Judge Gaikwad stood to his feet. He may have been grey haired, but he was an imposing tall warrior who knew the tricks of the law. He looked over the men seated around the table. “Am I wrong in what I’ve said gentlemen?”
“You’re absolutely right Judge and we’re upset at this unnecessary intrusion. We were shocked to see that DVD you managed to salvage investigating criminal elements and need to take action to protect these children. Perhaps if the officers withdrew their men and left we may consider they’ve made a grave error of judgment in their attempt to deal with this evil and be charitable to them.
Bhaskar was still recovering after discovering his daughter here unexpectedly. He turned to the policeman next to him making notes. “Have you recorded the names of everyone in this room?”
“Contact the Commissioner personally and tell him we need a bus to transport these men to headquarters. Much bigger than I anticipated so we need to do this by the book. Can you see what progress has been made in searching this bungalow thoroughly.”
“You have no right to be searching my bungalow without a warrant, or for this intrusion into our legitimate public interest meeting of pillars of the community. If you have a warrant show me!”
Bhaskar motioned to the police holding the warrant and he held it up for the judge to read.
“No judge would sign that against their own. It’s a forgery! You’re playing a dangerous game Bhaskar.”
The judge had spent a lot of money entertaining and doing favours for his fellow officers of the court and felt none of them would do such a thing to him. While these favours were grudgingly accepted it only raised suspicions among his peers. There’d been some rumours but nothing of substance, so they were every watchful. The one signing had done so to clear doubts in his own mind. It was his job to be impartial and inquiring in the interests of society. He’d taken an oath to do that on his appointment.
Bhaskar now addressed his relative. “Oh, we are professional Judge. The evidence against this room is not circumstantial as you’ll argue in court, but we have our facts lined up from raids already carried out across the city, and they were very thorough. Your name keeps coming up in those searches Judge. Now we are interrogating your servants. They seem quite young which is very unusual to have all of them so young. Interesting to see what comes out of those interrogations won’t it?”
Bhaskar turned to the men sitting uneasy around the table. They could see their bluff wasn’t working. “I have no respect for any of you. We are doing thorough investigating and rounding up children whose names appear on lists we have. When we have you all over at headquarters we’ll have these children identify you in front of witnesses. If you’re innocent as you claim then I can see long drawn out court cases with a lot of media publicity. You’re very important people as far as the community is concerned so this will be unfortunate and an embarrassment for your families. Now it could be that a few of you will act as witnesses for the prosecution and something may be possible to reduce the severity of the eventual judgment. I’m not urging only suggesting and we can work that out at headquarters.”
Two men stood. “We have to confess we are undercover police who infiltrated this organization. We have our police credentials on us if you care to check. So, we would be witnesses for the prosecution.”
Bhaskar smiled grimly. “I know who you are and have your names already not as infiltrators for the police but rogue police who are participating in the activities of this evil group.” You will face the full force of the law as you’re supposed to be protecting the public not exploiting.”
Bhaskar waved toward the door. “Out to the entrance you will be under guard and will enter the bus outside and be taken to headquarters. Anyone attempting to run will be shot.”
The group filed out and noticed the whole house being turned upside down. Computers and documents had been removed and were being shifted to waiting police vans.
The Judge protested loudly still trying to bluff his way out of the situation. Bhaskar motioned to him to be silent. “You’re a disgrace to the family name judge. I don’t know yet what you’ve done to my daughter but if she’s been in any way harmed then when you’re eventually out of jail I’ll be looking for you.”
Back at headquarters Bhaskar left the mopping up to others. The Commissioner had borrowed him back from the Chief Minister to manage this operation, but he was too sick in mind to want to follow through further and headed for the Commissioner to beg out.
Entering the Commissioner’s office, he spied his daughter sitting in a corner. He walked over wearily, and she shrank back expecting a severe beating. Instead he folded her in his arms, and both wept loudly. The Commissioner spoke.
“She’s innocent Bhaskar, it was a hideous plot to destabilize our investigations into this evil organization. Shalini’s school phoned to say one of the students had found teacher Rajkumar dead in his office and school administration checked then called the police. They found his suicide note on the table with a confession and names of people he knew were involved. Ramesh’s name was there with the registration number of his autorickshaw. An all points alert went out and it was reported the autorickshaw was parked outside the Judge’s bungalow, that along with other reports we’d received after raids across town gave us a strong indicator we needed to see what was going on in the judge’s bungalow and that’s when I contacted you and asked you to manage the team going in. Judge Hedke was happy to sign the warrant as he’s had some questions about the judge’s activities for a long time but lacked any evidence to support his suspicions.
Bhaskar sighed. “Requesting your permission to go home sir, I haven’t had much sleep. Would you please phone the Chief Minister and tell him I need some time away from work there are others who can continue to cover my job over there?
The Commissioner nodded. “You’ll have to write up an exhaustive report on what happened, but you can do it from home, and you’ll of course have to face courts for questioning when the prosecution establishes a case against all of those involved. Let’s hope we can get it all over soon. The government will have to decide what to do with all those children. It’s a mess! If there’s a problem I’ll have to bring you in for further information.”
“I don’t want to do this anymore!” Bhaskar picked up his daughter and carried her out of the building and waved to a police driver. “Take me home!” He said wearily.
There was a crowd around his front door when he arrived, and Poonam rushed out to meet him. “Thank goodness you found her, where have you been Shaloo we’ve been so worried about you and have been searching all over and contacting your friends. Very naughty of you to worry us so. Where was she?”
Bhaskar held up his hand to silence her and carried Shalini inside taking her directly to the nearest bed. He laid her down gently and stroked her hair, then he lay down beside her and immediately went to sleep. In the morning when he woke the girl was still clinging to him fast asleep. Poonam and Shalini’s siblings were standing at the door watching silently. Bhaskar gently unwound himself from his daughter’s grasp and held up his finger for silence then joined them whispering that she was not to be disturbed and never questioned about her disappearance.
When Shalini woke it was late in the morning. She got up mechanically. Scenes were swimming through her head that needed to be released. She ran in search of her father. He’d been her safety through the final stages of her ordeal. She found him sitting on the balcony in the sun reading a newspaper and ran to fall at his feet. “I’m sorry Daddy, I thought they were going to kill you and didn’t want that to happen.”
“You did nothing wrong Shaloo, I’m not angry with you. Try and forget what you saw. I’ll always protect you, but you must tell me if anyone threatens or tries to do anything to you because I’ll never blame you. You are safe with me.” He picked her up and placed her on his lap.
“You’re a bit old for this now as you’re growing up to be a woman but maybe just once more you can sit on my lap.” He patted her on her head.
Poonam watched and turned it all over in her mind. This unusual behaviour was troubling her and Bhaskar was not offering any information to calm her troubled mind. Finally, when she’d coaxed Shalini into having a meal she confronted her husband.
“I need to know what’s going on.”
Bhaskar sighed. “Never question the girl about her lateness in arriving home yesterday. She must process some traumatic things seen and experienced in connection with a police case and it will take time and patience as she works her way through those issues.
But months later when cases reached court and the enormity of evils inflicted reached public domain Poonam realized somehow her daughter had been involved. She was appalled! She threw a newspaper down in front of Bhaskar while the children were at school. “Is Shaloo involved in this?”
Bhaskar looked at her thoughtfully. “Fortunately, Shaloo did not suffer the same fate as those children Poonam. She did see it first-hand though and carries the scars of what she saw. A relative of ours will be our enemy forever over this and I’ll have to keep myself under strict control when he’s eventually released from prison. I’ve been mulling migrating to another country to get away from these memories but haven’t decided what to do yet.”
“But all our relatives are here!” Poonam wailed at the thought of disconnecting from the extended family she loved.
“I’ll probably stay but Poonam you need to be careful how you relate to Shalini now you know as she’s fragile. She only expresses emotion when she’s around me as she looks on me as her saviour and confidant. But she’d be ashamed if she thought you know the details even though she’s not done anything wrong. She was manipulated by clever people who wanted information about what would happen to them when the Chief Minister’s office made decisions and planned to use her to glean information from me. She’d been convinced that to disobey them would see our family members killed. In her young mind she was prepared to sacrifice herself to protect the family she loved.”
Poonam cried and nodded. “I hope those people rot in jail. What will happen to all those poor children mentioned in the newspaper?”
“The government has set up a rehabilitation centre where they’ll be housed and receive psychological support and supervised education hoping to eventually integrate them into society again. Most of them come from good homes, but their parents don’t want to accept responsibility for them now fearing the influence they’ll have on their siblings. They’re really messed up.”
“Maybe you’re too good a man to be in this kind of work Bhaskar?” Bhaskar shrugged and went back to reading news headlines while Poonam massaged his shoulders.
“Well if you provide this massage service every day maybe I should retire and just enjoy your skilful malish hands Poonam.
Both laughed and tension in the air evaporated with their laughter.
© Copyright 2019 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved
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