Saturday, June 30, 2007

Voices from Tala: Village Diary Preview

Recently, the IANS/Reuters correspondent for Chhattisgarh, Mr. Sujith Kumar, wrote a piece on my stay at Tala, entitled, 'Amit Jogi Toils With Tribals, for Career's Sake', which was carried by a variety of newspapers (22.07.07). On the whole, it offers a somewhat different perspective of things, projecting a motive where none in fact exists.

Note: I am in Raipur tonight to attend Mr. Chaveendra Karma's wedding reception, and will return to Tala tomorrow morning. Presented below are excerpts from my Village Diary. Before I part, I would like to share with the Reader the following hana (folk-saying):

Char godh ké Chappo (Four-footed Chappo)
Tekhar upar Nippo (Above, Nippo)
Aa gayé Gappo (Came Gappo)
Lé gayé Nippo (Took Nippo)
Baacché Chappo Chappo (Remains only Chappo Chappo)

The above hana makes so much more sense once we know that 'Chappo' stands for Mother Earth; 'Nippo' refers to Mankind; and 'Gappo' is Death. Makes one think, doesn't it?


June 21-22, 2007
Mr. Kuber Yadu, a longtime family associate handpicked by Papa & SNT principally due to his incontrovertible ‘Chhattisgarhi’ credentials, accompanies me to Tala; enroute, we halt at his village, Marrakona on the banks of the river Seonath. At Mr. Yadu’s farm, I am given a crash course in the three kinds of sowing prevalent in the region: khurra (dry-sowing, before rainfall); batar (after rainfall); and ropa (wet-sowing, i.e., transplanting of saplings raised in a nursery, tharra). He insists on my paying obeisance to the local deity, Mawli Mata.

After crossing the river Maniyari, a tributary of the Seonath, we arrive at our destination, Tala (aka Ameri-Kapa). Well, not Tala per sé. My host, Mr. Siyaram Kaushik, who is also the local MLA, has lodged me in one of the rooms of a newly constructed temple-complex adjacent to the historic- and only one of its kind- statue of Rudra-Siva (more about this later; photo above). To my disappointment, he has had a rather noisy water cooler fitted in it. Happily though, for ablutions I must, like the rest of the village folk, rely on the Great Wide Open. Or, as the locals refer to it: bahi-dahar (literally: out of the way, or outskirt). It is well past midnight by the time dinner is cooked: it comprises a simple but fulfilling meal of rice, dal and beans (sémee) with a relish of raw onions.

My desire to sleep outside is summarily dismissed citing snakes: the ghodi-karayat variety, which is small, jet-black and deadly poisonous, is more fearsome than the asadhiya, which is long, fair and has the cumulative effect of a shot of marijuana (weed). Mr. Yadu fondly recollects that this reptilian analogy was used by his late father, the freedom fighter Mr. Parasram Yadu, to compare my father with his rival, Vidya Charan Shukla.

I wake up at 5:30 a.m. Bravely, I venture out into the unknown for my morning ablutions; with a little help from Mr. Yadu, I find a nice little spot to defecate. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I remain constipated for the rest of the day. After a quick bath at the local bored-well, right in the front of the historic Siva statue, we head off to the nearby fields: here, I try my hand at the Nagar, the neolithic plough still in vogue. It is pulled by two bullocks: to make a right-turn, shout Arra to the bull on the right; for left, it’s Tatta to the bull on the left; and to stop, Ho-ho. If they don’t obey, simply use the stick (tutari). For a first-timer, I do OK.

I also learn a little bit about how farmland is divided. Apparently, the revenue department has got it all wrong. Instead of the patwari’s maps (khasra), villagers prefer to follow the rule of the incline (slope): water flows downwards from the pakhar to the ghansa; accordingly, the field on the side of pakhar (upland) is called pakhar-bhata; likewise for ghansa. The problem, really, pertains to ownership of the raised piece of land that separates the fields, called med. According to the law, all owners have equitable rights over the med. This is easier said than done, and quite naturally, becomes a major cause of disputes: who, for instance, owns the mango tree growing on the med? Now, according to the custom of chanda-munara, each farmer has rights to two of the four meds, one of pakhar and the other of ghansa. This example illustrates the precedence custom- or common law- has over formalistic (land revenue) regulations.

In the evening, we take a bullockcart (bailagadi) ride to the village to participate in the evening ritual called ‘gudi ke goth’ (literally, talks of the village square). The commands Arr-Tatta-Hoho apply equally to the Nagar as well as the bailagadi. At the gudi, where I sit cross-legged on the ground with the rest of the village folk, the entire atmosphere is marked by a refreshing frankness: more than the men, it’s the women who do the talking. The politest way of starting a conversation is to ask: “ka saag rangath has?” (what’s cooking?) Soon, I am in the midst of a culinary class. The staple, basi, or left-over rice from last night soaked in water, is also the favorite: it tastes absolutely marvelous with a jojo (fried-chutney) of tomato, red-chillies or (as Papa likes it) garlic, a bhaaji (sautéed green leafy vegetable) and some curd. As a rule, womenfolk are expected to carry a batki of basi on their heads along with these condiments to the menfolk, who are working hard at their fields, at precisely twelve ’o clock. This hour of midday rest is called thad ki béra (ironically, thad means to stand upright, no doubt an allusion to the sun's perpendicular position).

The womenfolk, comprising all castes, gather around the choura (sacred platform), to dance to the Sua. From the lyrics, it appears that Suas are intensely religious songs, not very different in content from the monastic evensong:

Ayodhya mein Ram khélé hori (Ram plays holi in Ayodhya)
Mati mangalé, Choura bandhalé (Get the mud, Build the Choura)
Ayodhya mein Ram...
Chaanti bechara dohara mati (Even the poor ants bring mud)
Ayodhya mein Ram...
Jahan bajé nagada dason jodi (Where drums resound is ten-pairs)
Ayodhya mein Ram...

As we walk back to the temple-complex, a distance of a kilometer and a half, we stop at a house. Here, we are given a demonstration of three household implements found in almost every village home, by the family’s venerable ‘mayaru bhouji’ (beloved eldest sister-in-law): the jata (used for grinding flour); the déki with its iron-pounder called musar (used to dehusk paddy); and the konéta jata (mud grinder used for dehusking the relatively softer kodo, an excellent diabetic-substitute for rice). There is also the gorsi, an earthen vessel in which cowdung cakes are burnt, to roast rotis, or simply to keep warm during winters. All these implements are made at home by the ladies. On the road, we are crossed by the dreaded ghodi-karat. As with every other omen, this is interpreted as a sign of good luck.

Tomorrow, we intend going fishing with the Kevats & Dhevars. The prospective catch, comprising of Tengna and Kokhiya, promises to be appetizing. Naturally, I am rather looking forward to it.

June 23, 2007
It’s almost four p.m., and there’s no sign of the boatman: the geriatric sarpanch, it appears, has bungled gloriously and wishes to makeup with extra-doses of ‘Chhattisgarhi’ lessons, which I am understandably in no mood for.

Consequently, I spent much of the forenoon with the daily-wage laborers, beneficiaries of the REGS, constructing the embankment. The female laborers are called reja. It is their job to carry an iron-basket called dhamela filled with the mortar on their heads; the headrest- a piece of rolled-up cotton scarf- is called gurri. They are paid Rs. 60 per day. Hardly adequate compensation, I should think, for them to afford the anthi (a silver bracelet, less thick than the harayya), the Rupayya (a necklace of silver coins) and the four-beaded (ladi) kardhani (silver waistband), with which they are all adorned. Indeed, I am in no doubt that they are better economists than the chaps sitting in the Finance Ministry.

The rains prompt a group of young girls to play Fugri. The game begins with a song that ends with one of them asking the question: tor beti ké ka naav hé? (what is the name of your daughter?). The answer- Shree Kajar Mati- initiates the next phase, where the squatting girls quickly start to move their legs, one by one, in a fast kicking motion; and the one who does this the longest wins. Mr. Kaushik very wisely informs me that games such as these help prepare pubescent women for natural child-births.

The boatman arrives at 5; his oar- kirwar- is located by 5:30. The boat called Donga, part of the state government’s Nava Anjor doleout, is large; it is also extremely leaky. “The wood,” the dongahar or boatman explains, “dried up in the summer.” At considerable risk, then, we ride upstream to the old dolomite overbridge below the national highway. Unlike the donga, this relic of the Raj is in excellent shape. All of us are quite wet, not because of the rain (which has momentarily stopped) but because of the copious amount of water in the boat. Under the circumstances, it is only natural that our conversation turns to Alhan, or mishaps. An alhan, if not stopped, turns to Karlai, or tragedy. In a karlai, the appropriate lingo is: “jeev kalla gé” (soul is shaken). By the time we set anchor (after a nearly-missed alhan with an unseen rock), I am thankful that this truly soul-shaking excursion has finally ended.

June 28, 2007
I have been truant, dillydallying confiding my sojourns to the Diary. Given the rigors, mostly physical, of rural life, it’s no wonder that most villagers don’t bother keeping one. There are times, like when we made an excursion to see the ancient Chaturbhuja Vishnu statue excavated on the banks of the Arpa at Mangala-Matiyari, when I wish they did: the keeper of that temple professes to be 122 years old (I couldn’t help wondering that he was born in the same year as when that Mandarin, Alan Octavian Hume founded the Congress); he lives all by himself, and complains of having been abandoned by all but his deity, whom he serves relentlessly. I must mention that the banks of the rivers Arpa, Seonath and Manihari, all of which crisscross this constituency, are a hidden repository of untold treasures- entire archaeologies of long lost civilizations, now buried under the sands of time- that demand to be excavated, restored and preserved for posterity; if nothing is done, then we- those who live in this Age- are alone to blame.

But I am getting ahead of myself: the narrative must recommence from where I left it: a visit to Matku Deep, a riverine island on the Seonath with an area of about 40 hectares. For reasons I haven’t been able to decipher, it is now the site of an annual Christian Méla (fete). To get to it, we have to ride a dongi (a two-seater donga). The ride itself is somewhat precarious, as the hon’ble MLA discovered much to his chagrin, when the dongi overturned and he very nearly drowned: the correct expression is, he got choro-boro. Thankfully, the water was only waist-deep (kaniya-bhar); and yet another alhan was avoided. Later, after lunch comprising of bankukuri (jungle-hen), we explored the ruins of the haveli of the local zamindar, Akbar Khan, at his capital at Sargaon. As it happened, we scared a bunch of village-alvain (miscreants) busy gambling in one of its several rooms. It was to one of Akbar Khan’s descendants that the Congress turned to, to defeat the formidable Barrister Chedilal, who (if the memoirs of DP Mishra are to be believed) was tricked-out of the state’s chief ministership by Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla. The other piece of trivia that is worth reporting concerns the christening of the sole railway station of this area: Dagori. The story goes that Akbar Khan challenged the British that his horse, Gauri, was faster than any rail-engine. Our British overlords accepted his challenge, and lost. However, true to form they did name the station after Akbar Khan’s legendary equerry, and in time, “The Gauri” became “Dagori”.

Pradeep (Choubey) Uncle took charge from Mr. Yadu on the 24th. Unlike the latter, Pradeep Uncle insisted that my rural-education must be caste-blind. I am thus instructed to ignore all Hanas (village sayings) with casteistic undertones. Here, I beg to dissent. Hanas, after all, provide an invaluable insight into the dynamics of village-life: how people see, and interact, with each other; what divides and unites them? Also, unlike Mr. Yadu, Pradeep Uncle’s primary language is Hindi and it was not uncommon for him to ‘slip’ into Hindi at the slightest instance. However, his knowledge of Hindu culture made him an informed guide during our visit to two temples (on the 25th), one of which- the Chaturbhuja alluded to above- is of vast historical importance. The other is a rock that has jettisoned out of a field at Belbhata, which the villagers worship as a Shivlinga.

On the 26th, we journeyed to the village of Bamu, some seven kilometers downstream from the dam at Kutaghat (Mummy’s constituency). Although this wasn’t exactly part of our initial itinerary, the fact that Mr. Ramesh Kaushik, the newly-elected chairman of the district Cooperative Bank, is possibly the only farmer in this region to have already begun ropa plantation (transplanting of saplings, alluded to before) on his fifty-acre farm made his invitation irresistible. Most others will do so only later next month, with the onset of Sawan (when the monsoon peaks). His reasons, I believe, are twofold: first, unlike others, he doesn’t believe in the efficacy of consulting the deva-panchanga (the traditional Hindu calendar)- with its not always arbitrary emphasis on the Anjoriya (bright) and Andhiyar (dark) paksha (side) of everything- on matters of agriculture; two, his farms proximity to the dam and the more than ten tube-wells he has dug here ensure a constant supply of standing-water, necessary for this sort of cultivation. I use this opportunity to plant tharras (grown saplings from the nursery) with my feet knee-deep (madhi-bhar) in the slushy water; and also learn to plow and level (jotai-matai) the field using a tractor. Compared to the nagar, which has only one nasa, the contemporary tractor comes with nine. It took me less than half an hour to plow the field with the tractor; I could manage only two kuds with a nagar in that time. But it is a lot trickier to plow the tractor in a slushy, water-filled field- indeed, there are instances when tractors have overturned, fatally wounding its driver. (see below)

However, the greatest danger facing the farmers here is the monkey-plague. The rumor whose veracity I cannot verify is that monkeys (bendra) from all over the nation are being packed off to Chhattisgarh by the trainloads. Apparently, there isn’t much one can do although my advice to domesticate (pausayya) a red-faced monkey to drive off a pack of black-faced ones- something I learnt at Delhi, where a similar plague threatens the workings of North and South Blocks, the twin-epicenters of India’s Government- went down rather well with the villagers. For their sake and mine, I hope it works.

27th being the date of (a friend) Sanju Thakur's wedding, I debunk to Bilaspur; Pradeep Uncle, after three days of chaperoning me, returned to his farmland at Saja. His observation that it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire daily-wage farm laborers (banihars) even at increased wages is both good and bad: good because banihars now get higher remuneration for their labor; bad because they have to leave the state, go to the metros and work in the construction sector under mostly inhuman conditions in order to do so. A lot of the rural educated youth that I’ve come across don’t care to work the fields, not even their own, because education, like the Biblical forbidden fruit, has apparently taught them that plowing the nagar is beneath them. At every village I visit, groups of young men can be seen flocking around the local paan and booze shops, in various stages of drunkenness. Infact, the plight of the contemporary rural youth is an issue that I intend returning to later. Curiously, booze itself is referred to as ‘Amolak Singh’, after the notorious liquor contractor who controls the country liquor shops in this region, and indeed all of Chhattisgarh.

This afternoon, I went fishing. I am told that until they open the gates of the dam at Gangrel, our chances of catching fish in the Maniyari- or the Seonath- aren’t very good; so we head with our fishing gear, comprising garis (fishing rods made of bamboo sticks) and gangarvas (earthworms used as bait), to the fishing-tarayyas (ponds) of Kapa, a neighboring village. Putting the squishy-gangarvas into the hook is considered ‘dirty’, and so most castes, apart from the Kevats and the Dhevars, avoid ‘playing’ gari (apparently, this caste-restriction doesn’t seem to apply to the kids, who seem to love it). Akhil, who has accompanied me from Bilaspur, catches a rather juicy tengna (the tastier but smaller kotari, beloved of Papa, are harder to catch). As for me, while I manage to bait 13 times, I don’t catch even one tiny fish. The villagers console me that feeding fish (which is precisely what I did although I had rather hoped that it would be vice-versa) augurs a significant blessing from the lake deity, who is worshipped in the form of a wooden pillar at the centre of the pond.

Armed with such a blessing, we head to Chunchuniya, to see the do-mohan or the confluence of the Seonath with its tributary, Maniyari, on the opposite bank of our temple-complex. The majhis (fishermen-boatmen) here have much better luck with their soukhis (fishing nets); ergo, we won’t starve for dinner.

The tribal headman of Chunchuniya regales us with Karma- or Gond devotional- music, and a song he has composed to commemorate my stay. His repertoire of musical instruments comprises a Mandar and a pair of Tabla-dubki, made exclusively of goat-skin and baked clay. An almost primordial sound is produced by beating the goat-skin (chavni) on either sides of the instrument. The number of gotis (circles) in the kharvan- a blackened circle at the centre of the chavni- determine the tonality and range of the instrument’s acoustics. A quartet that impressed me particularly goes something like this:

Kan kan ma sabké tain rahité (You dwell in every grain of everyone)
Sabké ghat-ghat chhayé (You give shade to everyone's heart)
Gondiyan ké purkha kahilayé (You are called the Ancestor of all Gonds)
Sada kal lé aayé (You come from time immemorial)

On our way back, we witness a burial: a rather somber affair sans ceremony of any sort. It’s a lot cheaper than lighting a funeral-pyre.

June 29, 2007
It’s been raining cats and dogs all day; consequently we while away time listening to a Satnami gentleman called Mr. Indal from the village Darua-Kapa, who had previously floored us with his vast treasure trove of folksongs during our visit to Matku Deep. His songs- both their content and rendition- deserve a separate commentary, which I shall undertake once I’ve been able to decipher my quickly-scribbled notes.

In the evening, we visited the village Godhi, where I dined on angakar, a local delicacy of flattened rice-flour dough wrapped between parsa leaves and gently baked over cowdung fire in an earthen gorsi: it tastes best with patal (tomato) chutney. For now, it’s late and thanks to Dr. Raman Singh, there is no sign of electricity; best then to sleep.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

NOTICE: A Village is My World

Anyone who hopes to do any good for this nation, and has not lived in- I mean, really lived as opposed to merely visited- villages, is a hypocrite: I too am one. How dare could I presume to speak of things I have not myself experienced; for a people whose pain I have not myself felt? All my notions of rural empowerment are, therefore, hollow: in the end, they amount to nothing. Indeed, not having lived in a village is my single biggest handicap.

The Mahatma is right even today: India does live in her villages; but more to the point, she also dies in them. Everyday. The reason, in my opinion, is this: the world occupied by India’s decision-makers isn’t quite the same as the one in which those they decide for live. Even worse, there is absolutely no 'dialogue' between these two worlds; it seems the one doesn't know of- or atleast, is quite content to ignore- the other's existence.

I saw this other world- the world that lies beyond conference halls and powerpoint presentations- during the one year I was jailed; I lived in it, and witnessed life, naked and raw, bereft of color, in black & white. But that is not enough. It can never be.

For the next thirty days, I intend, therefore, to live in a village. Not as an Observer, mind you, but as a full and active Participant of village-life: much like my forefathers. Hopefully, I will begin to learn something about who I am; about the lifeblood that runs in my veins and connects me- binds me- not only to my venerable ancestors but also to the more than twenty-million people who dwell in Chhattisgarh.

It’s sowing season now. A time, aptly, for new beginnings.

AJ Read More (आगे और पढ़ें)......

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Politics of Presidency (A): THE IDENTITY GAME


It would seem that two of the world’s biggest democracies, India and the United States of America, are destined to be led by Ladies. There are, however, certain differences. While Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s carefully premeditated and concerted efforts ‘to seize power’ have been underway atleast since the time her husband left the White House after eight eventful years (if not before, as a recent biography by Mr. Carl Bernstein would have us believe), her likely Indian counterpart, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, the incumbent Governor of Rajasthan, was caught blissfully unawares, holidaying in her gubernatorial summer retreat at the picturesque colonial hill resort of Mount Abu, just days before her name was officially announced as the UPA candidate by its leader (also, another Lady), Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Also, unlike Mrs. Clinton, Mrs. Patil has very little national, let alone international, exposure: apart from a brief stint as Deputy Chairperson of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), her political career was confined to Maharashtra, where she had the distinction of having uninterruptedly served in the state assembly for a quarter of a century.


My own recollection of Mrs. Patil is that of a down-to-earth person. When my father was convalescing at the Bombay Hospital after his injury in the summer of 2004, she made it a point to visit us as often as she could. “Khana kahan khaté ho, béta?” (where do you eat, son?) she inquired. I told her that the canteen downstairs served an excellent Gujarati thali at a fairly reasonable rate. She smiled sympathetically. On the very next day, a Tiffin of delicious home-cooked food arrived at lunchtime.

To me, this particular incident speaks volumes of the kind of person who would soon be sworn-in to ‘Defend the Constitution of India’ really is, especially at a time when its three principal institutions- the legislature, judiciary and the executive- are virtually at war with each other, frequently stepping on each other’s toes. Her refusal to sign an anti-conversion bill, passed by the Rajasthan legislature last year, shows her unquestionable- or as the Left said, ‘steadfast’- commitment to defend the Secular Ideal- the freedom extended to every citizen to freely practice and preach the religion of his or her choice by the nation’s Constitution- even at the cost of annoying her own government and its chief minister, Ms. Vasundhara Rajé Scindia, with whom she reportedly enjoys an excellent rapport. For those in doubt about her ability to do the correct thing under extenuating circumstances, this incontrovertible illustration is an assurance that the lady is made of sterner stuff.


What then are Mrs. Patil’s chances at the Presidency? A BJP leader, ‘on condition of anonymity’, told the press that the UPA’s propping of a ‘weak woman candidate’ as opposed to a ‘heavyweight’ like the home minister, Mr. Shivraj Patil, is a tacit acceptance of defeat. Most political commentators in Delhi (where this blogger is presently stationed), however, feel otherwise. There is a widespread belief that her election is, more or less, a fiat accompli. This is principally due to three factors.

First, the fact that she is positioned to take over as India’s First Lady President makes it difficult for political parties- not only the perpetually hard-to-please Left (note their resistance to Mrs. Gandhi’s first choice, Mr. Shivraj Patil) but also those who might have been tempted to support the rival NDA candidate- to oppose her candidature. 

Secondly, the fact of her being a Maharashtrian makes it near-impossible for the UPA’s ‘weakest link’, the NCP leader, Mr. Sharad Pawar, to do a last-minute volte face (about-turn)- something he has done on atleast three previous occasions (the Maharasthtra Assembly elections, Mumbai Mayor elections and the Rajya Sabha elections)- and back his old friend, the incumbent Vice President, Mr. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Indeed he may do so now only at his own peril: the charge of wounding ‘Maratha Pride’ by stifling a Maharasthrian lady’s chances of being elected to the nation’s highest office would most certainly be fatal to the politics of the Maratha strongman, even if that lady’s politics has largely been defined by her opposition to the latter. To put it differently, it is a pill Mr. Pawar would do good to swallow, whether he likes it or not. 

Last but not the least, the fact of her being the bahu (daughter-in-law) of the Shekhawati- Rajput clan has no doubt put her rival, Vice President Shekhawat, in a political, if not moral, dilemma: as the doyen of this clan, Mr. Shekhawat would find it extremely difficult to justify his contesting against the clan’s bahu. This is especially so given the 53:47 ratio of the electoral college in UPA’s favor: in light of this, Mr. Shekhawat’s winning this election has to be necessarily dependent on the NDA’s combined ability to engineer cross-voting in favor of their candidate, something that is not only unethical but also, unlawful under the present Anti-Defection Act. Here, it is worth mentioning that the Team NDA’s presidential strategy largely comprised of ‘targeting’ Rajput votes within the UPA (to this end, a List of all Rajput electors has already been compiled). With Mrs. Patil’s nomination, who is also a Rajput, this has become all the more difficult.


In a nation where politics is predominantly determined by the power of symbolisms (remember Churchill’s ‘half-clad naked fakeer’- Gandhi), the declaration of Mrs. Patil’s candidature last evening is seen as nothing short of ‘a political masterstroke’: her triple-identification- as a lady, a Maratha and a Rajput- has in one masterly move, resolved all outstanding issues with the Left and the NCP, and put paid to the NDA’s aspirations of sneaking their man into Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ultimate credit for this, ofcourse, belongs to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. More than anything else, this decision shows her astute understanding, and total mastery, of coalitional politics. After the debacle at UP, this is perhaps just what the Congress- and the Country- needed.

Yet Mrs. Patil’s candidature also raises an important, if somewhat disturbing, question: should the Presidency of India really be about the curriculum vitae of the person- his or her stature, character, personal achievement, service record- who aspires to that office; or is it about the various politically expedient ‘symbolisms’ associated with that person’s elevation? Put differently, is Mrs. Patil our likely President because of who she is- and what she has done- as a person, or because of the various identities she evokes- of a woman, a Maratha and a Rajput? I believe it has to do with a bit of both. Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger’s comment on Nelson Rockefeller, another presidential aspirant, “in high public office, it doesn’t matter how a person gets there but what he (or she) did after they got there.”

It is true that Mrs. Patil has found her way into our history books, largely because of what the British novelist, Somerset Maugham labeled ‘the force of circumstance’; how History will remember her, however, will depend entirely on how she discharges ‘the burden and the glory’ of the highest political office of the nation.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

NOTICE: The Week's story on my "Life in Jail"

This week's THE WEEK magazine has done a feature on my "Life in Jail". There is only one clarification I wish to make to what Mr. Murali Eadezhath, the state correspondent, has written: I was not acquitted due to 'benefit of doubt'; for the record, there was no doubt whatsoever about my non-complicity, and the acquittal was honorable.

Life in jail
- Murali Eadezhath

Amit Jogi managed elections, wrote play

The acquittal of former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi's son Amit Jogi in a murder case has come as a big relief for the Jogi family and the state unit of the Congress, especially the Jogi camp.

"The judgment was keenly awaited. For four years this case has been the central point of my life, to prove my innocence," Amit told THE WEEK, after a special court [gave him the benefit of the doubt- see above] and acquitted him on May 31.

The CBI arrested Amit in June 2005 for allegedly masterminding the murder of former Nationalist Congress Party treasurer Ramavatar Jaggi in June 2003. He spent around a year in Raipur Central Jail. Though the Bilaspur-based Chhattisgarh High Court granted him bail earlier this year, he was re-arrested on May 2 after the Supreme Court overruled the decision.

Ajit relied on his son's political abilities even while in jail. Amit is believed to be the key strategist in the Congress victory in the Assembly by-election from Kota last December and the Lok Sabha by-election from Rajnandgaon this year. A Congress worker said Amit was significantly involved in assigning work to each party worker during the elections.

So what are Amit's plans post-acquittal? "I like to meet people and want to help them. But that doesn't mean I have immediate plans to enter politics," he said. Apparently, life in jail has brought Amit closer to God, and the poor. "I came face to face with the sad and dark side of life while in jail. Now I yearn to be with the poor and the needy to give them as much as I can," he said. Amit said he met people in jail whose biggest crime was their poverty and he learned from the inmates lessons of life that he did not get from his public school education.

The incarceration brought the Jogis closer to each other. Amit said that while his father suffered the most in his absence, his mother, Renu Jogi, remained strong. She kept reminding her son that he need not worry as long as his conscience was clear, and that justice could be delayed but not denied. "My parents, well-wishers and friends knew I was innocent and that truth would prevail. This gave me the strength to face the sufferings," Amit said.

His jail diary features poems and a play, titled Chal Be Kapada Uthar (Hey You, Remove Your Clothes), which speaks of the plight of jail inmates who get stripped by the guard at the gate upon entering jail. According to Amit, as long as a convict stays in jail, he is under surveillance, and his soul remains naked.

Now, for the next few months, Amit will be working on the poems in the diary and get them ready for publishing.
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Saturday, June 09, 2007


“Doctor saheb is a very simple man,” the chief minister’s wife declared to a confidante. “He isn’t cut out for politics…”

This was shortly after the BJP’s defeat in Rajnandgaon. Like so many others, I’m sure she now feels differently about her husband. Fortune, it seems, is once again smiling on him. Dr. Raman Singh is back with not one but two bangs: Khairagarh and Malkharoda.

The BJP cadre, which had lost all hope of coming back to power after their party’s shameful defeats at Kota and Rajnandgaon, is understandably ecstatic.

Meanwhile, the state Congress president is “shocked.” He was sure his candidate from Malkharoda would “win by 25000 votes.” Instead he lost by that margin. The result at Khairagarh, where Congress had won only two months ago (by 16000 votes), took most political commentators by surprise. The theme of “People taking on the Palace” worked like a charm for a sinking BJP.

In light of this, my father has called for “introspection at all levels of the party.”

“If only Devwrat (the Lok Sabha member from Rajnandgaon) had listened to my advise,” a senior Congress leader told a journalist at Delhi, “and given the (Khairagarh assembly) ticket to an OBC candidate.”

Other ‘explanations’ too have been doing the rounds. One: Ajit Jogi didn’t really want Devwrat’s wife to win since this would have made him very powerful in Delhi. [Incidentally, victory has nothing to do with power, atleast not in the GOP.] Two: the Lodhis, numbering over 30000, voted en block for the BJP candidate who was from their community. Three: unlike the previous two times, the BJP’s campaign was not high-profile but grassroot. Four: the state government had ‘managed’ the Naxalites through a local liquor baron and a Congress Mandi adhyaksha, resulting in their victory from Salhebara, the Naxalite/tribal belt of the constituency. Five: this election was a matter of life and death for the CM. Six: the people were disappointed with Devwrat’s ‘princely’ style of functioning and lack of availability as an MP.

Perhaps, there is some substance to all of this. I, however, will restrict my observation to Explanation No. 1 (above). Certain points need to be noted. Unlike Kota and Rajnandgaon, where Papa had been specifically mandated to take total charge of the campaigns, this time he wasn’t even consulted for either the Khairagarh or the Malkharoda tickets. Even if he would have been asked, I believe his position would have been this: the local MP should decide the Khairagarh candidate, especially because this constituency had been represented by his family since Independence; likewise, the state Congress president ought to decide who contests- and wins- from Malkharoda, which is part of his home district. Further, he decided he would not campaign in Malkharoda for the following reasons: one, the candidate didn’t ask him to; two, he had no clue who the candidate was; three, his health doesn’t permit him to undertake a hectic tour program; four, his son- I- was fighting the biggest battle of our lives, a battle of life and death; five, he didn’t want it to be said- as it most certainly would be- that he ‘sabotaged’ the Congress campaign in his rival’s home-turf. The only reason he went to Khairagarh for the last three days of the campaign, was because he was asked to do so by the candidate- and he needed a reason to be nearer to me. Even so, given my Case, his ‘heart wasn’t into it.’ I mean what father would put his heart into asking for votes when his son is on trial for a capital offense?

The question, therefore, is not whether Papa wanted ‘Devwrat’s wife’ to win Khairagarh- but whether, under the circumstances cited above, he was in a position- political, physical and mental- to really make a difference?

For me, the two most worrying outcomes of these two bye-elections are as follows. First: this state government’s continuing ability to influence voting in the Naxalite belt (as seen in Salhebara). More than anything else, this factor had contributed to the ouster of the previous Congress government from the state. Secondly, the polling of the Satnami community (in Malkharoda) in BJP’s favor, as opposed to the BSP.

The need of the hour, therefore, is to reorient the Congress party’s priorities to ensure that: (a) we win in the Naxalite-dominated areas (which contains over 30 mostly tribal constituencies); and (b) the Satnamis don’t leave the Congress fold (as they did in Malkharoda).

Only a decisive change of leadership at the state level will, in my opinion, salvage the sinking morale of the Congress workers.

Fortune, afterall, cannot be allowed to smile perpetually on one man, especially one hell-bent on turning Chhattisgarh into a perpetual war-zone.

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Friday, June 08, 2007


Note: This post has been published by Blogbharti, which features "voices from the Indian blogosphere". The rider, however, continues: no part of this text may be published or reproduced, wholly or in part, without prior consent of the author.


AT LONG LAST: DINNER AT HOME, 31.05.07 (Courtesy: Amit Tiwari)

This is my last entry as an Undertrial: in the twilight hours of the last day of May 2007, a trial judge at Raipur acquitted me of the charge of conspiracy to commit murder; the more than four year long ‘winter of discontent’, which was heralded by the ouster of my father’s government in early December 2003 and rapidly followed by a series of even more unfortunate events- Papa’s suspension from the party, a near-fatal accident that has left him confined to a wheelchair, the Medusa-like multi-headed Inquisition presided over by the Central Bureau of Investigation, my arrest and trial, to mention a few- came to a bitter-sweet end; and I was suddenly, magically Free. The feeling, even after the passage of ten days, is yet to sink in.

During this period, I had come to think of myself as- and also, think like- the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s novel Der Prozess (The Trial), Josef K.: like him, I too hadn’t the faintest idea of the crime I was being tried for; not only had I not previously known of the existence of the gentleman I was charged with ‘conspiring to murder’, but the presumption implicit in this charge, that I would risk my life- more importantly, my Family’s hard-earned Goodwill- to kill a political nobody in such a reckless & foolhardy manner, not only projected me as a morally-depraved monster but also, more than anything else, insulted my intelligence. Unlike the perpetually doomed K., however, I didn’t end up at the guillotine, murmuring to myself, “Like a Dog.”

Life, it seems, has something else in mind for me. What precisely, I cannot say. It will be some time yet before I can fully embrace my new-found Freedom.

Before I part, I reproduce here excerpts from the last days of my Jail Diary.




May 28, 2007


The Heat makes it impossible for me to leave the relatively-temperate sanctuary of my cell. At times, I feel like I’ve always belonged here: (with due respect to the psychedelic band, Pink Floyd) another brick in these endlessly whitewashed walls. Yet: by what dark & artful sorcery, my existence came to be organic to- indistinguishable from- this panoptic space, I cannot say. Was it Fate; or a force much more sinister, more deceptive?

Looking back on events- blessed as I am now with an anachronistic & altogether futile benefit of hindsight- I can pinpoint the precise moment when things began to change, and life went into ‘the soap-operatic mode’. It happened seven years ago, at the fin-de-siecle. Not too long after the publication of Ms. Arundhati Roy’s solitary literary masterpiece, our lives were enchanted- duped?- into imitating her art: ‘the arrival of Sophie Mol,’ which dominoed into a series of cathartic events that constitute the plot of her novel, mirrored the suicide of Anu, my only sibling. However, unlike Ms. Roy, I can offer no explanation- no image, no metaphor, no psychoanalysis- for what she did. For apart from her magical (albeit increasingly incomprehensible) poems (perhaps, in the end, she was compelled to invent a language of her own, realizing the insurmountable ‘structural constraints’ of the existing ones to describe what she felt?)- spirally-bound into a collection cryptically titled ‘Aitia’- she has left behind little else.

Prior to Anu’s sudden & inexplicable death, I envied people with ‘the interesting lives’. In those truly wonderful Days of Innocence, I hadn’t quite realized the full import of an ancient Chinese euphemism: in the carefully ordered Confucian-ethic, “may you live in interesting times” was the worst way of slighting one’s enemy without sounding rude. Not so anymore: this life, I wouldn’t wish for my bitterest nemesis. O, what wouldn’t I give for things to be boring, mundane and uneventful once again?

But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself? The judgment is still three days away (if somebody doesn’t throw a spanner in the interregnum, for instance getting a Stay from the High Court). There are, as I see it, only two possible outcomes: one, I am acquitted of all charges; or two, I get locked in for life. In the latter instance, there isn’t much one can do- except hope against hope that justice, though delayed, will not be ad infinitum denied. Quite frankly, I haven’t thought about what I would do in case of the first, more happier, outcome. Life without this Trial is something that will take getting used to…The past four years have been nothing else. To have looked beyond it, and imagined an alternative existence sans the Case- would be tantamount to blasphemy.


This afternoon, Mummy complained that I’ve always prioritized friends over family. [Typical of her to have cited this as Bai’s ‘observation’ as opposed to her own.] While this isn’t entirely correct, the fact is that I do tend to place an asymmetrical degree of trust in them. It is innate to my nature, part of who I am.

More than anything else, this Case has demonstrated that this tendency isn’t in my best interest: all the principal prosecution witnesses called to testify against me- Rohit, Reginald, Raj Singh, Siddharth- were after all ‘mon amis’. In the past one year of my half-freedoms- the twilight existence of a bailed-out undertrial- I remedied this the only way I could: replaced my former set of friends with a new, smaller and more mutable set; also, the level of intimacy reduced considerably.

Apart from him, the two strongest- most unshakeable- persons implicated in this case along with me are: Abhay Goyal and… Not once have I seen them worried, such has been their faith in me: their only concern has been for me, to the extent that they don’t seem to care what happens to them[…]


In any event, the state of the evidence, as it now stands, is that the prosecution has failed to prove that these boys were ever in Raipur, let alone at the site of the murder, at the time of the incident; the only ‘worthwhile’ testimony is against me, that of Reginald- ‘the unkindest cut.’ By God’s Grace- what else could it possibly be?- his testimony stands discredited by the passports of Rohit, Michael and Arjun- all of who were aboard a flight to London when they were alleged to have participated in a meeting at the hotel Green Park on the night of May 21st 2003, convened to plot this wretched murder. How this obvious yet undeniable fact could have escaped the attention of the nation’s premier ‘implicative’ agency, the C-B-I, is beyond me: it is nothing short of an Act of God; a Miracle.


Given all this, there is very little- indeed, nothing- on record for the judge to pass a sentence of conviction against any of us. Infact, the only worrying thing effecting the outcome is the perverse ‘trial by media’ this Case has been subjected to, in which I was proclaimed guilty even before the matter came to court. As Mr. Surendra Singh, my Counsel, says, “if only […] would rise one inch and see beyond the media-hype, then there’s no Case at all.” […]

Be that as it may, as any trial lawyer knows only too well, it takes very little to pass a sentence of conviction, always the ‘safer’ option for any trial judge, who prefers to leave the tricky business of acquittals to the appellate courts. The best that can be said of the way we have faced the Trial is this: we have made it extremely difficult for the trial judge to pass a sentence of conviction. To claim anything more at this juncture would be overtly optimistic, even naïve.


SNT: Surrogate

Two persons whose constancy I must acknowledge are: the meticulous SNT and the energetic Rahul Tyagi; in many ways, they’ve complemented each other, one’s careful circumspection tempering another’s daredevilry. In the six months from December 2005 to May 2006, when it was not possible for Papa and Mummy to be here, SNT played the role of a surrogate-parent, a proxy lawyer and an astute media manager, all rolled into one. In more ways than one, he held the act together. Rahul, meanwhile, was busy [being more than a lawyer, a friend]. I feel blessed to have persons such as them to be fighting my battles for me, more often than not, at the frontlines. Another achievement of sorts of my past year of half-freedoms, was to get these two opposite- and often opposing- poles to come together, atleast in the presentation of Abhay’s anniversary gift (!).

As far as the legal defense is concerned, I could not have hoped for a better, more qualified and dedicated ‘dream team’. Mr. Surendra Singh has gone way of his way to take full charge- and responsibility- of this Case, especially after Mr. SC Dutt’s indisposition (due to a predicament of the knee): there is no doubt in my mind that I’ve been his numero uno priority these past two years; and much more than a client, he has always treated me as family, ever ready to drop everything he’s doing to come to my rescue at the shortest notice. He is first person we- Papa and I- call whenever there is a crisis; and his word is final, even overriding Papa’s. The best possible acknowledgement of the manner in which Mr. Singh conducted the Trial came from his arch-rival, the temperamental but loving Mr. Dutt, when the latter told me that even he couldn’t have handled the case any better way. A talent like him belongs not in sleepy Jabalpur; but Delhi.

He has had superb assistance in the form of Mr. SK Farhan, who knows more about the Case than anyone else (including me). He is not only the finest litigator in town- possibly the state- but also, an elder brother to me. […]Mr. Hashim Khan [was] excellent when it came to cross-examining a particularly difficult prosecution witness [although we missed him when he went for forty-one days on Hajj. Ofcourse, last but not the least, notable mention must also be made of Pratul Shandilya, who has been thorough at maintaining records, supplying citations, and drafting- the perfect legal concierge, a man of all seasons. Indeed, there is very little that escapes him.

May 29, 2007

I am not as worried- anxious, tensed, nervous- as I had imagined myself to be in these circumstances. Infact, this morning, I was pleasantly surprised- indeed, gratified- to note that Dr. Vinayak Sen- a human rights activist, who is being unjustly incarcerated under the draconian ‘Chhattisgarh Public Safety Special Act’ for the sole crime of speaking against the state government’s slaughtering of innocent tribals on the pretext of ‘Salva Judum’- seemed far more concerned about my plight: in response to my incessant queries, he politely suggested that ‘it might be better to discuss things after the 31st.’

Contrary to expectation, SJ- the visible mask of my several unseen but powerful beté-noirs- hasn’t moved the High Court seeking a stay on the judgment; perhaps, he has access of ‘information’ I myself am not privy to, in which case there is every reason for me to be scared- Also, there’s a very distinct possibility that they might pull some trick of out of their hat at the very last instance- the formidable ‘element of surprise’- doing things when we least expect them to- like, when they got the Supreme Court to cancel my bail. But strangely enough, as I said earlier, I am not unduly worried. I just want the whole thing to be over and done with- pronto, double-quick. It’s the waiting that is killing me.

Why am I not worried?, I ask myself. The reason has nothing to do with ‘the things of this world’; instead, it is because during the past thirty days that I’ve been in jail, I’ve found the only thing that matters: GOD. I know that He loves me; and that this Love forms the basis of His Plan for my life. All other things really don’t matter so much. Moreover: what can I possibly gain by worrying? It is precisely in this respect that my present ‘state of mind’ differs from Mummy’s: she tends to be optimistic, always wishing for the best; I am more inert, realizing the absolute futility of worrying about things one can’t do anything about.

Ah, there’s a power cut; and I must prepare to battle the menagerie of my nocturnal cellmates: bedbugs, mosquitoes and the sly Cat, who has taken to attacking my dinner every time I turn sides. And speaking of turns, the Diary will have to wait its-

May 30, 2007

I don’t want to think about tomorrow. Raipur is full of rumors of all sorts.

Instead, my thoughts are on Papa. It’s almost as if I can feel his anxiety, infinitely more terrifying than mine. I’ve requested Pradeep (Choubey) Uncle to go to him to Khairagarh, where he is campaigning for the bye-election. Mummy too should be with him. Both will be more ‘useful’ there than here-

I have spent much of the day talking to people- convicts, the jail superintendent and my lawyer, Mr. Farhan- who can help me discern the modus operandi of judgment-proceedings. From what I gather, we are to be taken out of jail only after 2 p.m., and presented before the Judge at 2:30. The police-administration too has been instructed to take ‘extra’ precaution to ‘ensure public peace and law & order’; consequently, about 200 armed personnel will be deployed all over the court premises, about 100 shall constantly guard us (equally, to prevent us from the possibilities of harm- an assassin, maybe?- as well as fleeing), and close-circuit surveillance cameras would be fitted at all entry-exit points. In addition, all roads leading to the court are to be barricaded. This reminds me of the time- two years ago- when I was first arrested and produced before a magistrate’s court at Raipur. Mr. Farhan says that should the Judge ask me “do you have to say anything?”- well, that means that I am to be sentenced. Now, these are words I’m hoping- Praying- not to hear tomorrow, atleast not from the learned Judge.

Also, somewhere at the back of my head: I have been trying, subconsciously perhaps, to elicit information about the first-day in the life of a convict: the other possibility that I should be prepared for; but which I’d rather not worry too much about.

Another thing that worries me is ‘the trial by media’: already, on the eve of the judgment, certain sections of the press- no doubt, prompted by the state government’s DPR- have begun posing the question, “Will Justice be Done to the Deceased’s Son?” More than anything else, it is the Raipur-based media which only too willingly fuelled the course of my investigation; transformed it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. When Mr. VC Shukla- and his then-emotionally charged ‘puppet’, Satish- named Papa and me in that so-called second FIR, the media had already pronounced its verdict: guilty as charged. The only thing the CBI- and Mr. Kaul- were expected to do- indeed, did- was to ‘manufacture’ evidence to prove that charge. And by no stretch of imagination, has this manufactured-evidence, running into thousands of pages, stood the test of the Trial; more than any other agency, I maintain that God, my Savior, has seen to that. As Mr. Surendra Singh noted during his argument, “the One who Saves is above the one who Implicates.” Indeed, after this four-year harrowing experience, the CBI, for me, stands for the Central Bureau of Implication.


As far as Satish, the deceased’s son, is concerned, I ‘empathize’ with him: the loss of one’s progeny is irreparable, and had I been in his place, I wouldn’t have done things differently. But only if I genuinely believed in the complicity of those named as accused. For some reason, I doubt that this is the case with him. All the lies he has said in court just to drag Papa’s name into this; twisting words, conjuring events that never happened. [Not surprisingly, neither of his late father’s closest friends and business partners- Mr. Rajendra Tiwari and Mr. Gauri Shankar Shukla- have supported his lies; the only corroboration to his wholly-absurd testimony comes from a Dr. Anil Verma, who is Mr. VC Shukla’s principal lackey and son-in-law.]

At times, I felt like telling him: “look, your father, much as I sympathize with him, wasn’t worth killing!” I mean how many people had heard of him before his post-mortem, posthumous celebrity, of which he- Satish- has been the single biggest beneficiary. At a Delhi party given by Mr. Sangma in honor of a visiting Nepalese royal, he went around introducing himself to some parliamentarian-friends of mine as the guy whose father was ‘killed by Amit Jogi’. Needless to say, they found it in extremely poor taste. Infact, the moment I got bail from the High Court in May last year, he went scampering to Delhi pleading that he be given some kind of ‘a post’ to protect him from me (!)- consequently, he has become something in the NCP’s youth wing.

Even more intriguing is the fact that this persistent litigation against me has become his principal source of revenue: indeed, I have reliable information that a large part of his ‘legal costs’ are reimbursed in part by a Maharasthra sugar-baron, and in part by ‘the CM House’ at Raipur…I’ve no doubt that should the Trial court decide to acquit me, Mr. Jaggi, Jr., would be only too happy to file a revision before the High Court- a not-so-implicit threat that his Delhi-based lawyer, Mr. Siddharth Luthra, made to the trial judge week before last- for the twin reasons of (a) keeping himself relevant politically; and (b) keeping the funds coming. Neither would his ‘battle’ be confined to the courts. In every election that my family has contested- and won- he- and his mother- have personally put up posters appealing to the electorate no not vote ‘for my husband’s/father’s killer’. They did so in Mahasamund (April 2004), long before the CBI implicated me in its chargesheet; and again in Rajnandgaon (March 2007), where his party- the NCP- had decided to support the Congress candidate. Needless to say, we haven’t seen fit to respond to such frivolous allegations- frivolous not only in our eyes, but as successive results showed, also in the eyes of the people of this state- for the simple reason, that they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

In short, Satish Jaggi has happily allowed his shoulder to be used by our several enemies, both within and outside the Congress party, to take potshots at us; that he has proved remarkably successful in the past- especially at Delhi- has merely emboldened them to redouble their efforts in this direction. A source very close to him has informed me, on the condition of anonymity ofcourse, that the hon’ble chief minister of this state has promised him [a large fortune] to continue his efforts.

Given all this, am I expected to sit quiet?[…] No: I know for a fact that I have been prosecuted maliciously by the CBI for murdering a person whose name I hadn’t heard of before, a political nobody: it has coerced witnesses into recording false testimony; it has tried to bribe persons in court to turn approvers, a tape-recording of which conversation forms the basis of an ongoing complaint case; and it has deliberately withheld vital information from the court, especially those pertaining to Rohit’s passport entries, and thus metamorphosed from ‘prosecutors’ to ‘persecutors’, no different from Mr. Jaggi, Jr.. I also have a more than fair estimation of the ‘people in high places’ who let all this happen. I wanted to get this all out in the open in my Defense but was advised against it: in any trial, it is for the prosecution to prove its evidence; not for the Defense to disprove it. Now that that stage has come and gone, can I forget the agony that I- and my parents- have been subjected to; this below-the-belt politics of the worst kind?

Frankly, I don’t know what I would do; but one thing is for certain, I will no longer be a passive recipient of my enemy’s onslaughts. Yes, I will wait for God to show me the way. He is Merciful precisely because He expects us to be merciful to others: ‘love thy enemy’; ‘turn the other cheek’. If that is His Wish, then so be it.

Once again, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. In any case, a decision may only be taken only if I am acquitted- and that is something no one- except God and the Judge- can now know. I, on the other hand, will have to wait fourteen more hours-



Session Trial No. 329/2005, Sheet No. 226, Page No. 451, Para-462:

"As soon as Satish Jaggi came to know about murder of Shri Ramavtar Jaggi by bullet shot, he gave this information to State President NCP Shri Vidya Charan Shukla who reached Mekahara [hospital] immediately. He (Shri Shukla) got good opportunity to take revenge. Hence he reached thana Maudhapara with his supporters and started demonstrating with the intention of taking revenge on his opponent and got lodged a report against Ajit Jogi & Amit Jogi through Satish Jaggi."

(Translation from the Hindi, courtesy SNT)

My Convicted Co-accused

The passage of a fortnight has done little to numb the memory of my acquittal: life, it seems, would never be the same again, marred always by a constant realization of its alternative. Of 29, why was I singled out for this privilege?

It is my considered opinion that the legal evidence, as it exists, cries out for an across the board discharge; it proves nothing. My case, then, is distinguishable from my other co-accused in only this aspect: while the evidence against them is not proven; the evidence against me stands undeniably disproved. It is, as I see it, a matter of degrees, which ought not to make a qualitative difference; under no circumstances, can it account for this unfortunate, but in my belief, altogether remediable speciation. Here, I should like to put on record, my rebuttal to an editorialist, which pontificated that any extending of moral support to the other convicted co-accused (beyond which, there is precious little I can do anyway), is proof of my complicity; in other words, its author wishes, apparently for my own sake, that I join him in condemning them. I find his advise wholly absurd, if not outrightly silly.

As the law now stands, the admission of a criminal appeal against a judgment of a subordinate court is in itself a continuation of the trial; and while the sentence itself may not be prima facie suspended, it obliges every civilized human, assuming ofcourse that the pontiff-editor qualifies as one, to accord paramountcy to a presumption of innocence until all successive avenues of appellate justice have been duly and fully exhausted. Surely, for instance, he ought to be aware of the staggeringly high proportion of trial court convictions, which are set aside by higher courts of appeal; and till the time that happens- or doesn’t- the benefit of doubt must, under civilized norm, be extended to all co-accused even- and especially- if their punishments have already commenced: for what if, after a goodly span of seven years, an appellate court holds that they were in fact, innocent? Not that this would in any way irk our blessed editor’s conscience (in any case, an oxymoronic notion), for by then, I’m certain that he, like most of us, would’ve moved onto another, equally if not more sensational, story.

Like everybody else, I’ve seen the evidence; I’ve also come to understand the extenuating circumstances under which a lot of that evidence has been manufactured by my persecutors; in the past two years I’ve acquired, both as an undertrial as well as a student, a certain knowledge of the practical and theoretical dimensions of criminal law; as such, there is nothing in my mind- or for that matter, on record- that causes me to disbelieve the continued profession of innocence by my co-accused, allowing of course for all the above-mentioned possibilities that the Law of the Land affords them; and ultimately holding that, while justice may well be delayed, it will not, in the final analysis, be denied to anyone, however great or small.

On 21st July 2008, 25 of the 28 convicted-accused in the Jaggi Murder Case were granted bail; the High Court heard arguments on their bail-applications more than one year after they were convicted by the trial court, which is something of a record in itself. Not surprisingly, at least one Divisional Bench refused to hear the matter even though no case against me was brought before it.

A Second Post-script:
9th February 2010. The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India allowed the bail applications of Abhay Goel and Yahya Dhebar, two of the three remaining co-accused not yet enlarged on bail by the High Court, at 11 'o clock this morning. It is a most welcome decision- and a vindication of what has been stated herein above. During the time of their procrastinated incarceration, both have assumed the convoluted role of my bête noires- my self-ordained nemeses- their carceral minds holding me singularly responsible for their agonizing- and in my opinion, wholly unwarranted- almost three-year long imprisonment.

In the end, we're all- Abhay, Yahya and I- victims of the Forces of Circumstance. Time, I hope, shall make all things well. For my sake, I only wish them all the very best.
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CONTACT ME. मुझसे संपर्क करें

Amit Aishwarya Jogi
Anugrah, Civil Lines
Raipur- 492001
Chhattisgarh, INDIA
Telephone/ Fascimile: +91 771 4068703
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