Dedicated to Surinder Koli, whose life Indian government intends to take
It was a bright morning during the summer of 2011 when Mr. Raghunath Varma, chief investigating officer of the Jamnagar mass murder case, woke up from his sleep to find his train leaving Ahmedabad Junction. In a panic that would take over him, he would run out of the train with his bag containing details of the investigating case, twist his leg as he gets out and fall heavily on the 1st platform of the station thereby scattering the papers contained in his bag which shall bemuse the people who themselves were lying down on the station floor while leaving the seats vacant.
'I beg your pardon', he said to the audience who gathered around him as he picked up the loose papers. They lost interest after he picked himself up from the floor and seemed alright. Raghunath winced at man's desire to be part of a disaster, but it was short lived as he saw pictures of Sarfraz Mahmud, the person whose death sentence was withheld until Raghu finished his investigation. The fact which made him stutter was that underneath every picture of Sarfraz, whose image instantly portrayed notoriety, there was a call for justice, which suddenly weighed his shoulders down with rampant force.
Sarfraz K. Mahmud, the 34 year old mass murderer, who raped and killed more than 20 young children, who was also held accountable for 14 more child kidnappings and whose crime history shows an inhumane and a rather demonic scar of cannibalism. It was a case whose judgement was known even before its investigation began - 'To be hanged till death!' was the verdict of every court Sarfraz went, and yet with just 27 days remaining to carry out the verdict an appeal had to come up in the Supreme Court to revoke the sentence and Raghunath was asked to find whether Sarfraz deserved death. It was a thankless job, Raghu remembered himself being a 24 year old civil service aspirant whose topic for GD was on the cruelty of capital punishment, he remembered himself shunning the rest of his group with his eloquence and finally bringing out a conclusion that the government whatever their powers an prowess maybe is never justified in taking a life. And now, he was here in Ahmedabad to make sure Sarfraz was hanged.
'Sir, kahan jaana hain, Sir?', came the voices of taxi and rikshaw drivers luring incoming visitors all for to enrich their subsistence. Raghu accepted the offer of a person who already had a grip on his bag, which moments before rejected its contents on the station. In fact, even before Raghu said where he wanted to go to the rikshaw was brought alive by pulling the starter lever and was racing to get outside the station.
'Jamnagar', Raghu said. In a furious twist of the accelerator the rikshaw slid past the heavy traffic of a busy Ahmedabad morning. Raghu settled down and dozed of for a while, in his shot sleep he saw the picture of Sarfraz, he was demanding justice.
Raghu could get very little help from the local police station, all they could provide for the 47 year old CBI officer was some vague FIR on the kidnappings and the killings, which prima facie never pointed at the direction of Sarfraz.
'Sarfraz worked as a servant of a reputed doctor in Jamnagar, a certain Pranav Kumar', Ranveer the constable who prepared the FIR said. 'What was interesting is that we included the doctor's still pending case on organ trafficking in the FIR, but the investigating officer never found any base in it to be mentioned in the final report.'
'Who was the investigating officer?'
'Deputy Superintendent Vaidyanath Sharma.', replied Ranveer. 'He was a fanatical Hinduist, he would convict anyone with a Muslim name.'
'And Sarfraz was tortured?'
'Every single day, sir all throughout the month!'
'He took one month to confess?'
'Yes, I would have confessed to anything they said if I was in his place.', Ranveer added. 'You see sir, there were atleast 7 other similar cases after Sarfraz was arrested, of rapes and missing internal organs, I have a strange feeling that it would continue.'
It was not Raghu's job to remain too critical. All cases which are re-opened in the history of mankind are always handled inattentively. It may partly be because of the ease with which the officer could obtain the information, and partly due to the dull task of repeating a job which was performed and finished by an equally qualified person. Vaidyanath Sharma and his Hindutva ideologies wasn't really a worthwhile point for Raghu and he utterly rejected Ranveer's imaginative extremes of an organ trafficking group. But he felt amused at the way Ranveer tried to make the most of the case being re opened. For Raghu that was the only thing which seemed a bit suspicious.
Vaidyanath Sharma, with his overgrown tummy, tousled hair and a long paste of sandal marked on his forehead portrayed everything that a Hindu was entitled not to. He talked in whispers, which probably was to avoid the stink of pan without which he could not begin a day. He was now the Inspector General of Ahmedabad and lived a life with commanding ease. He talked barbarically when asked about Sarfraz.
'That son of a b***h, he killed them and ate them too! I would have shot him if I could.', Sharma said. He used some more Gujarati words to describe Sarfraz, many of which Raghu could never decipher.
'But sir, the FIR shows a possible suspicion towards Dr. Pranav Kumar, and you missed him out in your report.'
'The doc is clean, his other case is close to verdict, he would come clean in that too.', Sharma assured.
'Sure', thought Raghu, 'With money anyone can come clean in this country!'
Raghu set about the remaining days collecting the personal and professional information and history of Sarfraz. Sarfraz was the only son of Mahmud Karim and Begum Rashida Karim. His father had been a rikshaw puller until before Sarfraz was born, and after the introduction of Sarfraz decided to quit the job and start a small shop selling confectioneries nearby his house. The business would earn them enough to survive, but not to educate Sarfraz.
'Sarfraz learned to read by himself. He would read things on the paper we used in our store.', his father, Karim, said. 'He was a hard working chap, but was always restless!'
When Sarfraz was 19 and was sure he and his family couldn't survive with just the income out of the store, he decided to seek work outside. The search led him to a politician named Pritam Shah under whom he worked for 4 years. Pritam would beat Sarfraz atleast 3 times a day and was given only a meager ration of food. Sarfraz starved for days on, holding on till the first day of every month.
'My kid, he deteriorated under Pritam, it was then that Pranav took him.', says Begum. There were no more tears left in her aged eyes as she tells the story, it was just a meaningless wait to know the final verdict, a verdict they were sure would never go their way.
Pranav fed Sarfraz well, he gave him a very large sum of money as salary. It was a period of intense joy for the Mahmud family, it was also around this time that Sarfraz fell in love.
'He had a relationship?', asked Raghu.
'His friends and family does repeatedly mention of a lover. But Sarfraz denied it everytime on interrogation.', Ranveer said. 'The identity of his lover was perhaps the one thing he decided to take with him to the rope!'
Sarfraz looked at Raghu with hopeless eyes. Raghu turned his face away from the embers of that deep and powerful hazel organs of vision, what unimaginable brutalities it would have seen, what tyrannical woes it would have endured. Raghu was still unsure, his report followed a pre-written format which would surely uphold the decision to end Sarfraz's existence upon the Earth. Raghu thought about the 20 children, and numerous others who went missing, he thought of Sarfraz's master and his forgotten history in organ trading. Surely there should be a link, he thought. And yet, how easily did he fall victim to the drama of governance, how easily could he fit into the final missing piece of Sarfraz's jigsaw, the piece which bore the very significant and fatal end. Sarfraz never cried as the court gave the verdict, he never flexed a muscle, all of them were critically damaged according to medical reports. He was subjected to physical assault every single day of his interrogation and the jail term afterwards, he was a punching bag, his fingers were used as candles, his ears were filled with boiling oil, every bone in his right hand was broken, every toe was devoid of nails, he was better dead than alive.
Raghu walked out to applause and handshakes. Sarfraz would be hanged by September 2014. The air was filled with jubilation, the entire county broke out in a revengeful joy as its greatest culprit got what he deserved. Raghu escaped the celebration and got in his car, the air conditioner was blowing its life out to ease his sweaty face. Sarfraz would have raped them, he would have killed them, he would be having cannibalistic instincts, he thought repeatedly. But there was an inescapable gorge in front of him - Sarfraz was mentally unstable, he was tortured both mentally and physically, it took them a whole month to make him confess - the factor of doubt was still large. He thought what would he have done if he were Sarfraz, would he have withstood one month of sheer animal-ism to confess something he had done? Even if Sarfraz was the criminal, even if he killed every last child, was it enough to take his life? There were a lot of unanswerable questions in Raghu's mind, and then he was disturbed by a knock on the window of his car,
'Raghu sir, I am Pranav. Dr. Pranav Kumar. You did well!'
'Thank you.', Raghu replied
'That guy Sarfraz, he is a beast, deserves what he got.'
Raghu nodded, Pranav shook his hands and took leave. Just then he received a call, it was from Ranveer, whose voice seemed distraught,
'Raghu sir?', Ranveer said, 'There is a new murder case near Jamnagar, a 14 year old girl was killed, her internal organs were missing and the body showed marks of a rape!', the voice ebbed down. Raghu fell back on his seat and took a deep breath as his last drops of sweat were stolen away by the rude air conditioner.