Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

First Person Second Draft: Since 1984

1984 was the kind of year when newsrooms would feel a paucity of reporters and TV channels of OB vans. I can’t claim that I covered each of these history-changers.  Source: Shekhar Gupta 1984 was the kind of year when newsrooms would feel a paucity of reporters and TV channels of OB vans. I can’t claim that I covered each of these history-changers. Source: Shekhar Gupta
Written by Shekhar Gupta | Posted: June 5, 2014 1:56 am

on. But it was no use. This was a very angry policeman at 7.30 in the morning. I thought if we could still somehow buy a little time, simply get word across to somebody in the city that we were in this police station and alive, it would make his death sentence less untenable. Brahma was more idealistic, honest and courageous.

“Under which law are we being held?” he asked the cop with the permanent frown.

“Kanoon! Ai lo ji, eh puchhda kehdi dafa de andar phadia hai ehna nun (Law! He wants to know under which section have we caught them),” he said with a smirk and then turned to one of his minions, “Dassin bhai ehnun tun (Why don’t you tell him)?”

And before the minion could answer, he said, just shoot them and throw a couple of kilos of opium on their bodies, that will suffice, or maybe a pistol each, there are some kept only for this purpose. And then, in a turn straight out of a latter-day Vishal Bhardwaj/ Anurag Kashyap movie, the minion woke up in alarm.

“Opium is quite enough, SHO saab bahadur, why are we wasting pistols, we don’t have that many and we keep needing them again.”

It may sound funny now, but wasn’t so then. I don’t know about Brahma, but I was very, very scared. What this exchange had done, however, was lighten the atmosphere just a bit as all the cops joined in the derisive banter. Brahma, in fact, was still protesting, ignoring even his driver who tried to calm him. I continued to beg to be allowed to use the phone just once, to call “Mr Aulakh, who is expecting to see me in his office at this moment very urgently, Aulakh saab, the head of the Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) in Amritsar.” It was a complete bluff. M.P.S. Aulakh was indeed the IPS officer who headed the SIB there, he knew me well — we had even been neighbours briefly in Chandigarh — and I thought if it could impress the SHO into letting us make just that one call to him, it may save our lives. Name-dropping, pulling rank, are also legitimate reportorial tactics and after a while, it worked. Even the furious SHO did not want to override the possible wish of a senior IPS officer, particularly as everybody in the local police knew and respected him.

I called Aulakh’s home and his wife picked up. I told her an utter lie: that Aulakh must be waiting for us in his office for an urgent discussion but we were caught up in some disturbance, and now being looked after at police station division such-and-such. She understood the situation and was quick to call her husband. Five minutes later, the phone rang, the SIB office told the SHO we were needed by Mr Aulakh and that a Jeep was on its way to fetch us. That is where all the excitement ended, though I did get a gentle scolding from Aulakh continued…

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