The stench of freshly laid cow dung cakes was having a visually noticeable effect on my cameraman’s expressions. For me it was nostalgic in a way. The thing with being a reporter is, you can’t procrastinate. Editors are always on your heels for the next big scoop. We broke the lazy silence of this village, courtesy to the sweltering Punjabi summer. After much inquiry we knocked on what was supposed to be Jarnail Singh’s house.
“Sat Sri Akal! Does Jarnail Singh reside here?” I tried to have an apologizing tone, looking at the apparent displeasure of the sleepy young lady who opened the door.
“Oh, Dadaji? Wait a minute.” She hastened back into the house, leaving the door half open.
After a while a man, who appeared to be her husband attended us. He had no idea what had happened and why we were looking for Jarnail Singh. We tried explaining as he told us about his family history. He was Jarnail Singh’s grandson. His father died few years ago, and his late uncle’s name was Satwant Singh. He escorted us to his grandfather’s room.
Jarnail Singh was 92 years old now. On the table to his right was a picture of his younger days. Presumably just after his marriage. Looking at his wrinkles after looking at that picture could make one understand the frailty of human life. His hands in state of constant shaking, barely managing to hold the rosary in his right. We were told that he didn’t speak or listen clearly anymore. We could try.
I took my microphone out, the cameraman switched on the lights and focused on the man seemingly on his deathbed.
“Your son Satwant was killed in a fake encounter in 1991, the court has given a life-term to 47 policemen today, how do you feel?” His eyeballs turned to us, but that was it.
I repeated the question loudly. I asked his grandson to try and explain what we wanted to ask. I wished it was like movies, he would shed a tear to signal his joy or pain. Not because I wanted to capture it for my newsbyte, I just wanted the man to feel a sense of justice. His senses failed him when it mattered.
More than his senses, we failed him. The justice that we as a society served, stale and fatuous. After 26 years, I knock on the door to congratulate a man that justice has been done. He’s there, but can’t feel a thing. He’s there, but justice was too late to his rescue. His ears must have waited for so long to hear that news but they gave up before it arrived. As I walked back and the whiff of cowdung stuck us again, I felt slight contentment that he couldn’t hear the insult we call justice, anymore.
Based on – 1991 Pilibhit Fake Encounter