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The blood that cries for justice

The police tried to confuse public opinion by harassing Bina Ramani, her husband and daughter, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2006 17:41 IST

Jessica’s blood cries for justice. Of the many cases of miscarriages of justice in recent years, letting her killer go free was the worst instance of the police, the public prosecutor and the trial judge conniving at what appeared to everyone a case of unprovoked murder that went unpunished because of bribes paid by the accused and his father to the witnesses. The police then tried to confuse public opinion by harassing Bina Ramani, her husband and daughter. First, by forbidding them from leaving the country without permission then insinuating they had tried to erase incriminating evidence and finally by accusing them of running her restaurant, Tamarind Court, where the murder had taken place, without proper licence. Had any of this any bearing on Jessica Lall’s murder? None whatsoever. Undaunted, Bina Ramani stood her ground: she is a Sindhi sardarni.

The investigation has been put back to track by Justice R.S. Sodhi and his co-judge of the Delhi High Court. Sodhi went out of the way to compliment Bina Ramani on her courageous stand. Then Sonia Gandhi had the main culprit Manu Sharma’s father, Venod Sharma, minister in the Haryana government, quit his post. He did so in a manner typical of Indian politicians. He pleaded loyalty to the Congress Party, innocence of any wrong doing, had himself garlanded by his cronies, acknowledging shouts of zindabad with palms joined in humility. The martyr’s role did not suit him. Sodhi and Sonia have revived hopes that justice may yet be done. Bless them!

Sharma first confessed to his crime to the police, then denied having done so. For good reason, confessions to the police are not admissible evidence. The law also provides that no one should be tried for the same offence more than once. But the outcome of the trial for the murder of Jessica has created so much public outrage that it has to be tried all over again. If Manu Sharma is a man, he should face the consequences of his action. He had not planned the murder nor was there any aforethought malice. He was evidently drunk and in the habit of carrying a loaded gun in his pocket.

I am sure he will feel better if he spends time in jail. His father can again hold his head high. Jessica’s soul will rest in peace.

So, what’s new?

I don’t mean the latest gadget or item of gossip, but new in the world of literature: fiction, memoirs, poetry, belles-letters etc. It is hard to keep up with the latest outpourings of novelists, poets, essayists and other varieties of pen-pushers. Penguin started on the ambitious project soon after it set up business. It launched a series, New Writing every other year. Others followed suit. So we had Granta, Civil Lines. And, perhaps, some others. All made good reading and gave readers the feeling they were keeping up with the latest.

Penguin (India) has recently come out with its second compilation First Proof: The Penguin Book of New Writing from India. One half is devoted to fiction (short stories) and poetry. The other half, after turning the book upside down to be read from the other end, to non-fiction: short essays, profiles etc. (One inevitably of a grandmother.) Another on the new fad of adding another ‘a’ to one’s name as done by Jayalalithaa and Shobhaa De, calf love among teenagers which ends in a spanking on the bottom for the school going Romeos. Any such compilation has to be team-work by a panel of well-read selectors. Penguin (India) has measured up to the task. The book makes very pleasant reading one piece before siesta, one before switching off for the night. I wish they had not resorted to gimmickry of reading half this way, half the other and gave the product a more selling cover.

I found it difficult to choose a poem to quote. The poets were new to me. I quote a poem by Satyajit Sarna, entitled, The Mourners:

Comforting the bereaved is like juggling with daggers,
For what joy of the sullen world could complete hearts
And what words would not seem ungentle
Falling like salt on wounds
Watering fresh ?
The mourners filtered in
At five to ten,
Filling the pews of the mountain church tactically,
Like freshly washed black insects in their dens of chalk.

The room was filled with the
unbearable weight,
Of silence,
Of empty dread.

Thick and unbearable,
I felt the discomfort of the alien prick me,
Excluded from lose and grief
But present at its exorcism.

There was no laughter and no singing at his funeral,
No conversation beyond murmurs,
Shame at the flesh and its flaws
And fury at the little time given us,
While outside the sunshine screamed indelicate
Through the pines.

Not like Urdu

Monu: Urdu is always read from right to left.
Sonu: Yes.
Monu: And English is always read from left to right.
Sonu: Not always. Sometimes it is read from right to left.
Monu: When?
Sonu: When you take your girl-friend out to an expensive restaurant and are somewhat short of cash. You then read the menu from right to left. First the price and then the dish.
(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, New Delhi)

First Published: Oct 21, 2006 01:29 IST