”, that brought the station director to his knees “you see sir, I was confident we will find a way out “, he had finally relented.
The helicopter of the state government was approaching peripheries of the village where shrine was situated. The Home Secretary who found it difficult to speak due to the noise generated by the rooters of the helicopter, bent out of his seat. He brought his mouth close to the ears of the chief of the state police Nirbhaya “I think we are aggravating the situation. These are religious people. They themselves many times do not know what they talk about. The great priest Rajamantran must have been intoxicated by the religious fervor and uttered these words. We should give him a chance to explain his position before we precipitate any kind of action against him”.
“Yes but this time the new combination of the religion and politics has made him too heady. Such deadly combination of the preacher and the politician can prove very costly to the peace of entire state. This can even cause disintegration of the very social thread that binds the two communities in the state for centuries. It can result into a complete breaking of the trust and faith which has kept the people in the neighborhood of each other without raising the boundaries of their dwellings too high. I am sure you have been to the villages of our state or even the old localities of the old towns. Have you looked at the heights of the walls separating one household from another in these villages? These are raised to the level of the human chest and not up to the eyes and heads. It has been proved over the centuries that, in our countryside no barrier exists between the two neighbors, not even that of faith and religion. The kitchens of neighborly households virtually extend into each other’s courtyards. The common mud and brick stoves fixed up into their courtyards bind them together. The fire that is lighted into these community stoves cooks bread for all of them irrespective of their cast, creed, status or religion. Such fanatical statements as delivered by the great priest Rajamantran today have taken away one such part of our community to the distant lands. The wounds of that separation from our brethrens are still raw in our memory. I am confident the common populace will not like to put up with a repetition of the same dissection once again. Yet the same people are out to protect the fanatical and communal mind of the great priest Rajamantran again. This myth must be broken. He should not be allowed to go any further”.
The chief of the state police Nirbhaya saw hoards of villagers standing all around the shrine, from his helicopter. He told the pilot to take a round of the entire area before landing in the school grounds little away from the crowds. Some of the village children started running towards the helicopter. They were chased away by the security forces. The chief of the state police Nirbhaya saw snipers on top of the shrine. If any of the snipers wanted to he could have hit the chopper but better sense had prevailed. The villagers gathered there started raising slogans against the government as soon as they saw the chopper. They had been thinking that it was the chief minister Pratap who has come to the spot to speak to the great priest. The people were disappointed when they saw that it was only the police official accompanied by the state civil functionary.
The chief of the state police Nirbhaya assessed the volatile and charged atmosphere in the air. The home secretary too could sense the tensions prevailing. The villagers had blocked the entrance to the shrine with their tractor trolleys, pushcarts and wooden planks. The home secretary spoke to Nirbhaya “we must find a way out of the situation. Nirbhaya could feel that any kind of police action at this stage will make a hero out of Rajamantran. “The chief minister and the cabinet have sent me along with you to avoid any kind of undue action that can propel into mass agitation. We need to remove the populace from the middle of the police and the shrine. That can be done only if we are able to take their leaders into confidence. We will have to meet their village head. We will speak to him to see reason. You will have to send an emissary to fetch him. Or it is better still if we can make an announcement on the public address system to all people to understand the situation. It is possible then they will move away. You have to make sure your men from the police department must show their restraint under all provocations. Even if the villagers resort to any kind of violence, we will use the force only as a last resort. This was also the feeling of the crisis management committee”.
“Sure I do agree with you but I am not willing to risk any one of my men to be sent as an emissary. We can address common public from a distance. The riot control van is fitted with the Public address system. We will have to walk towards it. Any kind of vehicle movement at this stage can trigger the panic reaction from villagers”.
The chief of the state police Nirbhaya looked at DIG Tanwar for his response to the suggestion. Tanwar has always held the views that “any kind of reconciliatory move with the exploiters of common faith virtually meant the extension of support to the socio-criminal element”. He firmly believed that “only those who contributed to the cause of social reforms and universal welfare through philanthropic activities were real saints. All others self professed preachers were manipulators of man’s search for the illusive peace of mind. The religious preachers were good enough till they propagated the teachings enshrined in the holy books. But if they assume the role of God themselves they become exploiters of the first order. Some of them even get converted to sex – exploiters as women tend to submit to the religious swooning quite easily as compared to the male of the species. The words of the conjurors simply hypnotize them into giving all away. The women then often get stuck in a situation from which there was no turning back”. He felt frustrated often for not being able to stop the mushrooming of such magicians and hypnotists. He believed that “the state will often protect the hideouts of such criminals through the systems that prevented police from entering their so-called religious places”.
“I think we need to issue a warning to the crowd about the causalities they can suffer if we resort to the direct action. We are ready to use the mounted police to chase them away and force our way through”.
“However Mr. Tanwar we can leave that kind of action to the last. Let me speak to them,” the Home secretary made his annoyance quite obvious.
The slogans shouted by the villagers had become louder by now, when people saw senior police officers and the home secretary walking towards the riot control van. The home secretary started his communication with them “Blessed are the souls who join me in paying respects to the great Gods! I am speaking to all of you on behalf of the chief minister of this state and his government. All of you jointly had installed the government of this state through the validated voting rights given to you by the constitution of the country. Our constitution has bestowed us with the best democratic system in the world. Each one of you has made use of the ballot to elect the government in power. You must remember that if you do not like the current administration, you have every right to change the rulers at the next polling. Why should you therefore take law into your hands for an act, which can be handled peacefully and legally? Our great Priest is a well-revered man. He heads a shrine that has been the fountainhead of spiritual guidance for many generations in this area. If he is upset with the system of the state, we are willing to sit in consultation with him and thrash out the differences with him. We are even willing to bring about the necessary changes into the systems that can fast forward the development of the common man. He has incited all of you to disobey the laws of the land, not pay revenues and not subscribing to the administrative systems. Let me remind you that this amounts to incitement to rebellion. I am in a quandary to understand as to how a small area which is land locked from all sides can have its own entity. You will perish in no time if you follow what is suggested by the great Priest. Be wise enough to pay heed to what your government says. Please send your great Priest to talk to the government. We are not using the word surrender. Because you and I, we all still believe he is a great religious and pious man and not a common criminal. We all bow before him in respect. I am sure he will honor the wishes of his own people. The great priest Rajamantran will not want us to make use of the force which could result into loss of innocent lives”, he took a pause to see the effect of his remarks.
The murmur in the crowd was getting louder. Some one from amongst them shouted loudly “you can reach him only on our dead bodies. We will protect him till the last drop of blood”.
The home secretary kept his cool, “that I can assure is not needed. We are not going to arrest him. Some of the elders from your village can come forward to hold discussions .or it will be better if you permit us to talk to the great priest. We will make him realize the effect of his futile utterances. I give you my promise that no harm will come to him”.
A rustic tall gentleman with a hefty built who had come forward from the crowd, volunteered “We have received message from inside the shrine that our great Priest will speak only to the chief minister Pratap. You can call for him here. Otherwise we will not budge even an inch from our stand”.
“I am afraid that will not be possible. However we can work out the modus operandi. It is essential that we sit face to face for negotiation with your great Priest”.
“Then call off your forces. We guarantee your complete safety. You along with one of your officers can come inside”, said the old man.
Home Secretary looked at the chief of the state police enquiringly to the suggestion thrown as a way out by the villager. Nirbhaya reluctantly ordered Tanwar to move the armed forces a little backward and away from the shrine.
“But chief!”
“Tanwar you are not going back. You can but ask the police forces to take positions a mile or so away from this place where they are at present. Should any thing untoward happen; we will send the envoy immediately. You can leave the local police station in charge and two of his men posted at this place”.
The police forces started pulling out. All the people who were watching the police move away from the shrine had become jubilant. The cry of victory ranted the skies. The crowd was shouting slogans “long live the great Priest”, and they were shrieking on the top of their voice “Down with the state police!” The shouting could be heard all over.
Nirbhaya wanted to ask the home secretary “What now?”
“I have my brief from the department. It is obvious the chief minister Pratap did not discuss with you because these instructions have been issued by the central government. You will not be arresting great priest Rajamantran. We will deal with him with tact and diplomacy. You can discuss with your chief minister when you get back. I am sure he will appreciate the way we have solved this catch-22 situation that this government of our state had been subjected to”.
Nirbhaya wanted to tell him to go and sock it up. but things had gone too far by now. He could see a few of the village elders moving towards them.
“The great priest Rajamantran is ready to have an audience with you. We will not allow any of the armed men from your police inside the shrine. We will lead you personally to go into the shrine”. They moved towards the shrine. He noticed people melting away but not without raising slogans once again. They were raising their fists skywards.
“His vicious hold on the mass mentality is complete. They are absolutely spell bound by the charlatan. Nothing can prevent them from laying their lives under this hypnotism” thought Nirbhaya.
Inside the shrine in one of the open courtyards the great priest Rajamantran sat majestically on a thrown. He was enjoying the epithet used by people from surrounding villages in his eulogy. Some one called him the lord the Almighty; another woman addressed him as, “The Remedy to All Ills of Society”.
This lady wanted to bequeath a large portion of her farm land to the shrine. “No one is there to look after my land. It is not being tilled. All my sons stay abroad. They have virtually become strangers to the earth. They are neither interested to plough it nor do they know what to do with it” the woman was praying with her hands folded, “Your lord is well aware that I have inherited it from my father. He did not have any male progeny. The land given by my in_ laws is sufficient for my sons for their survival. I have already gifted this to your holy shrine. Please grace me by accepting these papers. I am sure you can put it to better use”. She handed over the set of papers to him. Then she lay prostrate in front of the thrown he was sitting in to touch his feet.
Ranjit who was watching this amazing communication between the priest and the lady wondered, “How could people do this? How could people gift everything to a human being simply because they thought he was a messenger from God? This is impossible but it is taking place in front of my very own vision. How can this man who is accumulation of flesh and blood like any other human being influence the minds of others to such an extent that they will give every thing to him just for one blessing”?
He looked at the great priest Rajamantran. He was wearing a kind of dress that made him look more like a warrior than the holy man clothed in the traditional robe. The great priest Rajamantran was fully dressed to go to war. He held a long gun on his left side and a sword dangled from his waist, as he walked in. He wore a military costume of the ancient times with full decorator’s honors of wars which must have been earned by his fore fathers during the reigns of Mughal kings and British rulers. It was a well-known fact that his ancestors had been the paid soldiers of the ruling elite before one of them took to religious services. That forefather had laid the foundation to the much-needed Godly solace for the wandering soldiers in the shape of a small shrine where Rajamantran had been holding his court now.
The guests who had come to Ranjit’s house on his grandmothers’ demise had departed to their respective homes after all the rituals related to the death of Ranjit’s grandmother’s had been completed. The altercation between father and his son made them leave sooner then they had planned. Ranjit’s mother was keen to visit this shrine to pray for the peace of her mother-in –law’s departed soul.
‘We shall go direct to the shrine after we have immersed her ashes in the holy river. It will be closer to the shrine from there. It is your obligation to the elders of the family. You must pray for the soul of your departed grand mother. She was always so much distressed about you. She loved you more than any thing else in this world. I shall request great holy Priest to bless you with strength and intelligence. He must bless you to overcome your problems in life and get into some meaningful living”. Ranjit’s mother had to pester him the entire day till he finally agreed to finally go along with her to the shrine.
However he was at a loss understand as to why were there the gunmen standing behind the great Priest. And then he looked at the guns they were carrying. He recognized the guns and smiled at the irony of fait. These were the same guns that had been the cause of his grandmother’s death. He had least expected to come to such a place to pray for the liberation of her soul. He was keen to find out how these guns found their destination here. He was standing in a queue to reach the great priest Rajamantran to seek his blessings when the commotion outside drew everyone’s attention
“My lord the police is here to arrest you’, a villager came running to the inner portion of the shrine where the great priest Rajamantran had been holding his court. People sitting on the floor got up to look for some security and protection for themselves. They were running helter and skelter. The Cleric grinned and asked all of them to sit down. “Do not worry my children! You should not panic. These poor mortals cannot even touch any of my disciples in the entire area. The police will have to cross thousands of human bodies outside before they are allowed to enter the shrine and reach here. They will find a sea of humanity outside to welcome them”.
They could hear the slogans being shouted in the exterior compound. It appeared as if the entire humanity had gathered outside to form a wall of protection encircling the shrine.
“It is impossible to penetrate this kind of fortress by any force in the world”, Ranjit thought to himself. He did not notice any fear on the face of the sage. “It may be that he is the smartest actor of the world.” The defiance of the law of the land by the great priest Rajamantran had been reported by most of the press. Ranjit had read the news while traveling to this place. Every one had anticipated that “the denizen of the shrine was playing with fire”. They anticipated that the shrine will get into trouble with the law. But the common men loved such heroism. They were all over awed by the sermon delivered by the great priest. Only the last of the great had the courage to challenge the might of the Mughal rulers. The leadership that emerged thereafter did threaten the might of the British rule but there was a basic difference between the political non-compliance and the religious fervor generated amongst the common folks. None of the smaller shrines had ever challenged the powers of the Victorian rulers. Even if they did they were always under the influence of one political alliance or the other. This smaller shrine situated in the remote corner of the countryside can evoke so much emotion baffled him. The crowd was inching ahead one by one towards the great priest Rajamantran to pay their respects.
Once in a while he will speak to the devotee, “how is your father now? He asked a young farmer. “Is he taking his medicine as prescribed by his doctor”?
He asked another one, “Has your daughter started going to school? You must be aware that the education of the girl child is as essential as that of the son. Do not be miser while spending money on her education. In case you do not have enough money I will pay her school fee”, he told him.
Yet to another farmer he asked, “I believe you have dug a tube well recently? Does your village get enough water for irrigation of the farms? I have been talking to the authorities to divert the canal water to your village at least for the period when the crops need irrigation. I have been promised by them that it will be done soon. You should ask your village head to remind the concerned chief engineer of the irrigation project to speedup the process of providing more waters for agriculture”.
All the people sitting on the floor in the court of the great priest Rajamantran will repeat in unison, “You are great. You are the greatest your lordship. You are concerned about all of us. That is why you remember everybody’s cause of happiness and misery”.
“He has mastered the art of building up public frenzy. And he also has the knack of controlling the mob psyche to his advantage,” thought Ranjit.
It was only after a long wait that their turn to meet the great priest Rajamantran had been announced. His mother fell on the feet of the seer. She had put her forehead on the floor. She directed Ranjit also to do the same. Ranjit remembered how his grandmother used to implore him to bow his forehead on the ground “for praying and seeking absolvence of the sins of human birth”, she would say. She said “the bowing of the head in front of the representatives of Gods was meant to exhibit the man’s subjugation to the Almighty up there and a submission to His Will”.
“Is he also one of the Gods?” he was not sure but since mother wanted him to show his respects towards him he bowed and touched his feet. Ranjit knew that this was not the right time and place for raising an argument with his mother. He was trying to look straight into the eyes of the ecclesiastic.
The great priest Rajamantran “I have seen you lad toddling here on the grounds of this shrine, when you used to crawl on your knees. The old lady, God blesses her soul! She has brought you up very well. You have turned out to be a sturdy and a strong Youngman. You must devote this handsome physique to the cause of community. We need youngsters like you to keep the faith and our race alive”. The priest looked towards his mother. He asked her “will this son of yours also become subservient to the government that corrupts our common folks. Do you have some better plans for his future?
“He is a grown up young man Milord! I want you to give him the common sense and intelligence. Your honor can make him see the light of the day. You must make him understand the ways of the world. There is no one in our family to look after him after the death of his grandmother. I have brought him here to your court so that you can caution him against the waywardness of life that he lives. I pray you to give him a sermon for his well being. Possibly he has been converted into a blockhead by his vagrant life in the city”.
“He must spend A few days at the shrine. This will bring him closer to gods. The stay here will also do lots of good for him”, said the great Priest. “Let us urge the forgiveness of the benign for your grandmother’s soul, which is what you are here for primarily”. The pontiff began chanting a verse from the small holy book kept next to him.
The drone of the helicopter was heard moving towards the shrine from a distance. The war cries outside in the court yard were becoming louder and shriller. “It appears they have decided to drop in from the skies”, one of the bodyguards shouted and requested the seer “please milord you must get inside the protected room”. He pushed people away and led the pontiff to the inner room.
Another gunman ran towards the stepladder but instead of climbing the stairs he went to the small spacer under the stairs. He removed large bundles of the sugarcanes kept on the floor and took out the wooden cases of guns from underneath them. He started throwing the guns to other young men present, “everyone moves to the roof but no one will use the guns for firing till I ask you to do so”. Some one had put a gun into Ranjit’s hands too and told him to rush upwards. Ranjit’s mother and other ladies along with older men were asked to vacate the room immediately and go out in the courtyard. “They can blow the building hence no one stays inside”. In the hustle bustle and confusion that followed no one realized that helicopter had already moved away from the building and landed in the school building a few meters away.
When no such attack came from the skies the young men hidden behind the pillars came out in the open on the roof and became jubilant with the victory cries. He too joined them though he did not know what made him do so. He pulled the trigger and fired a volley of bullets into the air. He felt adrenalin rushing through his veins the way it had felt earlier, when he had killed his grandmother. A strange sense of calm prevailed upon him after he had fired the entire lot.