SANJAY was worried about the recent incidents of theft and burglary in the village. He was one of the most vigilant and scarifying persons in this small village where all people knew everybody very well. They were living very happily without much trouble but suddenly problems started popping up with the incidents of theft and burglary in a row within a week or so. Though there was not much monetary loss but few of the vigilant villagers like Sanjay, became cautious and they started investigation at their own.
One of the suspicious name came to their mind was that of Ashraf who was living in the village since more than four decades, having good rapport with most of the influential people in the village and around. Frequent visits and suspicious activities of some strangers/migrants from far off villages to Ashraf’s house was the main cause of the suspicion created in the mind of Sanjay. His neighbour Kishan Lal was equally worried about the welfare of the villagers. Both of them decided to guard their neighbourhood every night one by one.
It was a hot dark midnight, Sanjay was trying to keep himself awake as it was his turn today. He heard some strange noise coming from the far end of the street. He became cautious holding the stick tightly in his hand and his anticipation was quite true. He saw a small person coming towards him and then suddenly turning and trying to jump over the boundary wall of Kishan Lal’s house. He ran towards that direction shouting loudly “Thief – Thief “. Kishan Lal also came out of his house and the small person jumped back on the road and started running towards the other end of the street. Suddenly he tumbled upon a stone and fell down near the street lamp. Kishan Lal and Sanjay were approaching him with sticks in their hand. The small person stood up quickly but in all this huff and puff, the cloth covering his face fell down and they recognised him. Ashraf! their suspicion converted into a bare truth standing in front of them.
Suddenly, Ashraf pushed Kishan Lal aside and ran away. In the meanwhile many of the villagers came on the spot and started asking what happened? “No, it’s not true.” “It cannot happen.” “We can’t believe this” was the reaction of the villagers, when Sanjay and Kishan Lal narrated what they saw. “Ashraf, no-no, he is a man of repute, living with us since long.” “Never, he cannot do so.” “You must be confused, may be due to being sleepy.” Others argued. “Okay, tell us why shall he do so? He is a rich person having more than sufficient for his livelihood. You must think twice before accusing him of such a heinous crime.”
Kishan Lal and Sanjay tried their best to convince them but most of the villagers were not ready to listen to them except a few villagers who were concentrating on what they were telling. Ajit, Pummy and Nawal even argued back with the supporters of Ashraf as why they were supporting him blindly without listening to Kishan Lal and Sanjay completely. Sanjay and Kishan Lal were determined to prove the truth hence they decided to make all the villagers aware of what they saw. Early next morning they went to the house of Kedar Nath, the newly elected Sarpanch of the village and briefed him about what they came across last night. Kedar Nath became worried and consulted with Nanak, the ward panch of the area where the incident took place. They were under the influence of the reputation of Ashraf and more importantly because he had helped both of them with all kind of support during the recently concluded elections. However, they assured Sanjay and Kishan Lal that they will look into the matter and take stern action against the culprit, if found guilty.
Kedar Nath and Nanak went to Ashraf who was taking massage from his butler at his home. Ashraf invited them for tea and asked why they were looking so worried? They took him aside and told what Kishan Lal and Sanjay were saying about him. Ashraf laughed at them and asked with fun, “So what you guys are going to do now? Nabbing me and giving to police or what?” “No, No Sir; How can we? We can’t even think of that. But the problem is… How to shut their mouth? You know, it’s very difficult for us to… because we have to maintain the decorum of the village Panchayat. People look at us for justice and welfare of the village. We cannot dare to say you anything but still we have to show that we are doing the justice to the position we hold. Please understand our problem and suggest us what to do?” pleaded the Panch and Sarpanch.
“Nothing to do. Go and tell them whatever you like but my name should not come in any way, otherwise… You know what I mean.” Ashraf roared.
Kedar Nath and Nanak kept quiet for a pretty long time, hoping that the villagers will forget about it after some time. Some of their supporters like Vishal and Anuj gave some non-sense statements on their behalf whenever Kishan Lal and Sanjay tried to raise the issue in the village Chaupal, so that the issue could not take much momentum despite being a hot topic of discussion at the Chaupal. A few reminders to the Panch and Sarpanch also gone fruitless and it was now clear that they will not take any action in this matter. They even started telling to the villagers that the allegations of Kishan Lal and Sanjay are false, baseless and motivated by some political reasons and therefore, cannot be proved anywhere on legal ground. They ruled out any possibility of calling a meeting of the village Panchayat on such a silly matter.
Now it was clear that they have to fight for the justice at their own without much expectation from the villagers. However, they were confident that once the issue is raised in front of all the villagers in the Panchayat, good samaritans will definitely speak in their favour as the issue belonged to the welfare of entire village and not to them alone. Realising this, they kept pressurising the Panchayat through other influential villagers also. After some time the issue came to the knowledge of the media and thereby to the notice of the MP of the area. In the meantime, Sanjay and Kishan Lal sent a written complaint to the Panchayat describing the entire incident and demanding an immediate inquiry and action in the matter.
Now the Sarpanch and the Panch found themselves in a hot soup. The area MP also instructed them to call a meeting of the village Panchayat and resolve the matter as quickly as possible so that the opposition party does not take any political advantage out of it. Both of them went to Ashraf and requested him to allow them to call a village Panchayat meeting on this issue and also to make it convenient to be present in the meeting so that they can save their face as the people now started accusing them of being partial and protecting the culprit.
After some ‘ifs and buts’ a date was fixed for the meeting of the village Panchayat. They assured Ashraf of making every possible effort to bring him out of the mess without any harm. For which they started private meetings with the other members of the Panchayat and influential villagers giving them fabricated, misguiding informations so that they are convinced that the allegations of Sanjay and Kishan Lal were false and baseless.
Fearing this, Ashraf also started calling the Panchayat Members and influential villagers at his residence for Lunch, Dinner and Tea parties so that they will come to his favour or atleast will not speak anything against him in the meeting.
Finally the day came. Almost entire village gathered at the Chaupal. Pannalal, Jumman, Sajid, Anis, Vishal and Anuj were sitting together and looked determined to favour Ashraf with their full support. Prakashji the most humble and respected villager was also present in the meeting. He was having good relations with Ashraf as well as Sanjay and Kishan Lal. Sanjay and Kishan Lal were confident and satisfied that their persistence has finally compelled Ashraf to come and sit in the meeting like an accused and now they were waiting for the justice to be done. They were sure that people like Ajit, Pummy, Nawal and Ranjan will speak in favour of the village’s welfare only and because the issue raised by them was in the best interest of the village and they were the eye witness for the same, they expected some action against the culprit.
Kedar Nath started the proceedings of the Panchayat and asked Sanjay and Kishan Lal to describe what they wanted to say. They gave complete description of what happened that night. Now it was Ashraf’s turn to reply the allegations made against him by Kishan Lal and Sanjay. All eyes were on him eagerly waiting for his reply but to the surprise of all, Sarpanch rose to his feet and started replying on Ashraf’s behalf. He informed to the villagers that he has already made thorough investigation in the matter and has found nothing substantial in it.
“Ashrafji is a reputed person of our village and I am sure he cannot do such a bad thing. I am of the opinion that either there was no such incident on that night or if it was, he was some one else but definitely not Ashrafji. Even if it is true that Sanjay and Kishan Lal saw him that night, it is quite possible that Ashrafji was trying to save himself from the street dogs and in the process he jumped over the boundary wall of Kishan Lal. Charges of attempting any theft cannot be proved against him just because he was seen jumping over the wall. Can we say that just because someone saw him standing on his neighbour’s boundary wall, he is guilty of any crime?” Sarpanch replied.
“Finally I conclude that Ashrafji is not guilty of the charges framed against him. He is exonerated by the village Panchayat and on the other hand Sanjay and Kishan Lal are found guilty on two counts; firstly for disturbing the peace of the village by creating a nuisance in the night when all were asleep and secondly, for causing disgrace to the reputation of Ashrafji. Village Panchayat will report this matter to the police with their recommendation to give them appropriate punishment for the same.”
That was the moment when Prakashji played his well deserved and expected role. He advised to the sarpanch to review his decision or else the village will be divided into two parts for which the sarpanch only will be responsible. Finally the panchayat decided not to take any action against anybody including Ashraf and it was dispersed in a rather lesser tense atmosphere.
The ruling party is playing the same politics in our country by branding the patriotic people as “Hindu Terrorists” just to appease the Muslim vote-bank.
One should never give up the hope just because there is nobody to his side. If he is fighting for truth and justice, he will definitely succeed. Taking some action is better than thinking a lot and doing nothing.