Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Radhakrishan's Trial



This window of a memory is held by four hinges.

Hinge 1: Victim

In accordance with the law of those time, the death sentence was announced to Radhakrishan in a whisper. Somewhere between January and February 1990, one morning, Radhakrishan was picked up from his home and taken to the ghat, the river bank, for a quick trial. It wasn't long before the entire neighbourhood heard about it. Maybe it was the wails of his wife and children. Foreboding a judgement, people shut themselves in.

Hinge 2: Judge, Jury and Executioner

The men who knocked on Radhakrishan's home and dragged him to the river bank remain unknown, unidentified.

Hinge 3: Litigator

Mohd. Yusuf had bought a state of the art VCR from his trip to Dubai. Around this he built a small business. He started a Video and TV rental service. Given the love of Kashmiris for moving images, it wasn't long before his venture became a success. Soon he started a TV repair counter too. A technician came all the way from Punjab to work the counter in summers. The video shop of Mohd. Yusuf was right next to our house. The cassette for the first ever English movie I ever saw came from his shop. The film was a 'B-grade Sci-Fi Action-Opera meets Cowboys-on-bikes' flick called Megaforce. The only reason this film probably reached that corner of the world was because it starred Persis Khambatta. But what stuck with me was the starkness of its deserts and the crassness of the people who inhabited it. I liked it. From this shop came the cassettes for Dracula, the 1977 TV series version produced by BBC keeping the original written work in mind. It's ending gave me my first nightmare. Guns and horses.

Hinge 4: Witness

All trivial details in which the true meaning is lost. All junk and pulp. These useless but strong hinges that support meaningless memories. Until a few years ago, that's all I knew about Mohd. Yusuf - the video seller. And I hadn't even heard about Radhakrishan's trial. I heard the story over a phone, thousands of miles away from the scene of crime.

Towards the end of 2012,  one afternoon, my niece came home with a school friend of hers. A girl just her age. Both of them were born in 1996 in Jammu, safe and far removed from the event of 1990. My grandmother got talking to the girl. The usual questions. She asked the girl about her family. Where she lived? The girls lived nearby. Where was her family based in Kashmir, originally? Chattabal. From the further answers she got, my grandmother realized that this girl was grand-daughter of her friend Nirmala who used to live near our place in Kashmir.

In 1990 Nirmala's husband Radhakrishan was picked up by those unknown men. He was taken to the ghat near Bharav Temple. His throat slit. It was Mohd. Yusuf who ran to the ghat, reaching it just in time. Radhakrishan was still alive. They were playing with him. Mohd. Yusuf pleaded with those blighted men. He vouched for the innocence of the man who lay on ground slithering in pain. Radhakrishan was saved that day by Mohd. Yusuf. A judgement averted.

Unhinged:

In a farce trial, a simple mind only asks,  'But what was the crime?' There's a jury and executioners, a litigator and a witness, an accused, an innocent and a hero. Surely, there must be a crime. The structure and constructs only allows us questions.

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