… And they were declared as the National heroes everywhere.
After the 1965 Indo Pak war, which was the second conflict between the two countries over the state of Jammu and Kashmir; the already hostile relation between the two nations turned sourer. The Daily newspapers flooded themselves with coverage of political issues and Hindu Muslim bouts in the nation. Not just the army but the civilians were equally involved in this fight against Pakistan over a piece of land. More than the joy of independence, it was the war with Pakistan that was discussed and talked about in every house, over each meal, day and night. The army, politicians, civilians and home makers who were patriotically involved in any way, were seen as the national heroes. And so was Anil.
With each day, the situation in the valley was turning denser, terrifying and alarming.
Amidst this rising stiffness, laid Anil, in a 6 by 8 feet prison cell waiting for his final trial the next morning. He was accused of his wife’s murder. He remembered the last time he was at home, 3 years ago with his wife Laxmi. He remembered every corner of his two bedroom house built on top of a valley, where he spent initial years of his marriage, happily and contently. Anil remembered how Laxmi, who was a docile home maker, would submissively give into everything that he said or demanded. Even though Laxmi was an educated girl, surrendering selflessly to her man and letting him lead in day to day life was her idea of being a loving wife. She had philosophies that she never expressed and love that she never ceased to show.
Laxmi’s father in law was a shaheed who sacrificed his life fighting for India’s independence and the same emotion of patriotism cascaded in Anil’s blood. With the growing turbulence between India and Pakistan over his nation, his own state, Anil could not think of anything, but his watan. He soaked himself so much into the situation that his neglect for house, society and Laxmi could be prominently seen. The mornings were a witness to his exasperation, afternoons to his impatience and nights to his displeasure. He would often oscillate with his slow walks between the two ends of the courtyard, restless, in middle of this night. His grunts became louder and words became silent; as if he was planning something back of the mind – all the time. Something Big.
“Here… You have 30 minutes. It’s your final trial day” said an aggressive jailer to Anil, passing him a clean set of clothes from between the iron bars. Anil struggled to recollect when he dozed off the previous night, while reminiscing his last days at home, with Laxmi. He knew he had not done it, but there was hardly any evidence to prove him innocent. The case was passed between the local courts for a couple of years before it was sent to the High court. The prosecutor, who always used Anil’s dominance and Laxmi’s quietness as a weapon to prove him guilty had won the case in the lower courts. It was Anil’s brother Sushil who kept appealing in higher courts for justice for his brother. And today, it was the final hearing before Anil to be either free or sentenced to a lifetime imprisonment.
It was the summers of 1971, when there was news of another war between India and Pakistan. The valley already saw more of blood splashes, broken families and bombarded houses.
“Give me a chance today and I will die for my nation” said Anil to the jailer on his way to the court, handcuffed. He was still agitated with the current situation – fight over his motherland. His attention was soon taken away by a squad of hustling policemen on the street.
“There were some attacks in the city last night. Only God knows when will all this end” expressed the jailer.
Laxmi, who spoke very little during the last months of her life, once stated how the war will end the humanity if the humanity doesn’t end war. She always feared guns, fights and hostilities. For her, war was hell; war was a defeat to mankind; war was not an answer and war would never bring peace as the mourning the valley had witnessed will always be a battle for the families to combat daily. Anil embraced Laxmi’s words like a dew drop; calm and refreshing.
“Anil Durrani, prisoner number 231 be presented in front of the judge” announced the short, dark, stern looking man.
Anil took his place in the witness stand and looked at the judge for social salutation. His eyes met the magistrate, stayed there for a fraction of second and averted. His heart pounded faster than ever before and he was almost certain of losing his case today. He started envisioning the rest of his life, imprisoned and felt more restive to think about a wasted lifespan over a crime that he had not committed.
“You may proceed” ordered the judge in his dense voice.
The defense lawyer reiterated the whole case again. How Anil was innocent. How Laxmi’s death was an ill fate. The rifle that Anil had procured was for his family’s security in lieu of rising terrorism in the valley. How, that afternoon, when Laxmi expressed her concern over the weapon for the first time, they broke into an argument and in an attempt to snatch the rifle from Anil’s hand, Laxmi got it triggered, right in her stomach and lay on the ground, dead; immediately.
Laxmi’s family and neighbors could not believe this story as there were reports of frequent fights between the two of them. Anil’s strange behavior was a witness to many suspicious eyes all around.
“He is a murderer” moaned Laxmi’s mother when the police took Anil away three years ago. And ever since then, neither did he return to his home nor did the tension in the valley improve.
The prosecutor emphasized on the fact that Anil hardly spoke to Laxmi, was aggressive, dominant and was losing self-control during those days and one day, in a rage, he committed the evitable. The neighbors spoke against him too.
There was a moment of brief silence in the court. There they were – the two weary eyes that looked at the judge and Anil from a distance; the eyes of a miserable mother, demanding justice for her daughter. The judge flipped across the papers, carefully examined the evidences presented by the defense lawyer and the prosecutor, took a deep breath and with painful heavy voice declared
“Upon reading and listening to all facts and evidences, the court finds Anil Durrani innocent in this case and orders him to surrender his rifle to the police immediately. The court is adjourned”.
Anil, who was almost sure to be punished, was startled in surprise. He had tears in his eyes. He tried to look at the judge, who had already left his seat by then.
“She really loved you”, said the voice of a father as Anil and Sushil were heading back home from the court.
“Yes, I am aware of that. She was a wonderful wife and an obedient daughter and all I have left to say is ‘sorry’ for your loss; for my loss; for our loss” responded Anil with regretful eyes and tone.
“You should’ve never spared him, he killed our only daughter.. How could you?” said Laxmi’s mother to her husband.
“Punishing him for a crime not done would have never brought our daughter back. It was a mere accident. Sentencing Anil would have meant sentencing Laxmi for a lifetime imprisonment” said a father, while comforting his wife in his arms, handing over his black coat that brought pride to his shoulders some minutes ago. Sometimes, revenge is not what you seek. They both turned around when a voice from behind stopped them
“Judge saab. You have lost your daughter but your son is still alive” said Anil with an assurance.
While the valley still grieves over several broken families, incomplete love stories and unfulfilled promises, Anil, the patriot, joined Indian Army as a jawan and laid his life fighting a terror attack in 1989. It was his penance to Laxmi’s death. His dead body, wrapped in the tricolor, was a gift to Laxmi’s mother who could never come in amiable terms with him… And Anil’s sacrifice for the nation was a respect to the judge who did not maliciously punish him on charges of his daughter’s murder.
In the end, everything falls in place and if it doesn’t, it’s not the end.