September 26, 2015
"Time is up," they said.
All ran to the church hall. I could not run. I had to limp to reach there. Many people were gathered in the hall where the television was switched on. All looked curious while they waited for the report to be presented.
In a few minutes amid the murmurs from people, the Judge started presenting the Commission report on the television. People stopped talking to watch it with anxiety.
I felt that all the spectators pretended as if they understood everything. I did not understand a single sentence properly.
During the presentation, claps could be heard at times. There was silence sometimes. Sometimes the silence turned into desperation and anger. Moods changed depending on the words they heard.
It was like a cricket match. I had watched cricket matches with my friends in the past. I enjoyed cricket matches when India played. When India overpowered other teams, I used to clap, enjoy and rejoice. When India lost, I would cry like a child.
In cricket there are wickets, balls, bats and umpires. I understand everything. Here only suited booted people, books, papers, mikes, white clad politicians and so much of seriousness. It’s very difficult to understand anything.
"The report has not come as we expected" our lawyer said with disgust when the presentation of the report ended.
"Why should it come the way you expected?" I shouted. "You only get your fees as expected. The judge also gets money to write the report. The report comes as the judge wants."
"Do not talk too much. It’s beyond your knowledge. It’s easy to throw stones. But we have to fight and defend you people. It’s a tough job," The lawyer responded with anger.
"Please do not show emotions. Please do not." The Chief Priest intervened. He had no other words.
What are emotions? Who was hurt? Were these people hurt? What should we show other than emotions? My knees?
"You do not know how much my knees pain," I shouted again.
"If we had not come to your rescue, you would not be here to complain about those knees. You would have come dead." The lawyer’s voice was louder this time. "Always keep in mind that not a single life was lost. No deaths."
"You also talk like the home minister. If nobody died, does it mean that nothing happened?"
Some youths supported me. Even some elderly people did. Some of them did not. Two groups were formed. It has been always like that in our parish. You talk sense or nonsense, one of the two groups supports you.
A few of them tried to console me.
We the 'Ten Youngsters' were sitting together. None of them talked except me. But we were united in spirit. Some kind of bonding and attachment was developed between us in the past two-and-a-half years.
Later, some big people gave speeches which we did not understand. Some snacks and tea were served. Someone thanked the crowd. People started dispersing. I had to be the last to leave anyway as I had to limp.
The Chief Priest walked closer to me while the lawyer followed him.
"Do not worry. We are with you," The Chief Priest said.
"Absolutely, you are with us. You give us everything needed for our souls. Communion, confession, sermon, announcement, courage, faith, and ‘It is God’s wish’ sort of words" - I only thought but could not express.
"Change your language young man," The lawyer said. "We lost sleep for months. You have least concern for us."
"If I change my language, will the report change? Will the pain in my knees disappear? You say I do not have concern for you. Do you have concern for me? Are your knees aching?" I retorted.
The lawyer and the Chief Priest just walked away talking something in English, the language I did not understand.
About two-and-a-half years back after our churches in the city were attacked, we had gathered at our church compound. We protested because we were hurt. Crosses in a few of our churches were destroyed by the people who did not belong to our religion.
Suddenly during the peaceful demonstration, some people from our side threw stones at the policemen. We still do not know who did it. Nobody admitted it in the open.
"I was the one who threw the first stone," Many people claimed privately. They would not say this in front of the Chief Priest, lawyers, media or the policemen.
The police were very much disturbed. They could not digest the fact that they were stoned when they were known for stoning others. We were told that for the first time in the city, policemen were challenged.
The policemen became restless as more and more people started gathering. They could not control the crowd even. They had to resort to lathicharge. There was chaos.
The news appeared in the television. The whole world came to know about this. We heard that the same thing happened in other nearby churches also.
In the evening, some arguments took place between the Chief Priest and a top police officer. We were witnessing the conversation.
"Give us ten people who threw stones." said the police officer. "We have received orders from our superiors."
"I do not know who threw stones," The Chief Priest said. "So is the number of people ten, who threw stones?"
"It does not matter how many people threw stones. As per the order we have to get ten people from your church."
"I did not tell anyone to throw stones. Nor did I see anyone doing so. I am a peace loving person, a follower of Jesus Christ."
"I do not say you told them or saw them doing it. If at all we had information that you instigated it, we would have arrested you. But keep in mind that we can still arrest you even if you are innocent, because you are the chief here. No time for arguments. Please give us ten people."
The Chief Priest went around in the crowd and asked as many people as possible. Nobody admitted. A thought came to my mind that the Chief Priest would be arrested. I became nervous. The same type of nervousness and fear must have affected many. It’s not that I like the Priest very much. I had felt sometimes that he likes richer people, not the poor like me. But he is a priest after all, a representative of God.
The Chief Priest had a small discussion with his assistant, some members of the parish council and the administrator. Later the administrator came and talked to us. Then the administrator talked to the Chief Priest.
There was a discussion again among the big people.
"Please come forward," The Chief Priest addressed the crowd in a louder voice. "Not necessary that the people who threw the stones have to come forward. Any ten people will do. We will see that nothing happens to you." I felt there was some pain in that voice.
I was the first to go forward. Some people followed me. Ten were chosen. I felt twelve people should have been chosen because apostles were twelve. Anyway, policemen did not know about the number of apostles. They wanted only ten.
We were taken to a jail in Coorg, hundred kilometers away from Mangalore. We were told a reputed person from our community had arranged food for us. I could not eat that food due to what happened there later.
We were not allowed to rest. As soon as we reached, the Inspector in that jail came and asked us "Who is your leader?"
None volunteered to go forward. I did not want others to face problems. After all I was the leader, as I demonstrated at the church.
"It’s me," I said.
"Come and stand here." The Inspector pointed his fingers towards a place in front of him.
The inspector made sure that I stood at that place and went out. We waited anxiously.
After sometime the Inspector came back with a stone in hand.
"You bastard, you hit the police with stones?" the Inspector shouted. "How dare are you? I will show you who the policemen are." He held the stone tight in his hand and hit it again and again on my knees. He even rubbed it few times. Blood started pouring out from the knees.
I cannot just explain what I went through. I fell down with pain. I cried like a child.
Blood flowed on the floor. The policemen carried me inside a cell and threw me away as if I was an animal. My friends wept. I could see their pain. But my pain was greater.
Some days later, we were let out after attending the court with a warning that the cases were not withdrawn and we would have to attend the court again.
I wanted to run home. But the situation had changed. I had to limp to walk to reach my sweet home. Did I ever limp in my life to reach anywhere? It was more painful emotionally than physically.
My father, mother and wife cried. What else could they do? They were ordinary people like me. We were from the cursed tribe called ‘Poor’.
Some friends and relatives came to see me. Many people promised me that they would help me to go to a hospital and get operated. But nobody kept the word.
I was a painter by profession. I could not work the way I did before. I could not hold the brush properly in hand even though my hands were intact, unlike my legs. My mind was disturbed. Old memories haunted. Hence this problem, I was told.
I was not the same person. I was depressed. I had become a lame person. I had to limp to go anywhere. Yes, it is a different matter that I got accustomed to it. But to become handicapped for no fault of mine was a worse trauma than the real trauma itself. And all this just because I could not afford to go to hospital and bear so much of expenses.
A year passed from the tragic incident. On the day of the anniversary of the church attack incident, a function was held at the church after mass and adoration of the Holy Sacrament. The congregation was big. The administrator, secretary and the Chief Priest delivered speeches. But they never mentioned our names. I felt like crying.
After the function was over, we the ‘Ten Youngsters’ assembled together and drank till we finished the money in our pockets. Those were the pockets of the poor. I got more courage after I got drunk. But while getting up from the bar to walk back home, I realised that I was a lame person. I limped to reach home.
Days passed. The situation did not change. Once I met a prominent person from my church near my house. He got down from his big car to talk to me.
"Young man," The prominent person put his right hand on my shoulder and said, "You should have known that there are two groups in our church before admitting that you threw the stones. Why did you admit when you did not throw stones at all? Look now, your knees are broken. If I was the administrator, I would have helped in your operation. I will become the administrator in the next election and help you. Please support me. You have votes."
The prominent person was trying his best to project himself as honest and polite. But I did not take it like that.
"You just wait here. I will be back." I said and limped to a nearby bush. I came back with a stone in hand. Before he could say or realise anything, I hit that stone into his knees the way the Inspector did to me. I held him tightly by my other hand. He cried with pain and collapsed. Then I rubbed the stone on his knees. I did not know what prompted me to do so. Only God knows how I overpowered a person who was stronger than me. He simply stretched his hands for help without opening his mouth.
One of the prominent man’s henchmen came to me later and requested, "Please do not tell anybody that you did this to him. We have told everybody that he slipped from the stairs."
I did not say anything.
I learned later that the prominent man was admitted to a good hospital. Nobody came to know that I hit him as I did not talk to anybody about it. After some days, renowned orthopedic surgeons of the town operated on his knees. He came back as a normal person.
Some people started accusing me of behaving like a mad person.
Though I could paint like before, I could not climb the higher places to paint. I could only do ordinary jobs like a helper. Rarely did I get work. As a result, my income came down.
Nobody helped me.
The prominent man whom I had hit with the stone became the administrator. But he was of no use to anybody. Forget about caring about my knees, he did not even care to repair the church fence. He was busy in his own business. Everything was for power. He never got down from his car to talk to me.
And we did not even get justice from the commission. What is justice after all? Would it be called justice if the people who destroyed the crosses in the churches were found guilty? Then what about those who threw stones at the policemen? Can the commission appointed by the government in power pinpoint mistakes in the government still in power? And even if we got ‘justice’ would my knees heal? Could I walk straight like before if ‘justice’ was delivered? Justice is just a word.
If at all the commission wanted to punish the people from the other religion who destroyed the cross, it would have punished the people from my religion also who threw stones. The way the policemen took the innocents like me from our side, they might have booked innocents from that side also.
But the person who claimed the responsibility for the attacks was not punished at all. His knees were not broken. They instead glorified him. This is political power. They could only destroy the futures of simple and ordinary people like me because we do not have any relatives in politics.
I used go out empty handed before. Now I take a bag with me. Some ask me what is there inside the bag. I do not tell them. There is a stone inside the bag. I want to hit the stone into the knees of politicians, that Inspector, the hypocrites of our society, the judge of that commission. And when I hit them I want to ask them a question, "Why do you lie? Do you not have God? Is God only for the poor people?"
Once a friend of mine asked me, "Why are you acting like mad these days? I heard that you are carrying a stone in the bag. Do not behave like that. Be sensible. Do not hit each and everybody on the road."
I told him, "My brother. Yes, I look like mad. I act like mad. But I am not mad yet. I will not hit the innocents who do not commit sins. I swear by God. I am telling you the truth."
I know I am not lying. I lied only once in life. I lied that I threw stones when I did not. Perhaps that’s why I still bear the pain in my knees.
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