14th August 1947/07:00 HRS
“Kumudni, Kumudni…get up. I’m back! The hard-fought struggle has eventually borne fruit. We’re freed now. Come on, let’s celebrate!”
“Is it? Surya, I can’t believe it! How did you come out from the clutch of bastards Barrie! How did it happen? He’s a hard nut to crack!”
“No… no, Kumudni! All behind bars have been released. Open your eyes, I’m eagerly waiting for your embrace.”
Kumudni hurriedly got up with a jerk but didn’t find Surya. She swerved towards the right and left but to no avail. At some distance, she saw a sweeper. The rustling sound of his broom interrupted her pleasant dream. Disheartened, she looked towards the Jail. The clock tower displayed seven. There was still an hour left when visitors would be allowed to meet the officers.
The usual commotion around the central jail was peculiarly engulfed with a new sense of relief across the horizon. Situated at the heart of the city surrounded by lush greeneries, Muzaffarpur Central Jail had witnessed innumerable struggles, and valor of revolutionaries as well as the butchery of jurisprudence by the boorish officers. Since July, when the Independence Act got royal assent, people were eagerly waiting to surpass the 14th of August. Expecting a favor, people thronged the authorities to get the custody relaxed to witness the end of perpetual slavery.
Surya Narayan hailing from a remote hamlet near Darbhanga, was just twenty-five years old when he was put under bars on the charge of sedition, arms-loot, and murder. It was alleged that the compatriot of Surya had attempted to loot the arms on the eve of previous Holi during which one police officer lost his life and another had an eye injury.
Kumudni Ojhain, a law graduate, had been attending his case in court. She was merely twenty years old when her husband died in the crossfire with the Police. After a few months, Surya and Kumudni were also arrested under the charge of abetment but consequently released in absence of evidence. Yet, he didn’t succumb and continued the movements unabated against the administration. Later, Kumudni also joined the sleeper-cell of Batukeshwar Dutt, who was serving a life sentence during those days. She stepped in with her prowess in defense of Surya.
The proclamation was imminent, and so was liberty. Yet, Mr. Barrie’s way of bulldozing the undertrials was a cause of concern. He left no stone unturned to curb and brutally bulldoze the revolutionaries.
Kumudni was wary of his nefarious design to prolong custody. Even during the previous face-off with Mr. Barrie, she had decimated him with powerful arguments leading to strictures being passed against him by the Magistrate.
14th August 1947/08:00 HRS
Expecting favorable decisions under changed circumstances, Kumudni decided to file a plea before the Hon’ble Court. However, to avoid goof-ups in the courtroom, she approached Mr. Barrie and pleaded not to be oblivious to the cause of undertrials. But he refused.
14th August 1947/13:30 HRS
The court re-assembled post-lunch and the hearing resumed. Kumudni, on provided opportunity, filed a petition for his release before dusk to celebrate the ecstatic moment.
“M’lord, at the onset, I’d like to draw your kind attention to the heinous act of the accused. On the eventful night, he was not only involved in the cold-blooded murder of an officer but also the arms loot and lethal attack on pickets. If he’d not have been nabbed, he could have massacred all. Justification of loot and murder on the garb of activism should not be entertained at all. Hence, I’d beseech your lordship to not only reject bail but also consider capital punishment.”
“Objection! Your Honour. I strongly oppose the cynical arguments being made here. His loudmouth proposition is nothing but farcical!. It’s not beyond imagination why youths have resorted to movements. The case diary itself suggests that the accused was unarmed when caught. The investigation has even failed to trace the weapon used in crime. It proves that the charge sheet lacks substance and is prepared with malice. There’s no precedent of the accused getting convicted for murder without establishing ‘mens rea’ and ‘actus reus’? On the contrary, the deceased might have received a bullet in the indiscriminate police firing, and in the melee, another one would have got injured. The investigation needs to look through this aspect seriously. Since the prosecution couldn’t bring corroborative evidence, the culpability of the accused remains unestablished and therefore I’d urge your lordship to not only bestow Surya unconditional bail but also compensation. For this, I may be allowed to file a suit as well,” concluded the defense.
“M’lord, to establish doubtful integrity of the accused, I may kindly be allowed to either produce Mr. Barrie or his report,” riposted the baffled prosecution.
On being allowed, the prosecution submitted a report which had multiple references of the agitation against the jailer. Relying on it, the prosecution sought rejection of the bail petition.
“Your Honour, any movement to restore sovereignty is always a seditious act for the oppressor. I wish everybody had the same indomitable spirit as Surya, then Mother India would not have been left bleeding for centuries! In fact, the prosecution itself has inferred such ‘an act’ in its final arguments! I conclude my argument with a prayer that a patriot like him may be allowed to breathe fresh air in a free India by dropping all the charges leveled against him.”
The court reserved the verdict before signing off.
15th August 1947/10:30 HRS
The next morning, the court re-assembled so did the administrative set-up. Hardly the registry sat with the cause list when the direction came that all the prisoners be set free on parole.
The order was the icing on the cake for all. Surya came out of the prison and got a new lease of life with the mentor Kumudni by his side.
Glossary: The story, though, is fictional but has taken reference from the real story of the freedom struggle. The violent protests by the youths were much normal even after the Quit India movement. Through this story, I’ve just tried to highlight the sufferings of undertrials/prisoners during those days.
Event Sponsored by Kasturi Patra, Published Writer, A Mother’s Goodbye
Can a woman be a mother at the cost of being herself? Can circumstances force a child to be a mother? To know the answers, do read Kasturi Patra’s A Mother’s Goodbye, a poignant tale of a woman, her children, and a mother who said did not say good bye.
Photo Credit: Gading Ihsan from Unsplash