Posts tagged ‘terrorism’

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues – 40

He had been sitting on the iron railing, encircling the lake. The lake was situated on the outskirts of the city. He had been in waiting there for over two hours now. He was waiting for the motorcade of the home minister Aaham to emerge from the street below.  The winter fog of the early morning had enveloped the road completely making it difficult for any one to see beyond a few yards.   That is why the members of the spotting party deployed just outside the Rajbhavan had been instructed to send a motorcyclist in advance to forewarn him as soon as the caravan carrying the home minister Aaham started its journey from there. He rubbed his palms to keep the winter chill away from his hands. The numbness in his fingers could prove fatal.  What if he failed to pull the trigger first, in that split second the security cover of the VIP will blow him into pieces. He recalled the training given to him by General Durjan when he was assigned the first job of killing the police officer in the Sanctum Sanctorum.  “It is either you or the target that loses the life.  The split second spent on dithering has caused many a sharp shooters to end up their missions by paying up with their lives. Once you have made up your mind to do away with the subject, you must do it with all precision and ruthlessness. Otherwise you must be ready to get your top chopped off instantly as there will not be a second chance for you to pull the trigger. The second shot always belong to the opponent”.

He could see vague specks of light in the distance travelling towards him. The motorcyclist came near him. He had thrown the orange peels on the road and sped away. He was giving him the necessary signal that the caravan was on its way and will be there in next two minutes. Ranjit took position behind the small mile stone on road.  It was an open jeep leading the pack of security cauldron followed by a fire brigade vehicle. He let both the automobiles pass through. He or his companions did nothing to disturb the smooth run of both the motors that were leading the motorcade.  “The home minister Aaham will be occupying the third white ambassador car; the first two cars will be used as a decoy. You must avoid them at any cost”, the informant had clear description of the seating arrangements of the cavalcade of the VIP.

He hid himself behind the thick hedge of wild foliage that had been growing on the side path of the road and pulled one of the bushes over his face as the first high intensity bomb ripped through the floor of the white ambassador car leading the pack.  The car flew to the right side of the road and fell into the ditch. There was a strong smell of human flesh burning into the air.  The occupants of this car would hardly have had an inkling of what had hit them as they were blown into smaller bits of burning balls in no time.

The deafening sound of the explosion deafened Ranjit’s ears for a while. The flash of the fire blinded the drivers of all vehicles of the cavalcade who were following the car that was blown into pieces.  The driver of the car that was there in the middle of the caravan could not apply the brakes in time and went over the rear fender of the car leading in the front that came off the vehicle hit by the bomb.

The driver of the automobile carrying the home minister Aaham avoided the clash with the car ahead of him. He steered his automobile to the left of the road. His grazing tires screeched as they turned at a very high speed missing the iron railing by the scrape of a hair. The driver wanted to take off from the scene of the explosion to save the home minister Aaham. He had also simultaneously shifted the gear into top speed when he saw his very important passenger’s life was in danger.

But Ranjit gave him not a chance to escape.  When the white ambassador car reached near him, Ranjit leapt over the railing and fired continuously on the occupants of the vehicle from a distance of three to four feet.  First volley of bullets hit the driver of the car and the security guard in their faces.  The car soared   through the iron railing on the road and it turned turtle. He fired the next round but the shots  sprayed out of the Kalashnikov  hit the door in the rear and the clinkering sound of bullets striking the iron could be heard all over the place. He had no time to see if any of the bullets fired by him had found their targets amongst the occupants sitting in the seat at the back of the vehicle. He had seen that the Home minister Aaham had ducked underneath the rear wall of the front seat.

But there was no time to wait and check the effects of the hundreds of   bullets that had materialized from his fire emitting gun. Ranjit fled towards the residential sector adjoining the lake road on foot and soon he would have been lost himself into the swallowing up fog.  But it appeared those security men who were leading the home minister Aaham’s caravan in their jeeps were too determined. They had come back after they saw the flashing fires of bullets and rising of the smoke towards the skies in their rearview mirror of their vehicles.

“There he goes”, someone had shouted in the dark. “You must take cover”, he had heard another voice from the same direction. “He may have another bomb”.   A bullet whizzed past Ranjit’s left ear without hitting him. He knew he had been dotted by the hawk’s eyes of the elite commandos who had been especially trained to provide security to the very important politicians of the country.

He was well aware that very soon all these security men will outrun him if he continued running in the open like this. He jumped over the first boundary wall that he came across and ran towards the back yard of the house. “I should find a way out from the other end” Ranjit thought aloud.  To his dismay the back yard of the house ran into a mesh of sharp edged wires that separated the two grounds falling into the middle of two adjoining bungalows. He knew he had been cornered and it was not possible to jump over the wired mesh.

“I wonder if it is the end of the world for me today” he told himself “I have hardly been able to savor the love of my newlywed for a few hours to go away like this.  She does not even know that I am not at home sleeping next to her.  She was in too deep a slumber after intense love making on her first blissfully wedding night”

He heard the human shouts were moving towards him and then a loud shriek of some one having been hit by a gun shot in the front of the house. “Who is it”, an authoritative voice boomed in the courtyard as the overhang lights came on. Ranjit fired towards the tube light shattering it into many small splinters.  The dweller inside the house put off all their lights.

“It was now or never”, he thought and ran towards the front gate spraying a volley of bullets from his Kalashnikov.  The security officer from the home minister Aaham’s entourage on his trail was taken by complete surprise. His still body behind the cover wall of outer boundary had been hit by the spray of bullets form Ranjit’s gun. It flew a few feet into the air and slumped back into the ground. Ranjit saw another figure slouched into the small plants of rose bushes.  One of his   companions had been done away with mercilessly by some of the security men. He did not stop by to look back who it was. It will be a while before some one from the house will find courage enough to come out and realize how many have been killed and by whom He sprinted   at frightening speed   till he had covered the distance of a few lanes taking him away from the house under the siege of the security personnel. He slowed down his pace after he noticed that he had come a long way away form the scene of the shootout.  He showed no hurry as he walked towards the main four lane road leading away from the residential rows of huge compounds. It appeared as if he had never missed his morning sun rise and today also he was out on a morning walk to take pleasure in looking at the sun coming out of the hidden blue skies behind the fogs that emanated skywards from out of the fresh airs of the lake waters.

“It will be a long  while before some one from the house will find courage enough to come out and realize how many have been killed and by whom. By that time I will be back with my beloved”, Ranjit told himself. He found his sweat shirt and the track suit including Nike joggers in the back seat of a car parked by one of the boys on the far end of the road.  He changed into the track suit and did not forget to tie the laces of the Nike joggers.  He told the boy to drop him a few paces ahead of the house on the opposite direction to the one from which he had been running away.

The falling drops of sweat on his brow could tell any one that he has had a long jog. But his ordeal was not over yet.

“Hey you, in the blue track suits”, he heard a voice from behind “what are you doing here on the road at such an early hour”.

It was a police inspector walking towards him. The inspector raised his baton he was carrying in his right hand and beckoned him to stop.

“Oh a running freak’, he pointed towards his track suit and joggers, “but you better be careful schmuck, winter is at its peak and you may catch cold”.

The inspector was observing him very carefully and closely. “Are you not the same guy who got married at the shrine yesterday? How can you leave your newly wed asleep in the bed alone? Do you come here for a morning run? Do you not know the times are bad for even an early morning run? There are prowlers on the road.  You could get killed. There has been an attempt on the life of the home minister Aaham, a few minutes ago. We shall have to haul you up for questioning”, the police inspector shifted his baton to his left hand and took out his revolver from the holster. He pointed it towards Ranjit. “You thank your stars that I am a disciple of the shrine and hence I am not firing at you.  Otherwise I have orders to shoot at any one found running on this road. Come let us get moving fast before any of my seniors pass through here”.

Ranjit behaved as if he was mortally scared to hear the news of attack on the home minister Aaham’s life. He spoke to the cop in a stammering tone, “oh my god! Do you mean sir they had tried to kill that minister who had come to the shrine to bless us on our wedding day? He is a very nice and gentle human being.  I sincerely hope and pray that nothing happened to him. How bad are the times .I did not want to break my routine of daily morning run. But how the hell would a common folk like me know what lies  in store for him on the roads .I thank my stars that I did not strayed too  much away from my home. I must get back home instantly.  I thank you for informing me that you are a member of the shrine. That means we are co brothers. Then we must have a similar bent of mind.  Will you please let me go? I must reach home early”. He folded his hands in a gesture of having been obliged.

“Thanks” Ranjit said. He started running in the direction leading towards his   home on the double.

The inspector fired a bullet shot close to Ranjit’s legs. Ranjit could smell the burning fire from the burnt cloth of his pajamas.  The heat of the fire was very close to his knees.  He by instinct knew that any further move by him to run away from this spot would mean his legs will be definitely broken by another pull on the trigger. He stood still and waited for the police man to come near him.

“If there are others of his fellow officers they should soon join him. Then the odds will be against one to too many. If I have to save my life then I must immediately take control of the situation.  As otherwise the entire struggle of the fight to freedom will come to a naught”.

The police man by now had come too close to his attacking vicinity. He pressed the muzzle of his revolver close to Ranjit’s head. “One more move by you and you will be dead. Just board the vehicle quickly and quietly”, the inspector shoved the gun into his left side lower earlobe. He pushed him towards the police jeep parked on the other side of the road.

“It is now or never “thought Ranjit and went straight for police inspector’s two eyes. He jabbed his fingers into the sockets of those eyes. The inspector shrieked in extreme agony. The revolver in inspector’s hands could not take the pressure of his finger on the trigger; a stray shot from the firearm hit the ground below. Ranjit gave one more chop hand blow on the officers’ neck again and with one strike he had broken his wind pipe. Blood started oozing from his victim’s nose and mouth.  The instant gush of fluid choked his nostrils making it extremely difficult for him to breathe.  The police inspector had fallen on the cold and damp earth below on both his knees. Ranjit snatched the firearm from his hand. He   put two bullets into his forehead creating two gaping holes.

Ranjit raised the revolver close to his lips and blew into the smoke coming out of the barrel. “Thanks for the souvenir but I do not need this”, Ranjit wiped off his fingerprints from the metal and put the revolver back into the holster hung onto the dead body of the police inspector. He kicked the corpse into the ditch dug up by the road building department onto the roadside.  Ranjit knew that soon it will be discovered by his fellow officers, when they would notice the lone vehicle parked on the road. He started his jog towards home blowing a whistle to the tune of latest film song. “The occasion calls for an early morning repeat of the fete performed by me last night along with my newlywed” he smiled to himself.

Ranjit slipped himself quietly into the small entrance to his home.  He picked up the bunch of garden pipes lying in the front of the green lawns and started spraying water on the plants, “the gardener should also be on his way to tend to them”.

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Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 39

The press photographers representing various newspapers were vying with each other to get a complete coverage of the event for their readers. They had been requesting Ranjit Sehgal and his newly wed to pose for photographs so that they could get a wider coverage in the evening issue. Howsoever hard he tried he could not avoid being clicked by almost all of the photojournalists present on such a grand occasion. Ranjit wanted to get away from the venue where his marriage was organized. He was afraid of not only his past activities but he was also anxious that his relationship with the great priest Rajamantran will be give him an unwanted  exposure in the eyes of the police and other investigating agencies. He was apprehensive that the sleuths of the investigation bureau will begin smelling through their many noses around. His basic strength so far has been to remain as unassuming as possible and here too he wanted to perform the role of a commoner so that his freedom to movement was not hampered. He was never in favor of solemnizing his marriage in the public eye. It was great Priest’s habitual practice to rather give a widest possible publicity to all his activities in order to attract not only the common village folks but also the politicians and the bureaucrats of all kinds. He considered them as prize trophies to be displayed on all occasions. It was General Durjan who explained to him, “You must not behave like a touch me not in front of the press and the politicians. They are all here every year.  These functions have been organized during this part of the year for past many centuries. There are no ways that any one tying the matrimonial knot under the auspices of the shrine can be associated with the political aspects of the shrine. The act of getting the young couples married is a mere social and philanthropic act of the great priest.  However if you act like as if you are trying to hide something that may give the press as well as the police a reason to look for meanings where there none exists so far. In case you are worried about your family coming forward to claim their relationship with you and giving out your real identity to your bride rest assured they have already donated you to the cause of the shrine. Your parents have accordingly been informed of your decision to spare them the pain and humiliation of falling into the hands of investigating agencies; should you get caught any time in life. In the records of their life no son ever existed by your name. They will simply disown you in the event of any one asking them about their first born son. You must be and remain the persona you have created for yourself i.e. Mr. Ranjit Sehgal from England whose dear mother breathed her last waiting for her wayward son to return home along with his newly wed bride”.

“But I always thought there was glory and fame attached to people who have led their nation to the path of victory. Why would then my original parents be ashamed of their association with me. In fact I am afraid they will be too keen to come forward and claim all kinds of relation with any one who serves the seer and his mission. And that is what I am afraid and apprehensive of; as I do not want the fact known to the world that a father who works for the police establishment has a progeny who have crossed line to a point of no return, that he is a declared ultra fighting against the same establishment”.

“These are simply your misgivings. You better get rid of such thoughts at the earliest and start accepting the fact that you and only you will be the next in line to the legacy of the great Priest. He does not have any one in his lineage to carry on the work started by him. The sweet nectar of fame, power, political heritage and the wealth of large fortune awaits you in the very four walls of sanctum sanctorum. It is the time to rejoice and celebrate. I will see  that  you and your family are driven down to your new home immediately but do not forget to seek blessings of pontiff before you leave for your honeymoon”, General Durjan winked at him mischievously.

Ranjit saw his mother in law walking towards them; she was accompanied by her husband and a few other friends, “young man in case we do not have some other ceremonies to attend   to we can go home. You and your wife will also need rest as you must have been exhausted after a long day. You can see Koena is not able to walk even; she has been on fast for the entire day and insists she will have some thing to eat only after saying her prayers at her new home. Since the great pontiff is busy with his other political guests. It is time to make our move; if we walk out quietly no one will even notice our departure”.

Ranjit felt General’s hand on his shoulder, he was pointing towards pontiff  coming out of his chambers, stooping low and brows held high as if he was in great rage but smiled returned on his celestial face as soon as he saw Ranjit’s “you are still around my children,  your  family members are waiting  anxiously to take you home . Go my child go, the world of heavenly pleasures welcome you because every thing else in this world is temporary except the fact of procreation. The family life must be started by you on the auspicious note. May you and your beautiful wife produce as many soldiers for saving the honor of our nation? Go and lead a blissful married life but do not forget you also have a duty towards the religion and the community which must be honored when the time demands”, the pontiff moved on towards other couples to bless them.

Ranjit’s mother in law bent low, she folded her both hands and requested the pontiff, “I shall be too thankful to your lordship for giving us the honor of retrieving the trust of the community. Ever since my wedding I used to worry whether my children will ever be accepted back by the members or will it is that they too like me have to be married outside our marshal community. I am willing to work for the shrine at any time. Please do let us know if I or my progeny could be of some service to the faith”.

Ranjit felt quite amused, he knew the old lady’s quest for money will lead her too ultimately to become a part of the movement led by the shrine. . There has often been discussion for forming a women’s wing that could bring about the revolution amongst the fairer sex. He however wondered if his father in law was aware of the seeds that were being planted in his wife’s mind. She was virtually falling into the same trap of money and political power that had lured Ranjit into it.

He opened the door to the rear seat to the plush luxury car, presented to him by the shrine on his wedding day. The gift wrap and the ribbons from front fender to the bumpers at back were still intact; he asked Koena to cut ribbons barring entry to the rear seat and slid himself next to her after she had settled down on the extreme left corner. He prevented his mother in law to get inside the car and requested her to join them in the vehicle that was following them. He did not want any one else to sit near to his bride, “no one except me will sit next to her. All of you can come in the other cars”, he had to tell his brother in law and father in law. Though Munna insisted for a while to sit near to his sister but was told in hushed tones by Koena to listen to what he was being told. She nudged Ranjit on his rib cage when he sat next to her “you are   being over possessive. I will not say that I do not like it; I am being flattered”. “Yes I am being jealous of the beauty, a beauty that no other woman possesses. You look like a fairy to me and I do not want any other human being near you except me”:  Koena kind of lost her consciousness for a minute when he spoke these words passionately into her ears. The words were spoken so softly that the driver in the front could not hear any thing; otherwise also he too was lost in looking at the out of this world beauty of celestial nature. Ranjit jokingly asked him to turn the rear view mirror to the other side “you can stare at your own bride when you reach your home. This one strictly belongs to me”.  Koena hid her face behind her henna colored hands in sheer embarrassment. Ranjit kissed her hands and realized he was getting excited. The sweet smell of her youth mixed with the fragrance of the perfume she was wearing gave him the feeling of possessiveness he had never felt before. His heart and mind started to pound and the throb of hardness between his loins reminded him, “He will finally have her all to himself tonight and for the rest of their lives”.  The thought started massaging his ego as well. There will be  no fear of any Arabian sheikh or the cigar smoking boss playing at back of his mind when he finally gets down to business of celebrating union of his manhood with the woman of his dreams. He felt stronger today, stronger than any other male of the species.  He wondered how the journey of life progresses; from a vagabond to drug courier to a gun carrier, to a mercenary, to the savior of the nation; the supersonic fast progression was beyond his comprehension.

Last words spoken by General were still echoed in his ears, “you are the natural heir to the throne. He is preparing you to take on should any thing happen to him”. He could visualize a sea of humanity lying prostrate at his feet, till he was woken up by the sound of music being played out side his own house. His friends from shrine had decorated his house to accord a grand welcome to him and his lovely bride. He extended his hand to help her alight from car. She was almost as tall as him, he noticed for the first time, as she took her soft steps into her new world.

Koena saw bevy of flowers arranged into bedroom to which she was led by the boys dancing to the tunes of love lyrics played by the orchestra downstairs. She noticed the soft psychedelic lights playing in the room and sweet smell of perfume pervading all over the place, she asked her mother, “are you enacting the part of my groom’s mother as well tonight by arranging my marital bed and the décor?” “Not me, these are possibly his friends from the shrine. The great priest Rajamantran must have sent them to give a memorable night to his favored nephew. Did you see the luxury car that brought you here? How lucky you are my dear! Let no evil eye be cast on you my child. I want both of you to remain happy and content forever in life”.

“I know mom I shall never forget the stance you took against dad. But his apprehensions were also not uncalled for; we have been reading about the great priest Rajamantran and his boys in the newspaper often. He has virtually become a threat to the communal harmony and peace in the country. I sincerely hope Ranjit has nothing to do with the political heritage of his uncle”.

“These are simply your misgivings dear, how can a man handling a multi millionaire worth of business afford to even indulge in such pastime. In any case both of you will be moving out of this country soon and then god willing we will also join you there”.  Koena crossed her fingers but she still had a fear gnawing at her heart, “what if she had taken a wrong decision, what if her love could be blind thus preventing her to see the actuality? She jerked her head “let me not think of any negatives. Ranjit can never have betrayed me, but if it so happens,” she decided, “that will be the end of their relationship”.

“Do you intend staying here in the same room overnight mother in law”, Ranjit amusingly winked at her “in that case I better go back to the shrine to please gods so that they could help me possess my bride from her mother even after I have been legally wedded to her”. Koena knew these words were said in pure innocence and her husband meant no offence to her mother, still in order to bring down the impact of any unintentional insult if at all felt by her mother she took cudgels against him, “sir you dare not touch me till the final permission is sought by you by promising my mother that you will never ever be the cause of any tears in her daughter’s eyes”. Ranjit pinched at his throat “I swear by all my love for your daughter madam, you will never find me ever the reason for any misfortune or misbehavior to your beloved child. But I can also assure you I will give her so much love tonight, if only you will leave us alone for the night”.

“This man is all in a mood to make it special for his wife tonight. He does not recognize any relationship or friends.  Let us leave him alone with his bride madam”, one of the boys who had brought Koena into the room led her mother away to the other portion of the house.

Ranjit held his wife back by the hand as she got up from the bed to make some space for him, “come my dear you do not have to accompany your mother to the door.  I am sure my boys will take care of all her necessities. We have lot of things to discuss tonight”, he pulled her close towards him and looked meaningfully into her eyes. She could not avoid the intoxicating stare and was lost into the love filled depth of his eyes. “Will you please permit me to close the door”, she wanted to tell him but was stopped from speaking any words. He put his hot lips onto her soft petals, pulled her towards him with his right hand and bolted the door with the left hand. He lifted her off the ground and took her to the bed with their lips sealed till she found it difficult to   breathe and virtually forced him to take his lips away by pinching his nostrils by her two fingers. “Easy be the Youngman I am your law fully wedded wife now.  No one is going to take me away from you”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues 38

Chief Minister Pratap was explaining to the state police chief Nirbhaya, “I am aghast at the invitation extended to me by the great Priest. Not only that he also had the temerity to spite me by telling that my rival will be presiding over and blessing the newly weds. This tradition which was established in the fourteenth centuries to marry off the young ones at the community gatherings to save them the cost of weddings and to eliminate the bridegroom price is virtually degenerating into show of public followings and the strength thereof by the rivals in politics. We must somehow both take it out of the hands of the so called social reformers and bring it under the control of administration. We must device rules for not making the function a political platform by any one. But I know my own party members have been quite keen to start using this platform for their political mileages which I have been resisting all along”.

Nirbhaya, “You are in the wrong profession sir! I do believe a person of your vision and principles can take the state and country too far and show a new path to the builders of nation. But I also know that the likes of big man will hardly allow you to survive. In fact he must already be plotting your obituary with Colonel Bangru and you can get the summons in no time. I have not come here to rub salt on your wounds but to tell you that I too am suffering from the same injuries. My team’s entire efforts will come to a naught should the Governor write the death knell of the state assembly. But before that happens I will ask you to sign the orders permitting my men to raid the sanctum sanctorum and arrest the great priest Rajamantran and his protégés. We have picked up sufficient evidence from the two boys who had been   caught by Meena and his officers from the railway station. They were initially a tough nut to crack; but when they were made a target by their own companions from the shrine they decided to sing a song”.

“You mean Meena is still holding on to those two boys; but his report states that the boys were killed in the bomb blast at the office of the senior superintendent of police”.

“It is certain that no judicial officer will sign his own death warrant by permitting us hold these boys for long with us. Hence they have not been produced in any court. We shall of course do that when we have to make use of their witness for damning the great priest Rajamantran and his men”. Nirbhaya knew that Pratap will never be able to sign a search warrant that could damn him for many generations, “none dare do that. The sanctum sanctorum is too sensitive and sacred a place. Yet the great priest Rajamantran was committing sacrilege with the connivance and the cowardliness of some of the selfish and self centered political heavyweights. Still there is no harm in convincing the most pliable politician. May be he can see reason and prevent the disaster we   both anticipate. He has so far been able to resist adopting the double edged face of a politician and I am sure he will never be able to adopt one”.

The chief minister Pratap was expressing his sympathetic consideration to the state police chief rather than agreeing to sign the search warrants “I do understand your eagerness to bring the offenders down to their knees. I also can see the pain and frustration of you and your colleagues for not being able to do so. But let me tell you in politics it is not always the law of the land that is upheld. Even though we are the makers of laws of the land yet we scoundrels many a times pretend ignorance to the legal prerequisite. We create our own convenient interpretation of the law to suit our convenience. In this case too I will permit you to raid the peripheral offices to the sanctum sanctorum.  It will be up to you and your team to either challenge the culprit to move out of their hide. You must be able to otherwise on your own initiative get inside to fight it out and bring him to the book. I am sure you would not want my entire successive generations to suffer the stigma that I permitted you to defile the sacred territory”.

Pratap had stretched himself on the table to pick up a pen from holder kept on to his left when he heard a knock on door to his private office, “ come in “, he shouted back, “ it was the protocol officer from the Governor’s house along with Pratap’s secretary, “ You did not have to barge into my privacy like this. In case you are carrying an urgent invitation please leave it with my secretary. I shall attend to it as early as possible”.

“I have been told sir by his Excellency the governor of the state  to hand it over in person to you and make sure it is read in my presence because I have to carry your acknowledgement from your good offices” , the protocol officer told him curtly. Pratap gave a wry smile as he read aloud one line message from the President of the country, “on account of deteriorating law and order administration by ministry headed by you;   the president regrets to announce the imposition of the central rule in the state of …… with immediate effect. The state henceforth will be directly governed by the governor” signed and sealed”. He read aloud the office order twice to make sure the chief of the state   police had heard him properly, “that also seals the fate of democratic traditions in this country. Your friend the big man has been able to wipe out the will of the people of the state by one stroke of pen. He forgets that the same people will not allow him to come back too. “I am sorry I do not hold the authority to sign this. Let the governor’s office decide the fate of great Priest and his men. As for the nation’s welfare I will have to consult my party members and other allies to chart out a new agenda. We will have to lodge a formal protest with the public and proletariat’. They heard a big commotion outside the chief minister’s office, “long live Pratap” “long live the democratic spirits’, “down with the central government”; Pratap beckoned the chief of the state   police to follow him to the corridors to see what was happening. His ministerial colleagues had gathered outside his office and they were expressing their solidarity with him. Brahma came forward and hugged him, he spoke with tears in his eyes, and “we heard him on the television boss, he has dismissed our government. He did not even have the courtesy to come personally and speak to you. It is the most cowardly act. He and his mentor in the central government will have to pay a heavy price. The people of this state are being taken for a ride. We must go to the common folks and take our case to the man in the street. Let them create a revolution. We must fight till we reestablish the right of the common voter to be the judge of the representatives elected by him. The Governor or even the Union government has no authority to dispense with the duly elected legislative at the state level. We will challenge the draconian step in the highest court of this country”.

Pratap had allowed him to speak so that he could take out his bottled emotions; he also waited if any of his other colleagues too were willing to speak. When none else spoke, he poked them further to find out “if any of you wants to take it out please do so. We will have to drop emotions to sit and discuss seriously the next step proposed for matching the gimmicks of the big man. He has not only deceived all of us; rather he has played with the trust of the commoner of this state. We will have to go to the men on the streets to explain to them the fate that lies in store for each one of them henceforth. The Governor’s report has been obtained by coercive methods. The poor chap had to; otherwise he would have been hauled up for the corrupt practices he indulged into when he was heading procurement wing while in active service. We however forgive him for the act of cowardice shown by him”. “The election schedule mentioned by him in his address to the press is also a big farce”, this was Dhanwan speaking, “chief he wants to hand over the state on a platter to the great Priest”.  Chief Minister Pratap who was not aware of the press meet addressed by the big man, the home minister Aaham of the central government was in for a surprise when he heard what his own colleague had to tell him. “We saw his press meet on television a while ago, he has straight away gone to the press rather than speaking to you which does not tell of the good parliamentary tradition being set by our rivals. It would have been appropriate if you had been called in by the governor to discuss the subject of law and order. Should it have failed to satisfy him he could have got you and your government voted out at the floor of the assembly”.

“Yes, you are correct my dear friend and colleague but if he had adopted the constitutional method; he would have not been able to usurp the powers from under our feet. We will however ourselves go to the people to seek their cooperation and from this moment onwards, the movements of boycotting the central administration will start. We shall not allow any elections to take place in the state till the legitimate government which was already in position is restored by the Governor.  We shall all of us including the members of the legislative assembly of all allies will lay seize to the Governor’s office”, Pratap who had been the guardian of the civil administration in this very office was pained at the words used by him. He looked at the police chief, “now that tables had been turned by our dear friend the big man from the central government you may have to take all of us in, as state guests for a few days. It appears to me that the law of the charlatans and the gun totters will rule the country side hence forth. Your predictions are finally finding expression little too soon and I wish I had the courage to sign this paper even on my way out. But cowards as we all are; do not dare defy the fear that governs their mind and hearts. I hope some day I may come back and be able to face the challenge thrown to me by the nation but not at this juncture when I may have to go back to people with bowl again and seek their support, who knows my party may enter an alliance with the great priest Rajamantran himself”.

“I know boss I can understand you. If only you had not brought police under home department, each of us would have done our job as expected by the people of a state. Politicians of this country have created home department to shield their own failings from any kind of police action. They wanted to remain above the law of the land by making law subordinate to bureaucrats”, Nirbhaya walked back towards his official jeep parked on the ground floor of the secretariat building. He may have to make arrangements to contain hostility and demonstrations which were certainly be carried out by the demonstrators in front of the gates of the Governor’s house.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues -36

He looked at Koena who was leading him in the front. They had been walking around the holy fire for the last round of marriage circles.  The other couples too had completed their seven rounds along with them on their respective holy fire pots set up for each couple who was getting married on that day, separately. The great priest Rajamantran was explaining to them the meaning of the husbands leading their wives into the matrimonial bliss. “You will take care of your wife through all walks of life. Even when she is not well you will look after her. It will be your pious duty to provide for her and her children etc”. He will ask them to stop in between the circles and explain to them the meaning of each round taken till they completed the seventh round. “We declare all of you husband and wife respectively. All of the newly married couples should seek the blessings of your elders”.

The great priest Rajamantran personally introduced all the couples to the gentry of the highly placed people of the society of the town present on the stage. Ranjit and Koena were being led to the home minister Aaham when a commotion was noticed outside the marriage pandal.  The guards deployed by the shrine were preventing two men from entering the marriage pandal, “you may be the officers from any big department. We will not permit you to enter here. Our great priest will be free in a couple of hours.   Then only we will permit you to come inside the pandal. Or otherwise you can go and meet the home minister Aaham at the state guest house. We have orders from our great Priest that no one other than the specific invitees will be permitted to enter the marriage venue”.

The home minister Aaham beckoned his secretary to go and enquire into the matter. The secretary listened to the visitors and came rushing to the home minister Aaham and whispered a few words into the ears of the politician.  Ranjit and his newly wed were standing next to the minister. They  overheard the following remarks, “warrants being issued, murder of bus passengers and the killing of the police deputy chief”.  He covered his face with the flower mask worn by the bridegroom, it had become apparent they were talking of the blood chilling murder of Tanwar committed by him, but he was still not sure they were actually looking for him; unless someone from the shrine has sung a song to the police.  It was impossible to link him to the crime. Then someone mentioned the name Parma, cops were looking for Parma and they have information he should have come to wedding ; hence the plain clothes men from the investigation cell had discretely come to the function to inform home minister Aaham about the search warrants issued by the local  police after they had obtained permission of the chief minister. They wanted to come inside and without disturbing the wedding function wanted to give advance intimation to the Home minister Aaham who otherwise would be embarrassed if the fugitive was found and apprehended here in his presence.

” Has your chief minister gone out of his mind? Does he think that we shall be attending a function where criminals abound? This is a place of God. Our dear children are being married off by the blessings of the great priest Rajamantran of our community. We do not ascribe to the view that the person by the name you suggested can be even allowed to come any where near to the holy men. Go back and tell your bosses that I have ordered them to stop all the nonsense of this search etc at once. In case they do not, we shall see to it that the government that has signed such a non sensical orders should fall.  Your chief minister then my dear friend will have to give lots of explanation to the new administration”.

“Sir we are simply obeying orders that have been issued from the top and in no case we shall be undertaking any step that could be against the ethics of decency. We have worked under you when you were at the helm of the affairs of the state.  In fact I was directly attached to the security wing at your residence; so how do you expect my lord that I will allow any of the warrants to be operated against any one even distantly associated with you”.  The home minister Aaham closely looked at the balding man whose smile appeared familiar and then he placed him, “I see you are Ralla Ram who used to accompany me to the morning walks.  Thank god it is you.  I am sure you will not permit your subordinates to create nuisance here”.

“No question of creating any unpleasantness here sir.  We will rather prefer that you come back to the state.  This new government is of no use. They are neither allowing us to do our duty, nor do they allow the antisocial elements to do their work. How do you expect we all can survive? I am sure one day we all will perish if we do not get from the law breakers what is rightfully due to us”. The home minister Aaham and the great Priest; laughed out aloud on the joke thrown by the petty police officer. He ordered two chairs to be placed for the investigators and told his men meaning fully to look after them well.

Ranjit heaved a sigh of relief once he heard the name of another person being mentioned but it had become apparent the local police was still investigating into the murder case that happened inside the shrine. Unless the current administration changes and the forces closer to the sage come to the thrown; he will always have a Damocles’ sword hanging on his head.  He will not be able to function the way the great priest Rajamantran wanted him to. He was feeling scared.  He felt that the law will some day catch on with him.

A large number of people who had come to attend the mass marriage function were getting restless. The sage addressed them in his most endearing tone “it is nothing my children. It is only a small disturbance from the local administration. We have already taken care of the same. The food for every one is being served at the community kitchen. It is my earnest desire we all sit together and partake what the lord has kind fully sent for us along with his heavenly bliss”. He   personally went around to the newly weds and led them towards the inner courtyard of the temple shrine.

Koena who had been worried about her father’s state of mind wished to reassure her self that Ranjit is not involved in any of such nefarious activities the shrine was suspect fully  being associated with.

“I sincerely hope you will keep your self away from the activities of the sage and his men”.

“Believe me dear I have my personal business to attend to which has been started recently by me. Once we are finished with our job of getting married, we may migrate abroad as the business of hardware exports and imports can be handled from there too”, he deliberately spoke in the louder tone to make sure her father had overheard whatever they were discussing. He went and sat next to his mother in law. He beckoned Koena also to do the same. He spoke to the family as one of their family member “I think the time has come to put a morsel and two in mouth and believe me I am absolutely famished. I can eat plenty of food. This exercise of going round the fire for such a long rounds, really tires you out”.

“Yes dear but it is only the beginning.  You will have to do this running around all through your life since you are a married man now. This wife of yours used to make me dance to her tunes all my life. We are sure now she will have you responding to her finger’s movements”, Munna spoke in a very serious tone.  Every one burst out laughing. Ranjit knew he had to make extra effort to remove any doubt lurking in the family’s mind about his association with the great priest Rajamantran and his men.  He did not want his marital life to start on a sore note “all of us shall be hence forth living all together in my house. I want you dear dad to leave your job to help me in my business and guide us with your wisdom”.

“But that is impossible I have never handled any kind of commercial business in my life. It is however reassuring to note that you are serious about your business. I pray that you will remain away from the dirty politics of your uncle. It is not meant for simpletons like us. We are better off in our small little world of family pleasures”,   this was the first advice given to him by his bride’s father.

The great priest Rajamantran who had been controlling himself during the public function; flew off his handle once he found the home minister Aaham alone with him, and in his uncontrolled rage gave a warning note to the big man, “if the state government does not stop prying into the affairs of shrine, lots of skeletons will fly out of different cupboards.  Your name could also be dragged into whatever has been happening into the public life. I will tell you either you dismiss this chief minister or we know how to take care of the enemies of the shrine. You must speak to the governor of the state here in our presence and like you had promised; carry out the agreement of imposing the central rule on this state. The agreement of handing over the powers to one of our nominees must be honored by you. We on our part have created situation where the common man today is scared and terrorized of stepping out of his abode without a threat to his life and liberty. If you still believe we have not done enough; the violence in common man’s life can be escalated to unprecedented levels. But we are afraid then our boys will have reached a point of no return.  The state will have to pay a very high price to yours and our ambitions”. The great priest Rajamantran lifted the telephone receiver and handed it over to the home minister Aaham, “please you may dial the telephone number of the governor’s house. You may tell him that the administrative powers of the state ministry must be withdrawn immediately.  You will tell the governor to issue orders forthwith, lest the state police apprehend any of our men”.

“I will have to consult the prime minister and it is not desirable from the public propriety point of view that such a step is initiated at the times when I am enjoying your hospitality. The press could kill my political career.  In any case it is time to declare fresh elections to the state assembly.  I will ask the prime minister to hasten up the process of dismissing the state assembly”, the home minister Aaham wanted to gain some time to talk to his mentors.  Besides he did not like the manner in which the sage was ordering him to do things. He wished he could tell this preacher of no importance to behave himself. “Howsoever big and mighty this sage might have become he has been the creation of my diabolical mind and the creation can seldom be bigger than the creator”.

“You can not declare election to the state assembly even if you dismiss the incumbent ministry. General Durjan public does not want to vote under the existing franchise and the constitution. We have all along been asking for an independent state.  I strongly believe you will support us the way we have been doing all kinds of favor for you and your party. We must have a separate identity as an independent country. Since you have been the foremost propagator of an agitation against the existing government; we sincerely will provide you with the highest office in our independent country. You can be the president of a new nation, a nation which will be based on the purity of caste, creed and community, where you and I will get enough authority to promote our own culture, and heritage”, the great priest Rajamantran thundered in front of the home minister Aaham.

“I do understand your concern for the nation and the religion but believe me we had never thought of severing you and your people from the main stream.  It has never been the ideology to separate your community from the national reckoning. You have always been the front runners in this country and you will remain so for centuries to come. My party and the high command would hate to be associated with any separatist demand that creates a gulf between the existing constitutional system and its provisions of accommodating different flavors of minorities in this vast country. You have always been given a fair deal by the successive governments that have been at the helm of affairs in the central government. May be it is the state units who have acted discriminatingly whenever they have had a mandate for the party other than ours .This time too the people of this state made a blunder of voting for a party that had its roots in two different ideologies. This marriage of political convenience could prove very dangerous for such a large democracy in the world.  The political parties of different ideologies had   come together for the sake of defeating the oldest representatives of the people. We are the born aristocrats and rulers of this country. We have always supported a strong opposition given to us by the people so that our successive governments over the years are never mistaken for one party rule by the supporters of democratic traditions. The opposition has always been our guiding torch for devising the pro people schemes. Now that we have been virtually forced to move to the left, the opposition will cease to exist. That is why we want to give one more chance to    people of the state to use their franchise again.  We will let them help the opposition sit in their proper seats in the state assembly.   I must say that your boys have done their job fairly well but it is time they went back to the shrine. It is high time they  concentrated on the study of theology and religious sermons. Your services rendered will be well rewarded.  The police cases pending against you and your boys will be taken care of once we regain control of the state after removing our arch rivals, which will be done immediately. I shall be personally meeting the prime minister and sending the communiqué to the governor to recommend the end to the state assembly on the grounds of deteriorating law and order in the state”.

“Do you expect the enemy to wait till the fall of the ministry? I am surprised to see the naivety being shown by you. My boys are getting desperate ever since two of their companions have been picked up by the chief of the state   police and his henchmen. The public frenzy can not be built time and again to support any move that creates havoc with their daily living. There may not be enough public support should the police come up with the charges against my men. Why they may even nab me for engineering a murder of the police officer; though it may not hold in the court of law.  But I will hate to be hauled up and put under any kind of forced captivity. You and your party may not come to our rescue should that happen,” the seer was visibly upset and apprehensive.

The home minister Aaham hated the day he had gone to the small time preacher for help; it was getting out of his hands now. He knew that unless he takes control of the situation in the state immediately he may regret it all his life later.

“You have a complete control over the Sanctro sanctorum. None dare touch you here so long as we do not permit any one to enter.  Believe you me the common folks will protect you at any cost as long as you maintain the facade of being their religious savior and protector of their ethnic identity. We are not asking you to play down the role so devised by the circumstances. In fact this garb of religiosity will fetch us the record numbers of votes in the ensuing elections. We will offer you the seats in the constituencies falling within the jurisdictions of your shrine. That will enable you to maintain your grip on the masses of your flocks. You have a complete control over the finance of the Sanctro sanctorum. We will ensure you win hands down in the next managing committee’s election. Let the new elections be completed without any kind of disturbances.  You will hold your boys till the final day of the mandate. The boys will move back to the shrine in case we win.  Otherwise we will let leash the arsenal you have been secretly getting into the country. I hope by now you must have fortified your self against even the mightiest attack”.

The religious preacher, the spokesperson for the souls of his parishioners, the king’s soul keeper had very amusingly been listening to the proposal of the politician par excellence.   He was amazed that this person has been playing dirty politics not only with the state subjects but also with the likes of the pontiff himself. But he said to himself, “this is not the right time to react and antagonize this python in the garb of a   chameleon.  We will have to toe the line drawn by him, till we get the current state government removed from the position of power. As soon as we are able to achieve this we will strike back against this so called big man and his manipulating godfathers in the central government”.

The sage put on his most endearing smile and in sugar coated words asked the home minister Aaham from the central government “sir I do understand your concern in getting back the powers to the state assembly and as guided by you we have created enough havoc already for the electorate.  The common man has been cursing the state chief minister and his protégés for their failure to control the every day macabre incidents. They will be very happy in case you are able to do away with this state administration. Accordingly I have been requesting that this must be done when you are on a visit to the state. You have assessed the failure of the state machinery to prevent attacks on poor public hence on the recommendations of the state governor please have the assembly dissolved. Thus you will be   paving way for fresh elections”.  The great priest Rajamantran continued in his honey dipped words “I am sure the prime minister will understand that it is required to give a sense of confidence back to the voter. Nothing can be more important for any political party than to regain its trust, faith and   face with the electorate. Should you want me to speak to the common public on the dismissal of their elected representatives I shall be too happy to do so. Just remember we were partners in turmoil’s and will remain so even in reconstruction and rebuilding exercise too”.

The home minister Aaham who had been on the look out to rebuild the burnt bridges with the state subjects could see a silver lining in the clouds that had appeared on the political horizon of the state, “you should understand that in this entire political game plan we may have to at times condemn the activities under taken by your shrine.  Will you be prepared to face that kind of flack and take it in the right spirits? Of course we will also find a route to the main stream for all your boys by offering them the prized positions in the party, government and public life. The hype their surrender will create will add a new chapter to the political maneuverings managed by me. Let me speak to the governor and arrange a fax on the deteriorated administrative situation, to the prime minister. I will immediately thereafter speak to him for getting the necessary presidential orders signed. Who knows I may give you an invaluable gift before I leave this state. You and your buddies will always be thankful to me for getting them into such a prominence though”.

The home minister Aaham undertook the journey to the governor’s house immediately thereafter. The oncoming darkness of the times when both ends of day meet i.e. when the sun has just set in and the stars and the moon have still not found their way high enough in sky to provide a little light to the weary traveler was making it difficult for the home minister Aaham’s driver to find his way through “you can slow down a bit, I know with growing age it is difficult to see in the darkness of the ensuing dusk. The headlights of the oncoming vehicles simply throw flash of their head lights in your eyes. These flashes are virtually blinding you”, he told his driver.

“The high speed at this age is bad for health in any way. I wish I could say the same about your public life. You should also slow down a minute and pause to redirect your way through. Let the things mature and may be then you can find better grip of the situation”, the driver who had seen his master go through ups and downs of political life for past thirty years, and had been with him through all kinds of conditions could afford to speak so.

“Oh shut up you are still a novice to the world of royal intrigues. What do you know how kingdoms are won? Your only job is to steer the car through traffic snarls. hence pay full attention to your job only. I have seen of late you have been poking your nose around too much”, the politician got irritated on the advice rendered by his chauffer, “when I need your advice I will ask for it.  Do not just sit morose on the wheel. Pick up some speed too”, the driver knew such minor clashes between him and his master were quite frequent during the day.  He just laughed it out and shrugged his shoulders as if he was saying “what is it to me”.

The secretary to the governor of the state was waiting for him in the front security office. The official ran up to car of the important visitor. He opened the front door, hopped into seat next to the driver and directed the chauffer to drive down for the meeting at square room. The square room was a small hall whose four walls ran parallel to each other. It had been named so by one of the last British residents and ever since the name stuck on to the room.

The home minister Aaham noticed the military discipline visible in the governor house managed by the state administration. It has so been because most of the occupants who lived here have come to this position after they retire from the active service of the armed forces or even the civil services. The current incumbent Colonel Bangru belonged to the supply corps of the armed forces where he had helped many of his politician friends dig gold through supply contracts to the armed forces. One such tender in which the home minister Aaham’s relatives had shown interest brought him closer to the politicians. Aaham   have always preferred non-active politicians to be placed on the gubernatorial positions. He always felt that the non partisan approach of the representative could not be maintained. Besides the politicians will willy-nilly ask for certain favors off the civil and military officials which definitely had to be paid back in terms of such prized positions to them when they retired. Such carrots were necessary to be dangled in front of the adamant and “stick to the file policy” civil and military servants. The British who ruled this country for a long time were quite wise in devising such plum postings in almost all the colonies they ruled over. The availability of such plum positions after retirement ensured a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood prevailed amongst the officers posted within the colonized countries.

Aaham was happy to see that “the governor had the necessary courtesy to meet him at the entrance to the square room.  Otherwise some of the latest lots appointed to these posts were always behaving in their own peculiar and idiosyncratic ways. They carried with them the burdens of their earlier lifestyles. They still were loaded with disdain for public representatives even though they knew the term of governorship depended on the politicians”. He remembered the constitutional crisis they had to face in one of the large lingual state where the governor simply refused to tender the resignation demanded by the central government. Eventually the home ministry had to dig out the pending cases of criminal corruption against the bureaucrat turned governor to force him to step down. Thereafter the prime minister had taken charge of all confidential dossiers of such appointments. Colonel Bangru the man waiting for him, spread both his arms for the home minister Aaham for a warm and friendly hug. He has been anticipating his visit ever since he came to know that the big man has come to attend the marriage fair organized by the great Priest, “it is good to see you back in your home state after such a long time Mr. Home minister. I am sure your visit will bring some sanity back to the life of common man otherwise the entire state has been turned into a slaughter house by the extremists”.

The home minister Aaham extricated himself from the bear hug. He selected a prominent seat on the sofa laid in the square room from where he could have a commanding position in the conclave with this ex- military officer and parked himself therein. He mentioned the governor to sit too, “Yes but as administrative and constitutional head of the state it is equinamally your responsibility to keep the central government informed of the law and order situation in your state. We have to yet receive a formal report from your end. Surely you can not be the silent spectator to the inefficient and ineffective state administration. The prime minister has been quite upset on the recent spate of killings in the state. You can not have one community being subjected to all kind of annihilation by the criminals running their murderous gangs. The prime minister has asked me to convey a note of serious concern. The state administration, who has been fiddling like Nero when Rome burnt, has lost all moral grounds to remain in power. We will like to have your recommendation for dismissing chief minister Pratap’s ministry and dissolve the state assembly. This state must have a fresh election to find another legitimate ruler. I am sure you will not mind mounting the horse of administration and get into active life once again”.

“But Pratap’s ministry has been elected a short while ago only. He needs sufficient time to prove himself to the common publics who have elected him. Whatever violence and reaction we get is a spillover from the poll setbacks to selfish factions of the religious body. I am sure this will ultimately die a natural death. Soon we will have peace once again”. Colonel Bangru’s statement angered him but the home minister Aaham kept his cool, “I did not know you are still such a novice in the art of politics. Can you not see that if that happens and this ministry runs its full term , people of the state will by then get used to be ruled by the likes of Pratap who bring with them the reconciliatory policy of having trucks with the fundamentalists. There exists in this country an unwritten code of keeping fundamentalists out of power. However by the coming together of two different religious thoughts they will form a strong awakening amongst the masses that the administration can survive on two different legs too. That might spell a doomed future for a secular party of our standing. You must understand it is dangerous to have that kind of rising amongst the masses.  Hence the government must go”.

“I beg your pardon sir but I do not subscribe to the views expressed by you. On the contrary these fundamentalists have always been closer to your regime. There have been instances when their powers were enhanced by you which should have been instead curtailed. The shrine that is purported to be behind all the violent activities has not come up all of a sudden.  The successive governments much prior to the current administration have always stood behind these religious exploiters of mass mentality. Once you pull back your support to these leaches and suckers of the society’s blood they will automatically stop acting like parasites of common good. I do not have the moral courage to ask Pratap to step down.  His mass support base will catapult the state into a riot of no return. At least at this fag end of my carrier I do not want to carry the burden of having put the state on fire”, Colonel Bangru did not know how he was able to utter the words just spoken by him. He had no intentions to spoil his relations with such a big man yet he could not help himself.

“Mr. Governor I have all respects for the moral pangs you are suffering from. But what about my conscious, it too is burdened with many moral thoughts; for example your daughter’s industrial empire which has come up on the funds siphoned off from the state exchequer, your sons’ visits to foreign countries when you were heading the state public commission to stash the illegal funds collected by you by doling out the appointment to state executive positions.  It is difficult for me to contain within my pure conscience all these moral pricks.  Plus you also must remember the court marshal held in abeyance when you were a serving soldier. All of your misdoings hang heavy on my mind and heart too. I think you will not like me to unburden myself by spilling out every thing to the press and public. The impeachment could rather be expensive for your entire family. You could all be doomed to stay behind bars for many years. I suggest you weigh the outcome as against the signing of a simple law and order report”, the home minister Aaham knew he had hit the right cord with the governor.

He called the secretary to the governor on the intercom, (each official of the state was known to the politician by first name) “Ramkishore your boss has some thing stuck up in his throat.  He may not be in a position to dictate the correct vocabulary. Since I am not very familiar with the English language I will tell you in short to address a letter to the President of the country asking for the dismissal of the present state government. I do not have to spell the grounds of dismissal to you.  I am sure you are literate enough to use your discretion”.

He thrust the letter under the governor’s nose for his signatures “do not raise your blood pressure.  We will not prefer losing a friend of your stature. However you could instead ask either your son or daughter to apply for an election ticket to the forth coming state assembly.  We will reserve one seat for one of your family members”.

“Mind you sir! You have forced me to sign a letter which will prove very expensive to the nation. It is not the dismissal of Pratap’s ministry.  It is possibly the death knell for the century old communal harmony and the brotherhood of different minority groups living in this country. One day the great priest Rajamantran will bite the hand that has fed him the poisonous milk”, Colonel Bangru’s emotional outburst was dismissed with a shrug of both the shoulders by the home minister Aaham. “You will have to accompany me to the press meet”.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues – 28

Pratap looked through his tearful eyes at the flames of fire which were leaping up to take the dead body of DIG Tanwar into its arms. The dead body of the slain police officer was   covered with the wreaths of flowers placed by him and his cabinet colleagues. The entire police department was present there. Each officer of the police had saluted the last remains of their dear departed colleague who it appeared was equally popular amongst the rank and file. Pratap saw some kind of resentment shown by the young officers towards the representative of the shrine who had come to the funeral to place a wreath on behalf of the great Priest.  He could identify the last circular wreath visible on that funeral pyre which had come from the shrine the HOUSE OF GOD. He smiled wryly at the irony of fate; the same people who had taken away the life of the young promising police officer were applying a soothing balm on Tanwar. He had gone miles away from any kind of fragrant or foul smells of the evil deeds of the society of wrong doers. “This is certainly the great sacrifice of an upright officer in the path of truth and duty towards the nation. The bullet could have hit me directly had he not stood like a shield between the killer and me”, he had told the journalists later.

Nirbhaya too had wept bitterly when Pratap broke the news to him on wireless. Though the protocol demanded the presence of police head at any official function attended by the chief minister, Pratap himself had advised him to abstain from this visit. He had instead deputed Tanwar who was his deputy. Chief Minister Pratap had felt that it was a personal visit to pay obeisance to God and seek his forgiveness for the misdeeds of the murderers of Bus passengers. Nirbhaya was asked by him to take care of the families of those killed in the bus, when they were going to offer the last remains of the dead to the holy river. The presence of a higher authority from the state government will at least be able to keep the opposition silent who were out to grab the neck of the state ministry. The opposition had been making the breakdown   of law and order a major issue.  “Little did anyone know of the plans of the enemies to get the chief minister killed in the holiest of holy places?”  He looked at the poor widow left behind by Tanwar. She was consoling her young children. She had been forbidding them to weep at their father’s funeral, “your father was a very brave officer. He has laid his life honorably. He preferred sacrificing his life to save our chief minister.  It is the most honorable exit for any soldier. We should not defile his great sacrifice with our tears”, she was telling the old mother of Tanwar.

Pratap silently saluted such a brave lady from the inner core of his heart, “we will continue to provide full salary benefits to the family till the age when Tanwar would have attained retirement from the active service. His family will carry on getting the same benefits meant for an active serving officer. In addition the police department will arrange an executive job for the widow of slain officer.  I have signed the orders to the effect” he declared to the mourners gathered for last rites. “I have brought the letter mentioning all these facilities as a small token of our tribute to the glorious sacrifice rendered by the brave officer. May I request the lady on your behalf, if she will be kind enough to accept the same”? Mrs. Tanwar led the old mother of her husband to accept the role of honor issued by the government of the state, along with other papers from the hands of the chief minister.

Pratap left the funeral place immediately thereafter. He wondered how many more such functions he will have to attend and hand over such letters if he continued to hold this office. “Shall I hand over the letter laying down my office, to the forces opposing my elections? but that will tantamount to surrendering in front of the negative forces and allowing them to play havoc with the democratic sentiment. It shall also set bad precedent for future that the writ of such evil forces can prevail through terrorist activities. I have joined the public life not to be brow beaten by the enemies of common will. Let the common determination prevail.  If the public is with us we will fight the battle with them till the last. I am not to be cowed down by any such future attacks. We are taking necessary steps to provide adequate security to the common man on the streets. We are also strengthening our security forces by providing them the essential moral and financial strength”, he mentioned it to the press who had accompanied him on his way back to the office. “We shall be upgrading our police weapons to give befitting replies to the traitors who are out to thwart the path of peace and progress”.  “ I shall be taking up once again with the central government to provide additional finance through central aid though we do believe such request may not be acceded to due to certain interests opposing any such move of the state administration “.

His statement was quoted by the press verbatim, in all their leading papers. The Daily News carried this news on their front page under the heading “State To Fight It Out With Befitting Modern Weaponry”, another vernacular carried it in the editorial under the title “Selfish Interests In Centre Fuel The State Fire”, and the editor ascribed the source to Pratap when he raised the pointing finger at the big man in the central government.

Pratap was met by his cabinet colleagues in the corridor leading to his office, as soon as he reached there. He felt as if they have been waiting there for his arrival to discuss the newspaper reports. Both Dwij and Dhanwan were carrying the copies of morning news paper in their hands. He saw Brahma too coming towards his office, “chief I believe we have touched the hornet’s nest with this statement. Where are we going to get the kind of finance required to fight out the menace of terrorism spreading its tentacles in the entire state. The modernization of the security forces will mean sparing huge funds and cutting down on other allocations”, it was Dwij who spoke up while walking along with him to the office. The firm hand shakes offered by his other two senior colleagues made it clear to him that they were there to extend to him their whole hearted support.  He wanted them to open up their view points in front of Dwij. So that he could stop the further rising of any kind of upheaval.

“I think it is for the finance minister of our state to find a way out.  I am as curious to know his views as you are. I suggest we get into my office .We will look at all possibilities while we have a discussion over a cup of tea. If you do not mind gentlemen”, Pratap lead all of them into his office.  He winked at Dhanwan to play down the seriousness shown by Dwij. Dwij had often worried his head over matters that did not concern his ministry .He had always appeared overburdened. He was always carrying everyone’s worries on his shoulders; even though handling of his own portfolio left a lot to be desired.

“I think you have hit the nail already on the head, when you mentioned about getting additional funds and forces from the central government. You have literally taken two pot shots at the central government with one statement. Our dear friend ‘the big man’ will have to spell out his stand on his support to extra territorial demands of the great priest Rajamantran on one hand and at the same time arrange forces to fight out the allies he had indirectly been favoring against the state government. He will find it difficult since he is the boss of the home department for the union government”, Brahma had remarked, with a glint of brother hood in his eyes.

He and the political party he represented had always remained at the receiving end from the big man when he was the head of the state prior to his losing this election and moving to the union government.

“The big man Aaham would not have made it to the position of a minister in the central government if he were to fight direct elections to the upper house.  The routes to indirect entries were encouraged by all political parties to accommodate their aging members. This also opened a route for those members whose credentials ran out of public demand”, Brahma had often held this view.

“The direct hit by you chief will definitely antagonize the big man Aaham and his mentee. He can react negatively by asking the pontiff to speed up the violent incidents further.  He could try to maneuver your ouster by referring the law and order situation to the Governor of our state.  After all this governor too belongs to his party”.

“Yes there is a very remote possibility of dismissing our ministry at this stage. However we believe things have still not gone out of control to satisfy the electorate on our dismissal. I will however agree to your second statement. The big man Aaham will be forced to ask the ultras to step up their violence.  At the same time he may agree politically to send the central forces to the state as a face saving devise”, Dhanwan had summarized the entire scene. He waited for Pratap’s reaction to the dialogue.

“It is better to adopt a policy of wait and watch.  But I am afraid we hardly have much time at our disposal.  It was one police officer saving my life at the cost of his own.  But how many times can that be possible.  We will have to fight out the battle in their court. For that I need funds to modernize the outfit. The outdated guns and the low morale of lower ranks within the police force is hardly a match to defend the attacks of highly motivated mercenaries with their sophisticated weaponry”.

“Yes but where is the money for this kind of expense. You had agreed to allocate more budgets for the development of my constituency. That allocation has also been curtailed by the finance department for the balance period of the year.  Now this statement of yours may take away the salaries of my department”.

“Dwij is really worried about his salary boss.  You will have to ensure no pay cuts will be introduced by you if we buy some guns for the boys of your police”, Dhanwan had spoken to Pratap with a real worried expression on his face.

Dhanwan looked for some kind of assurance for his cabinet colleague.

Pratap knew that until he gave that kind of surety to Dwij he will not let them work in peace, “you have my word that henceforth no amount will be curtailed from your constituency development funds.  Nor will any one’s salary be stopped in the entire state. As for getting money for the modernization of our security force you may leave that matter for us to think of”.

Dwij shook hands with Dhanwan. He had extended the other elbow to Brahma “see I told both of you, I will get the funds for my assembly area reinstated”. He left the room while thanking the chief minister with folded hands “I knew you will help me out chief”.

“Politics is a strange field. It brings up many a tycoon from public life. At the same time it throws up enough opportunities to buffoons too”, remarked Pratap, “this fellow Dwij used to be a mimic and a comedian in vernacular films. He had been engaged to woo the voters during different campaigns by the party.  His contract included a ticket to such a constituency where we had least expected to win. Yet he won over the public by his buffooneries. He was returned to the assembly by the maximum ever margin over his nearest rival. He had virtually snatched this seat from the sitting candidate of the rival party for the first time after independence. This also earned him a right to get a berth in the cabinet. His winning majority was too big to be ignored.  It is another matter that his contribution in all cabinet meetings is nothing more than bringing a smile on the faces of his colleagues even in the most serious discussions.”

“Any how gentlemen I stand by my statement I have given to the press.  You have to find a way out of the political and moral crossroads, we are facing today. We have to lead the nation back to the road to development. We have had the warning signals from the police and intelligence agencies.  If Only we had the sagacity to pay heed to the apprehensions shown in their reports, things would have been under our control much earlier. Possibly we would not have reached the stage of impasse that we are facing now”.

Pratap stood up from the chair he was sitting in. He walked across to the door leading to the outer balcony of his second floor office. He unbolted the door and came out of his room.  He stretched out on the iron railing of the balcony. He had done that for the first time in ever since he occupied the office of the chief minister. The police guards standing on duty on the ground floor became alert. The guards came to attention position.  Pratap ignored them.  He was staring at the spot on which the seer and his boys had parked themselves. They had been making a mockery of the entire law and order machinery of the state administration. Brahma and Dhanwan too joined him there.

“I wish we had the courage of conviction to act decisively on the day when it all started. We mortals are basically cowards. We are afraid of losing so many things in our life. Our fears of our losses begin with by starting with the life of our own self and the lives of other near and dears.  We are afraid of losing our wealth, status, position in life, in our society, and in not so well known World all over. We live with our own insecurities all our life, whatever the ladder. In fact higher the status an individual has greater is his levels of insecurities. We were afraid of losing our face in public by arresting the pontiff. We allowed him go scot free. We are again scared because they have had the audacity to hit back. They killed one of our key officers. We apprehend further violence at their hands. We are also afraid of losing our official chairs in case our good friend in the central government is able to prevail upon the governor to suspend the assembly. He can order the dissolution of our ministry. Again we are worried about the violation of peace and security of the common man.  Some times I really wonder if it is all worth it.  You should look at the birds perched on all the floors of this building.  They are also the denizens of this fort of politics where we all run our regimes, yet they are not afraid of anything or any one. They frequently fly in and out of the fortress we claim to be our seat of power. I wish I had the freedom enjoyed by these winged creatures”, Pratap absent-mindedly remarked to his friends and colleagues.

He looked up from the terrace where he was standing and counted the floors. It was a massive, and an eleven stories high structure built of concrete and steel to withstand the onslaught and vagaries of natural forces for centuries to come. “Yet it is an irony of fate that many a times so called powerful people like me have felt so much powerless within its confines. They were not able to last even full tenure of their office”.

Pratap looked up again and looked down to fathom the height they were standing at.  He felt dizzy with the whole exercise. It seemed to him he was getting struck in the middle of both the height and depth. It was a never ending abyss that was pulling every one lower and lower. He could not stand there any further. He put his weight on his colleagues’ shoulder. He requested Dhanwan to close the door leading to the balcony and the free world outside.

He found Nirbhaya waiting for his return from the balcony into the office. He wanted to console the police force, “It is time to face the onslaught with courage and fortitude. We all know it is tough for our police force to fill up the void left by a young and promising officer.  Yet he has also prepared our boys for the tougher days ahead. His sacrifice will not go waste.  Each one of you will have a resolution of steel to erase the menace of terrorism raising its head in our peaceful state. We do believe this is a self-inflicted and self invited disease, by some antisocial and anti national elements present in our midst. But like we have to go for an operation to get the damning portion of a diseased body removed. This ailment too needs to be treated in the same way. The police force will hence forth be given wider powers to get into some of the out of bound precincts to look for what is actually happening in such places. We respect the religious sentiments of all communities. We also have due regards for every citizen of our state. Yet you cannot subject any privately run shrines to search operations without offending any one’s sensibilities. You may find it difficult, to explain to the public and the moral law enforcers the motives behind your actions, even if they are hiding any criminal elements within their four walls. In case of any kind of suspicion, you do not today have the authority to pick up people for investigation.  Of course this will take place, if we amend the state constitution.  But as per the procedure established by the law of the land it is a very cumbersome process.  No high handedness will be permitted to you by almost half of the government machinery who still owes their allegiance to the earlier regime. In such a situation only a special ordinance from the governor can authorize you to enter some of the religious places for search and investigation operations. But I still feel if you are able to get a break through in the bus massacre incident, which may take you closer to the murderers of our DIG Tanwar.  You might just stumble upon the life time opportunity to get our biggest foe in the dragnet.  I want you to personally handle the entire investigation under a close blanket of your most trusted officers.  You may have to send them over to the other side of the law to may be joining some unit of the offenders. That should help you to get any kind of clue or a lead. The boys who committed the most heinous crime against the innocents should not be allowed to remain on the large for long. They can inflict further damage any where”.  Pratap felt he was almost embarrassing his chief of the state police by elucidating the investigation procedure to be adopted by him. He added a mild dose of friendly touch to the entire discussion, “it is not an official order but many a times an opinion from the outside agency can help you look at the total picture from an entirely different angle, which even if you thought of earlier, would have been dropped or rejected by you as not very important”.

“Oh!  My god! It was Tanwar who was handling the entire case of the bus massacre and he wanted me to have a look at the footage of the film shot at the shrine which he was supposed to show to me on his return from the Sanctro sanctorum.  If you will excuse me”, Nirbhaya got up “I will have to rush, the film must still be in his office”.

He noticed the lift to the chief minister’s office had still not returned to the floor on which his chamber was situated.  It was possible some the ministers had forgotten to close the channel doors after they alighted on their floor. He made a mental note of issuing instructions to security for keeping one lift set exclusively reserved for the chief minister. He will also ask them to make   the door operations automatic and install jammers for all kinds of firearms in that lift. It was no time to take any kind of security risk any further. The lift was taking too long to return.  He took the stairs to the ground floor. He was jumping three steps in each fall. The security men at the main entrance to the secretariat came alert as they saw the chief of the state police Nirbhaya running towards his car. Their mandatory drill required that any kind of commotion would necessary call for the danger siren to be blown at once by the guard on duty. However, the guard on duty was in a double frame of mind. The senior police officer must have had a valid reason to run towards his car. The security guard too started following Nirbhaya on the double.  He heard the sound of the military boots following him. The chief cop slowed down.

“Could you please page for my car”, he told the guard following him.

“Oh sure sir, but the officers from your personal security staff are still in side the building. Shall I fetch them too?’

“Never mind the car is enough, I will not need the security. They can reach office directly”. He took to the wheel himself after pushing the driver to the left and shot off on the double speed towards his office.

Tanwar’s personal secretary a timid looking man with spectacles falling out of their place met him in the corridor downstairs. Nirbhaya had instructed him to meet him at the entrance itself.

“Just tell me if any one has been to the office, either just before Mr. Tanwar left this place or after he had gone to the Sanctro sanctorum.  Did he speak to any one on the phone, or wireless”?

“No sir he spoke to you only.  He had specially instructed me to not to allow any one inside while he was watching the recordings of the function at the shrine”.

“How do you know he was watching the cassette of the recordings?” Nirbhaya wanted to make sure Tanwar’s killing was in no any way associated with this film. There was a remote probability that Tanwar might have identified the killers and spoken to some one. The police chief wanted to rule out all such possibilities. “Sir I had got the film cassette issued from the record room.  The entries in the official register there do not mention the name of Mr. Tanwar. These were procured by me to get another copy duplicated.  The original had been placed back by me in the store room. Should you however want me to find out if any one else too knew about the issuance of the material cassette, I can, because the staff at the departmental record room   is well known to me. They will go out of their way to do any thing to nab the criminals who killed my boss”.

Nirbhaya felt the personal secretary will not be able to contain his emotions if questioned any further, “forget it, I just wanted to make sure no one else had the privy to the information your boss wanted to convey to me “.

Nirbhaya had seen the film cassette umpteenth times. He was still not able to make head or tail of whatever Tanwar wanted to highlight, nor had he left any markings or any kind of clue to the kind of discussions he wished to have with. In fact after he had gone through the cassette and its contents he was fully convinced that Tanwar’s discussions did not relate to this recording. May be he had another piece of recordings and only Meena could throw light on that.

His wife had called him to come down from the study and take some rest before the break of the dawn. That means he had been sitting almost all through the night. If he calls up Meena now he can come for his morning jog .That will not be unnecessary calling attention of the people who have killed Tanwar. And if as per his suspicions Tanwar was the real target of the killers and not the chief minister, then Meena and his own life was in danger too. The killers will not spare them given even half a chance. Meena’s house was only a few lanes away from the residence of the chief of the state police. He did not have to go out of the safe police campus. It was unlikely the killers will dare touch any one within the police lines.

“Can you come over for a morning tea in your joggers”, he had emphatically told him. Meena did not take long to understand why he has been called.  He expected this call. Tanwar did discuss with him the suspicions formed on the basis of certain mistrustful looking characters and activities he had been able to pinpoint in the function held at the shrine. Every one in the police department knew their closeness to each other.  Yet they themselves never discussed about it to the third person, not even with their chief. Although the chief knew that each day these two officers will speak to each other on the cases they were handling ever since they have been room mates at the police academy. As luck will have it they both had opted for the same state cadre and were posted for their initial training under the police chief Nirbhaya. Their careers had progressed all through the years at the equal pace. They were both commissioned in the police department the same day. Many a difficult cases and situations have been solved and handled by them with each other’s help. Their chief Nirbhaya was certain that they must have spoken to each other on this case as well.

“I wonder if you could help me identify some of the points your friend Tanwar wanted to discuss with me from this cassette. I have seen this tape for the umpteenth times.  It is definitely very provocative speech and sermon delivered by the great Priest, for which I do not hold the religious fanaticism responsible. I would rather attribute the entire thing stage managed by the politicians, through the religious overambitious overtones of the once forgotten small time shrine who wants to come back and hold reins to the large coffers of money and power. The combination of religion and politics provide in all societies of the world. Such a situation has been witnessed historically by almost all religions and societies of the mankind.  The Satan and God have always been on loggerheads in all ages . I believe our times are also fallen prey to the devilish aspirations of the princes of Hell. We will perforce have to submit to the schemes of the devils for a short duration.  The will of God will ultimately prevail. The Satan’s will be thrown into the burning fires of deep hole”.

Meena felt that his chief was being too philosophical.  He was aware of his fondness for Tanwar. Tanwar’s demise was more of a personal loss for the entire force. He too had felt a pain of having lost the closest friend. But this was not the time for getting philosophical. A quick action was called for immediately to get the falling image of the police department ameliorated to some extent. The denizens of the Press and politicians of all hues were tearing the police apathy and inaction apart. Every morning editorials were seeking blood of the killers who had killed the senior police officer that too in the holy premises of the most sacred of all places.

“Morale of the police force will further touch its lowest nadir if we fail to nab the killers of the innocent bus passengers Tanwar had last spoken to me.  He strongly believed it was somehow connected to great Priest and his men.  But he was not able to exactly pinpoint the people involved and used by the pontiff. If we are able to identify any of the boys, that can help us make breakthrough in both the cases”, Meena was informing the police chief. “He spoke to me last on the day he was to accompany the chief minister to the Sanctro Sanctorum. He told me “I am disturbed to see some of the young boys giving a gift of sugar cane sticks to the great Priest, on a large public gathering. That too at a place where the pontiff is virtually sitting in the middle of the sugar cane farms. If you notice the saint’s own farms are replete with the sugar cane crops. In fact right behind the dais from where the pontiff had delivered the sermon, (on the day bus passengers were butchered), a vast tract of sugarcane fields owned by the religious preacher can be seen. So why bring something as a gift that is already available in plenty and in abundance.  There is every possibility that these boys were also bringing in some other things hidden in those bundles of sugar canes. Tanwar wanted to develop the profiles of the young men to be shown to the survivors of the bus tragedy. He felt the sketches of the suspected murderers drawn by the police artists and given to the press have failed to bring in response. These sketches were too incoherent due to the mental disturbance of those affected by the tragedy. We must take up the case further from there only. Please allow me to have a look at the film”.

“That is why I have called you here so  early morning. Come we will have to analyze this film once again”, Nirbhaya was taken aback by what he saw on the film. A close and enlarged portrait of the gifts presented by the boys to the priest on the public function held by him on the same day when bus passengers had been massacred , clearly distinguished the metal tubes of the guns hidden in the  lot of the sugar canes they were carrying. “So this is what they want to fight the might of the state with and win over the War of the Satan and   Gods. I wonder how long can they hold on against the power of the state. But we should not underestimate them. All this could only be the beginning of the full scale warfare to follow”.

“We will have to discreetly pick up one or two of the boys seen in this film”, Meena brought the faces seen on the screen to a pause and enlarged them one by one, “do you want to publicize these faces. In that case we may not get the chance to find out their real game plan. I advise no one should come to know that we have identified them.  By doing this you will invite them to come out again. That is the time we pick them up for interrogation”, Nirbhaya was confident that Meena could handle the murderers who had killed one of his closest friends.

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues . Chapter-22

General Durjan took him to a street leading out of the main town in a jeep and he himself drove the vehicle to a farmhouse, a few kilometers away from the last octroi post. Ranjit sat in the front seat along with General Durjan. As soon as the vehicle took off two boys came running towards the open jeep and jumped into the rear seat. They too were carrying similar weapons, “may be, they are also on the familiarization and shooting trip”, thought Ranjit.

A cut out of the targeted person had been placed before each firing stand and the instructor will exhort each one of the shooters while practicing target shooting, “you warriors you have to remember that it is either you or the target that will come out of this mission alive. If you miss, then it is you who will die. You are not looking at the card boxes but the traitors and the exploiters of society. They are your enemies.  They are not the dummies. Look at them as real faces and then fire”. If some one hit the flag, he would personally go to him and congratulate.

The training in the art of escape from the place of attack made it clear to him, “we value your life; so long as you do not get caught; hence you must try to come out alive from the enemy’s fort. Should you fail to come out bite the chocolate tied to a thread on your neck; this will give you instant relief, which will save you from the torture, pain, and humiliation at the hands of the enemies. Each on of you will have a cover up following you; to ensure he kills the one who gets captured. The cover up process is adopted as a back up exercise to ensure elimination of either the target or the missionary who fails to achieve the mission assigned. The mission is supreme to all of us. You know the reward after accomplishment will take care of you and your family for generations to come at the same time though the family will be taken care of even after failure but you may not be there to share the booty with them”.

General Durjan himself who elaborated on the great sacrifices of their predecessors and preachers handled the period in theology. The perpetrators of the atrocities on the believers of faith and the trials and tribulations of the faithful to religion; had to undergo; taught them about defiant and relentless fight carried by the braves in all ages. “This training is only an introduction to the intense and the deeper training to be followed at the other side of the frontiers which will make a complete, fiercer and stronger warrior out of you as compared to the ones created by the armed forces of any country”, General Durjan would often tell them.

He briefed them about the intended target’s movements, his location advantages, and disadvantages, possible proximity they could attain to the target or the improbability of achieving the given task were all explained to them at the intensive training schedules. “Remember the task will have to be finished at the first go. There will never be a second chance. In case you are not confident of cent percent success, you must have the patience to wait for precise moment.  You should always remember that it is you have who have decided the hour and the minute of death of your target when he is put on the list of defaulters. This minute of his death will definitely come. Your courage from within will give you desired results”, General Durjan maintained.

“The minutes for accomplishing the task should come to me sooner than expected”, thought Ranjit. Two boys were assigned the job of keeping surveillance on his movements all the while lest he wanted to give it all up and run away. He had resolved to give it a try to lead his life as suggested by the seer.  Yet many a times he wondered if the promised wads of foreign currency will ever be used by him.  “What if he fails to get at the target? What if the return fire of security forces kills him?  Even the boys from the shrine who had been deployed to keep an eye at him can finish him to remove all traces of his connections back to the pontiff. At least his family will be able to come out of the rigmaroles of day-to-day pangs of wants and shortages in their life, he thought to himself. This will also tell his father that he was not a worthless son after all”.

“If he comes out of the task successful he will be able to get married to the girl of his choice. How can the parents of the girl refuse if the shrine puts pressure on them?  Otherwise also till date they have all fallen to his charms.  This girl will be no exception”. He could feel the closeness of her warmth even today. He remembered the day she agreed to accompany him to a walk through the lawns of the university gardens. She was coming out of the classroom when he accidentally met her on the way. He was in no mood to go to the university but a sense of idleness was eating into him and out of sheer boredom he drove to the building that housed her classroom. He did not expect she will agree to accompany him but still he took the chance to ask her out for a cup of coffee.

“No I do not relish it much “, she had told him.

“In that case if you have some time, can we walk through the lawns? I am sure a walk in this nice weather will do well to both our moods. I am not able to sit through the class out of sheer boredom”, he told her.

During walk through the botanical gardens he tried holding her softly on her lower waist. She trembled at the first touch. He let it go after a while. But a few minutes later had put his hand again on her waist and finding no resistance continued placing it there all through the walk. He desperately wanted to hold her still closer and give her a big hug. The scent of her body was having a strong aphrodisiacal effect on his mind and heart. He knew that she was equally affected the way he had been. A few more seconds of this heavenly togetherness could have made them forget about the worlds around them. But They had hardly walked through for an hour or so when a group of boys and girls from her class appeared on the scene. She had to go with them to attend the next class. A little of her company was enough to convey to him that she too was interested to make friends with him, but the fear of betraying her parents’ confidence in her was holding her back.

“They have sent me to complete my higher education with so many expectations. I will never ever be able to let them down”, she told him.

He felt her priorities were completely different from other girls he came across earlier. Those girls were always too eager to find out if he will marry them and take them abroad with them.  She had always refused to keep the small gifts brought by him for her.

She will say “I do not use any kind of cosmetics or perfumes hence they will be of no use to me “. He was always at his wits end to understand as to what could impress her till one day she herself suggested, “I am too fond of reading. Please see if you can come across some old fiction and novels.  I shall of course pay for the same. He had not read any such book in his life and had to seek the help of the shopkeeper to select a few books on English fiction for her.

“I hope you have already gone through these “. Her question had put him in a little discomfort him but he felt relaxed when she said, “now do not tell me the stories, I will not be able to read if you unravel the whole thing in advance. I always like the eagerness to find out what happens next. Yes I do not have the money right now and will pay it to you when I get my pocket money next month”. It was her simplicity and honesty that was getting to him besides of course her untouched and unexplored beauty.

“She carried a whiff of heavenly fragrance around her, like the first shower of the monsoon. She was like the only rose bud that raises its head when the spring breaks after a long autumn season” he told himself. She is meant for me only and I will never ever tell the boss about her, what if the gang ever comes to know about her and want me to do the same to her that I have done to other girls, “I will tell them she is my actual wife and not the pretended one like all others were”, he convinced himself.

Once or twice it did occur to him to talk it out with the boss, and settle once for all that she was meant for him and only him. “I shall do that when the necessity arises”, he had always thought.  “And now with the support of the seer, no boss ever will be able to touch what is rightfully my own”, he removed the fear on his mind.  He dreamt of the luxurious life he would be able to lead staying abroad with the love of his life Koena.

The little doubt still persisted, “what if her parents will not agree to their matrimony, have not the parents of other girls agreed to, whenever he proposed”. He had by now lost the count of the number of marriages he had embarked on. He started counting and recalling the names of the girls he had dumped in different countries. After a few of the names he lost count and gave up the effort.

“Koena was different; she will remain as my wife and bear our children. She will stay with me all my life. I will not travel to the places where I have taken the other girls”.

 

 

 

 

 

Maddening Corridors of Intrigues — Chapter 15

15

    The sleepy little town of Baikunthpur was opening its eyes to the first ray of sunlight. The tea stall vendor at the state roadways bus station woke up to begin his business of the long stretched day ahead of him. He set up the water filled kettle on an earthen stove and started showing fire to   light up the dry woods underneath. “The fog  that appears during the winters has started setting in”, he thought, “ the woods are little wet on the outside, a few drops of kerosene oil will overtake the moisture and the glow of fire will soon engulf mettle kettle from all sides bringing the water to boiling temperature ”.

The staff for first state roadways bus to leave out of the bus station should be here any minute, along with the commuters traveling to the capital town. Generally college students, employees of the state government offices, and a few traders who had some shopping to do in the capital town board the first bus in the morning. The same bus will return late evening from there carrying most of its commuters back, unless of course it carried guests for someone in the town or any one decided to stay back. He could hear self-starter of the bus making a big racket; it seemed the driver would call him out to push the bus from behind for the initial start up. After a few rattling noises it picked up the fuel spark and the engine started roaring. The bus driver Dhanna called him “Chhotte (my little brother) prepare a strong cup of tea with two hundred grams of milk. It should give a speed of seventy kilo meters per hour”, which meant he wanted lots of tea leaves, little water and two hundred grams of milk boiled to the extent that the color of the milk will be fully tanned to blackish red, “And do not forget to add sugar to the tea you  will be serving me .  I need lots of it. Do not be miserly”. Dhanna called out “Yes I know your taste buds are fond of too much of sweet. You do not have to remind me every morning about it though”. He woke up one of the servants from behind the shop and ordered him to carry the pot full of tea to serve it to Dhanna in the bus.

A stranger came to shop with his face wearing half a veil of a blanket and ordered the tea stall owner to give him a cup of tea. The tea stall owner looked at him strangely; it was not cold enough yet to cover face like this.” May be he was still sleepy or may be he suffers from the cold and fever. What do I have to do”, thought the tea stall owner.

He saw another young man coming to his stall, soon after. The stranger ordered him to make one more cup. “You are new here “, he wanted to ask them but the rush of a few more passengers made him busy tending to their orders. “ It seems our town is growing big. We see new faces here every now and then’, he remarked to one of the old regular customers.

The bus conductor was yelling from the rear door of the bus” Capital Town! This bus leaves for Capital Town!” The bus was overflowing with passengers in no time. The driver looked back and asked the conductor if he could send the bus rolling. The conductor blew a long whistle indicating the driver to move. The bus starting stirring, just then the two strangers got up and ran towards the bus; one boarded it from the rear the other had jumped in into the front gate.

The one who was in the front sat on a seat near the driver. The other one occupied a seat next to the rear gate.” Some seats are still vacant.  You can check if we pick up passengers from near the railway crossing and we will go non stop thereafter” the conductor had shouted at the driver,” We will not stop anywhere halfway. If there is anyone going short of capital town please get off as the bus will not stop middle way”, he called out to the passengers. “Let us move”, he indicated to the driver.

Two passengers came into the bus from the railway crossing and moved into the center of the bus. They surveyed the vacant seats and one of them selected the seat near to the front exit. He requested the old lady to move to the central portion of the bus., “Old mother can you shift to the vacant seat in the middle I am not feeling well”. The old lady smirked a little, but realizing the young man may actually be sick gave up her seat. After all he had wrapped a blanket even when there was a moderate cold. The bus began its journey towards its destination.

The driver took the right turn from the next crossing, a passenger requested him “Dhanna dear friend can we hear some devotional music.  I am sure people will enjoy it’. The person sitting next to the driver asked him,” Could you increase the volume of the music system? These devotional songs are too appealing. I am a great fan of this singer”. Dhanna the bus driver looked back and smiled “It is good to follow the scriptures, but at your young age people hardly ever listen to these songs. They are keener to listen to film songs though”. The music system was blaring, “We are born to one father, we are the people of one God, and we are the sons of one father. Each has been blessed with one light; no one is good or bad”. The driver was singing along with the singer somewhat at the top of his voice. He did not hear the loud horn being blown by the truck driver who wanted him to get on to one side of the road so that his truck could move ahead after overtaking the bus. The truck driver kept pressing the horn till the young man tapped at the bus driver’s shoulders” Let him pass; he seems to be in a hurry”. “These half trained truck drivers are always in a hurry. The fellow who issued the license for driving to truck drivers must not have known the art of driving a vehicle himself”. The truck over took the bus from very close quarters.

The bus driver looked outside the window of his bus   and called names to the man driving the truck” Can you not see? You mother…”

The young man who had been sitting near the front exit made sure the door was locked fully. He double-checked the latch on the door. He got up from the seat and stretched his body to the full.

Watching this man near the rear gate sitting on the stairs; the bus conductor also got up from his seat and sat on the stairs next to him. “Brother you can sit comfortably, there is enough space here”, said the conductor, pointing towards the seat vacated by him.

“Thank you I have not had my morning work out. I prefer standing here for a while”. He too checked the bolt at the rear door and firmly bolted it when he noticed it was unlock.

The driver in the front was lost yelling in his not so sonorous voice singing the devotional song when he felt some thing hard and cold mettle on his neck.

The young man sitting next to him told him in a very vicious tone, “You will take a right turn from here. The bus will not go to the capital town”. The driver Dhanna “Yes but this road goes to the deep forest. Why should I take to this direction? We will get lost on the way”?

“Do as you are told otherwise I will kill you”? Dhanna felt the cold steel pressing into his neck and took the sharp turn to the right immediately, screeching tires on the left virtually got lifted from the ground. Some people who were dozing off in the early morning warmth swore names to the driver.

An old man who looked like a retired military officer shouted at the driver “What is this way of driving? You want to kill all of us”.

“No   not him but we want to kill some of you”, the man sitting in the middle of the bus stood up. He removed the blanket and brandished another gun, “No one will get up; this bus is under our control. We are the harbingers of freedom to you all; if any one dare look up I will shoot. Killing is my job”. He hit the man who was sitting in seat ahead of him in the head “You mother… close that windowpane”. Blood started oozing from the man’s head; he without losing a split second shut the windowpane.

The old lady sitting next to him started shouting “Oh God! Oh God! “Shut up you old fart”, the man from the front door called out. He too removed his blanket and pointed the gun at the old lady.  “Listen you jerk,” the Youngman in the middle had come to the aisle, “We are the messengers of God. We are the saviors of the nation. We will not harm any one who is the follower of our belief; but we will also not spare the perpetrators of atrocities on us. This government of atheists belongs to the nonbelievers. They must be driven out of our land; the land that belongs to us. The nonbelievers have exploited this land for ages. They have played havoc with our religion and social beliefs. They have desecrated our places of worship. They kill our brethrens all over the country. They have no right to live and must be done away with immediately”.

No one spoke to him; no one even dared to look at him. The bus had by now reached somewhere in the middle of the thick forest. He ordered the driver to turn the bus on a narrow muddy road going into the forest track. Dhanna the bus driver who belonged to the same community as the four men were pleaded, “For God sake I implore you.  Please do not kill the innocents. They are also our brothers. Why do you want to invite the wrath of all the gods on you? Please let us go back to the main road.” He applied the brakes all of a sudden. The gun slipped out of the hands of the young man and fell on the floor. He quickly picked it up. The driver’s behavior infuriated him and he banged the gun against his head again and again; calling him names “You son of a bitch, you also go with them”. Dhanna tried to ward off the heavy blows initially but the young man’s hands were too quick. Dhanna’s official felt cap that he had been wearing fell on the floor of the bus. He pushed open the side door and jumped on the ground outside the bus below. He ran towards the direction from which the bus had come. “Please save us, will someone save us” he simultaneously shouted. The bullets hit him from behind. He jumped up a few feet and fell on the ground with face turned towards the bus. The young man with gun in his hand was staring out of the window.

“All of you get off the bus one by one and put your two hands on your heads. I am sure no one will dare do any thing, other wise he meets the same fate as the bus driver has met”, the youngster in the rear  of the automobile opened the door and ordered every one to come out of the bus. They were all told to form a queue each for men and women separately. “The people I point out will step aside”, he ordered. A few ladies started wailing loudly. The children too joined them in crying hoarse.

A total of five boarders pointed out by the young man were asked to step aside from the main group. A lad of around twelve years also moved aside with them. “Hey you! You cannot come with them. You are too young to decide what is happening in the society and we do not kill any one for no reason. You will fall back into the group of the other passengers who are being left behind” the leader of the four men told the boy and others to board the bus back.

He virtually herded the five separated, towards the jungle. Other people who watched mutely from inside the bus were too stunned to utter a word. The old lady was praying loud “Oh God! Please be merciful! Please be merciful!” The man who had been left behind to keep an eye on them assured her, “Do not worry you old woman nothing will happen to you. You will die your natural death”.

The gunshots reverberated through the silence of the forest loud and clear. One could distinguish two different guns blaring. The sudden silence brought in the first rays of the jungle morning. The sun gradually rising from behind the tall trees gave a red hue to the atmosphere.