"O Arjuna, Happy are the upholders of justice who achieve a battle of this kind presented by its own accord and which is an wide open path to the heavenly planets."
-Shri Krishna in The Holy Gita.
I have engaged myself in such a battle now. The forces arrayed against me include a very wealthy person his supporters and two officers from the Tamil Nadu Police Department. On my side I have a senior Journalist, my brother and a few friends and of course The Almighty. :)
Let me give you an account of the series of events that have happened till now.
Some eight months back, the water supplied to the inmates of Saravanam Mansion in Choolaimedu started to emanate unbearable foul odour. I complained about this to Mr.Narayanan, the owner of this mansion. He said , "Only you are saying this. Every other person is okay with it. If you don't like it, please vacate the mansion." Vacating the mansion and searching for a new place involves a lot of other problems. So I postponed the idea for sometime. Then, when I discussed it with some of the other inmates, I found that all of them have complained to him about it and he had been giving the same answer to all of them. We decided to go in a group and talk to him about it.
Seeing us in a group, he immediately changed his stance. He said we were imagining things and the water was perfectly fine. We knew that there was only one particular pump that was sucking some undesirable content along with ground water. We requested him not to switch on that pump. He said, if that pump is not used regulalrly its lifetime will be affected. I asked him whether he will do something about it if we bring a report from a lab stating that the water was contaminated. He retorted, "Please do that, if that test you do is going to benefit hundred inmates of my mansion, I will be the first person to be happy."
I collected some water from the premises and gave it to the TWAD (TamilNadu Water and Drainage Board) for test. They certified it to be fecally contaminated. I was shocked and infuriated. In the TWAD board, the Junior Water Ananlyst, Mrs. Chandrika was very co-operative and she suggested that I contact Mr.T.Shanmugavelu from the Consumer Protection Cell. I showed the certificate to each and every inmate. All of us, around hundred members, went and met Mr.Narayanan in his office. Seeing the crowd he got vexed and said he would rectify it immediately. We also demanded a hand pump. He accepted to install one.
Once the crowd got dispersed, he went back to his own cool careless attitude and again did nothing about it. After a week or so, he put an old rotten hand pump.
My brother said we better look for some other place, "this doesn't seem to happen." I asked him, "What if we end up in another mansion with the same kind of problem? Should we keep running from one place to another giving up our rights."
My brother said, "If you want to fight this, I am with you. But you need to start your next short film. We need to take care of ourselves"
I said, "Then what's the point in calling ourselves as Krishna's devotees and Gandhi's admirers. Right in front of our eyes one man's careless attitude is spoiling the health of more than hundred youngsters. And we should just walk away, allowing him to earn more than two lakh per month without performing his duty. And allowing people, who may not be our kith and kin, to continue to bath in water mixed with fecal content."
My brother smiled, "Okay. What next?"
I got the signature of almost all the inmates of the mansion and attached it with a letter to the owner stating that if our requests are not met in fifteen days, we had no choice, other than going to the consumer court. I sent it to the owner's residential address in a registered post. He refused to receive it from the postman. It came back to me. The owner came to my room and asked me vacate the room. I refused.
I then approached the Consumer Protection Cell. There Mr.T.Shanmugavelu, received my complaint and promised that he would do something about it. He then forwarded my complaint to Mr.Rajaraman I.A.S., the Chief Commissioner of The Consumer Protection Cell. Mr.Rajaraman sent a letter to Mr.Narayanan demanding explanation for all the non-sense happening in the mansion. He also instructed the Metro water, The Electricity Board and Corporation of Chennai to check out the conditions in the mansion and also in all the mansions in the city.
Mr.Narayanan refused to receive this letter also. He came to me and again demanded that I must vacate the mansion. Again, I refused. But people from every single department started to pay their visit to our mansion.
The Engineer from Metro water said, "Since the problem was with the ground water and not with the metro water I have no say over it." He asked us to talk to the owner of the premises to do something about it.
On the 5th of this month, a Friday, the Mansion owner's son came to me and said that a person from The Corporation of Chennai, wants to see me. When I went, I was awaited by a stout guy, who looked at me as though I had been his enemy for the past two decades. He asked me, "Why the hell can't you vacate the mansion if you are not comfortable here." I asked him for his name, he refused to give it. He said he was from the health department. I said, "Okay Sir, If you think the water is fine submit your report. I will take this to the consumer court and we'll see what happens next." I walked away. The owner's wife and son were there, listening to this.
I went for tea and came back. I tried to call my brother from my landline. The telephone was dead. I got a doubt. When I checked it out, it wasn't wrong. They had cut off the telephone wire from near the window. I decided to make a complaint to BSNL later and switched on my PC.
Mr.Narayanan, his son, the watchman and a stout guy came to my room.
The owner started accusing me of not paying the rent and for challenging him from his own premises. But the fact was, when I went to pay the rent his wife refused to get it and asked me to vacate the mansion. He said that I better give to him in writing that the water is fine and that I will vacate the mansion. I said, "I am sure of going to the court unless you provide us with good water." The stout guy said that if I go into the court, I will not come out alive. I told him there is nothing to threaten me here. Instead of this they can better improve the quality of the water. He said, "This guy doesn't get the point. Let's call a cop and get it in writing from him." I said, "Okay, come, let's go to the Police station" and I came out of the room. The stout guy caught my hand and said,"Where the hell, you're trying to get away. You better come in and sit." I pulled my hand from him and walked out. The mansion owner hung to my back and shouted, "Catch him! Catch him! Don't let him go!" I just shook him off and came outside the gate. Once I was out of the gate they stopped following me and stood staring at me."
I made a quick run to the Choolaimedu, F5 Police station.
You may think, now that the Police have come, this is the climax. Sorry, this is just the Intermission. :)
I went in to the Police Station. I told the constables all that had happened. By now, the foursome had followed me and they too came into the Police station. The first thing they did was, they ordered tea for all the Policemen. To my shocking irony, each and every constable said, "Sir, for me too... for me too..."
After that, whatever I said went into deaf man's ear's. They all accused me for not paying the rent. I said they had threatened me of my life and I need to register a complaint. They said, first you pay your rent and then we will register your complaint. I called my brother from one of the constable's mobile phone and asked him to bring the money.
We payed the rent and then I said I wanted to register a complaint. Now they gave me a pen and a paper. I wrote down the complaint with the writer yelling at me to finish it off fast. Once I gave the complaint he read it to the accused and they all laughed about it. The writer then kept it inside his file and said, "Okay Mr.Ramesh, we'll see what we can do about it." I asked him for a receipt for the complaint. He frowned and said, "You talk to the Inspector"
The Inspector (Dr.Selvakumar) was standing near the entrance of the police station and talking to a few guys. I and my brother went to him and handed him the complaint. He got it and continued to talk to those guys. I just saw his name badge and was surprised to see a Dr. in front of his name. As I was looking at it. He turned to me and shouted, "Hey, what? You're staring at my name badge! Are you going to complain about me to some one. You go to anybody, I am not bothered." He caught his name badge between his fingers and brought it close to my face and said, "Yeah, have a close look at it. What are you going to do now?" I said, "I didn't want to complain about you to anybody. I'm just waiting for you to finish talking."
My brother said, "Sir, what's wrong in just looking at the name badge?"
Immediately, the inspector slapped my brother and proceeded further to hit him. I went in between them and caught his hand and said, "Why do you hit him? I am the one who is involved in this. Please read my letter and you'll know who the real offenders are."
He slapped me. Caught me by collar and pushed me towards the Police Station. He said," Yeah, first I will enquire you and you'll know what it is like."
He then said to his constables, "Ask the newspaper reporters to come here. We'll take a photo of this guy and put it in the papers." They then started to note down my details in the note book for accused. I was not in the least afraid of all this drama. I said, "Yeah, note down." And I gave my details. I removed my shirt even before they asked too, and gave them the marks in my body. My brother tried to stop me hesitantly. I reassured him that I knew what I was doing. The Inspector said, "You will be produced in front of the court." I yelled back at him, "Yeah, Please do that, that's exactly what I am expecting." He became silent. Then they stopped this threatening business. As I guessed it was just the barking dog seldom bite kind of story.
I kept telling the Inspector that he had committed a grave error by hitting us. I asked him, "I am the one who came to give the complaint and you hit me, what kind of enquiry is this?" He changed his approach. He said, "Okay Sir, You teach me, how should I do the enquiry?"I didn't know what to say. He said, "See I am not saying that you're a wrong person. But there is a way to talk. Only that can help you wherever you go. Is that the way you talk to an Inspector."
I thought, 'Okay he is coming to his senses, let's resolve any misunderstanding' and said, "Sir, I am sorry if I had irritated you. I didn't mean to offend you. I just was surprised to see the Dr. in your name badge. Now please read this complaint."
He just walked away without speaking another word and also without reading my complaint.
The sub-inspector came to me and said, "How come you talk to the Inspector like that. Even We don't." He asked me to blow. He wanted to check if I was in high spirits. Of course, I was in High Spirits, not because I was drunk with alcohol but because I was drunk with the name of my Lord, Lord Rama.
The Sub-Inspector (T.Radhakrishnan) went out, talked to the Inspector and came back to me. He said, " See... when you are getting so tensed... he has come back after a night long shift. How much tension must he have? He really felt bad for hitting you two. He said that you both were very good guys and that you were just demanding your rights. There is nothing wrong in it. He has asked you two to wait. He'll come back this evening and talk to you." That's it. We had to wait till 6:30 pm in the evening. In between, the police got curd rice for the two of us. They had a farewell party in the evening for the ones who were getting transferred. They gave us the snacks that came for it.
After all this the Sub-Inspector called me to his table. He said with one of the most wonderful smiles he could offer, "Okay Mr.Ramesh, What have you decided?" I was surprised, what the hell was there for me to decide. I said, "Sir I have given you a complaint. Please take action on the offenders." He maintained his smile and said, " It's just not possible for us to take action on anybody that easily. I am telling this like a brother to you. Don't you have a career? Why do you want to get into unnecessary business? Why don't you just vacate the mansion if the water is not good. Why do you bother about others' health...? " And he went on with this kind of disgusting advice and also made some self-inflicting statements like, "I too got this job only by giving bribery. If I didn't give, someone else is going to give. What's wrong in it? Why don't you understand today's world? See, the past elections, I had to allow the DMK volunteers to cast illegal votes. If I had stopped them, my family would have suffered" After a lot of stuff like this, he asked me what I wanted him to do. I said, "Take action on them."
The S.I. shed a chuckle and shook his head. He said, "Even they have said that you have not paid the rent and have attacked the owner when he asked for it. They also have said that you have been using drugs in their premises."
I said, "Then register their complaint and take action on me."
He became very furious. He slapped me on my shoulder and dragged me from one room to another. Then he stood there staring at me. He said, "Hey, you seem to be a crack pot man. You don't seem to understand things and keep talking like a semi." He turned back to my brother and asked him if I was always like this or was it just today that I was out of my mind. He then called me back to his table again to proceed further with the so called negotiation.
Now tell me, dear reader, who was behaving like a crack pot with all the nuts loose in his head. :)
The S.I continued with his brain washing fruitless attempt for another half an hour or so. He then gave up and asked me to meet the Inspector.
The Inspector was in his room. I went there. He gave me a packet of snacks that came for the party. I said that I had already had my share. :) He said in a tone of caring dominance, "I am telling you, take this now. The sub-inspector was beside him. He too said, "Come on... Have it.." I took it from him. He then asked me why I was having a beard. I said its my habit to trim it once a month. He then asked me, "What is that chain you're wearing around your neck?" I said that was Thulasi beads. He nodded his head, got up and walked off to his car.
I went behind him and asked him for the receipt. He immediately got down from the car and said, "See, I am here to help you. It's my duty. But I can go only by the procedure."
He called the sub-inspector and said, "See, he is asking for an acknowledgment. It's his right. But we have to follow the procedure. So, go by it. Put a 41 and give them. No... No... Put a 75.." I didn't understand what that meant. Then he turned back to me and said, "You may have to pay a fine of Rs.800 in court... Please go to him..." He then got into his car and went off.
I then went back to the sub-inspector's table. To my shocking surprise, he again refused to give me the receipt. He said I am trying to create a law and order problem. He said if a complaint is registered on Mr.Narayanan, the later will get a motive to kill me. And if something like that happens there will be much panic in the neighborhood causing law and order problem.
If anybody wants to get a doctorate in Logic, please contact him. :)
I again insisted that he gives me a receipt. At last, he tried something which really made me give in. He said that he wants to talk to my father. He asked me for my dad's number. My mobile was already with him. I understood that he has no intention of giving me the receipt. It was already past 9pm. I didn't want my dad to get a call from the police station saying that his two sons are sitting in the police station accused of taking drugs and creating problem. "Okay", I said, "I will give it to you in writing."
He gave a big sigh of relief. Wiped off the sweat from his fore-head and said, "My God, I have never enquired one petition this long in my life, man!" He then got it from me that I won't create any problem with the mansion owner and that I will vacate it, before the 30th of June, 2009.
Actually, the mansion owner had decided to get himself admitted in the hospital in the afternoon itself, in order to avoid getting himself arrested. The Sub-Inspector was the one who had convinced the owner not to worry and that he would get it from me in writing in favour of the owner. He said this to me in the long discourse he gave me.
When I walked out of the police station, it was close to 9.30 pm. The owner was very happy with me. He shook my hand and said, "I am there for your protection and you're there for my protection." I nodded and took a walk to the mansion. I was not happy. But still, I knew I had fought my best in there. If the police had done their duty, things would have been different. But they are a bunch of rotten headed buffaloes... What to do..?
I went back to my room. I got a call from one of my friends who is also an inmate of the mansion. His name is Anwar Sadique. He asked me where I was. I told him that I was in my room. He said, "How come? I and Kumaresh (another inmate) have been waiting outside the police station for both of you." He said, " We were waiting outside the police station from 7.30 pm. We wanted to come in. But we didn't know what the owner had complained about you. Nor did we know what statements you had made there. We didn't want to come in and contradict your statements."
I thanked both of them for waiting for me. They got food and came to the mansion. We all had food in Anwar's room. Anwar said,"The owner and a police constable, both left the police station in the police bike." I am sure the owner paid a lump sum to the Police for this favour. We talked about how ugly those creatures in the police station were and we retired to bed.
Krishna's face was white like a marble. Crystal clear water filled up the terrace. I tried to get out of it and go to Krishna. But then, I immersed myself in the water. It cleansed me. I woke up. It was 4.10 am, Saturday morning.
The first thing my heart told me was, not to leave this issue as it is. I sat thinking for a moment. I did nothing wrong here. But the police who are supposed to help me have treated me like an accused. I have borne more insults in my life. Two or three more slaps, doesn't add much to the wounds. But my concern was, what will happen to the uneducated people who will go to the police station in future. The police, who are supposed to be the guardians of the law, are playing foul game here. Is it right to leave this go unchecked? Is it right to show a blind eye to this atrocity?
I woke up my brother, called Anwar and Kumaresh to my room. I told them that, we can't leave this as it is. They thought for a moment and said, "Okay, Let's fight this out and see where it goes."
I decided to take an advocate, go back with him to the police station and ask for a receipt. I contacted an advocate. The lawyer suggested that we go to the next level, as there is no point in going back and again breaking our head with them. We decided to make a complaint to The Chief Commissioner of Police.
Meanwhile, my brother sent a letter to a popular political critic and Tamil writer, Gnani. Mr.Gnani forwarded this issue to a senior journalist from one of the most reputed Magazines in Tamil Nadu. (I don't want to mention his name without his permission.)
The senior journalist called us and assured us his support. From then on he takes personal interest in this issue. We are very grateful to him.
On the 10th of June, 2009, I along with my advocate went to the commissioner's office. Even there, the Inspector who listened to my grievance tried to discourage me and advised me not to proceed any further. I was determined.
The commissioner asked me, "Did they hit you?"
I said," Yes Sir"
He said to the Inspector, "Then don't forward this complaint to the concerned Police station. Ask the Asst. Commissioner of Nungambakkam, to personally enquire this case." They stamped it. He signed on it in green ink. I was asked to wait. After sometime, they called me. In my presence, they called the Asst. Commissioner's office and instructed them to take appropriate action. They asked them to send the Yellow Brigade.
I came out. A reporter from Deccan Chronicle met me. I told her all that had happened. She promised to give coverage. A reporter from Dhina Bhoomi, a tamil Daily, also promised to give coverage. The next day this news came in the Deccan Chronicle. (I couldn't check the Tamil daily.)
The Inspector had said that I and my brother had attacked the mansion owner. My brother was in office at that time.
Meanwhile, a reporter from Junior Vikatan, a highly popular political and investigative journal, called me. I went to his office and told him all that had happened and gave him all the proofs. They have taken a photo of me. I guess, it is going to come in the forth coming issue.
Before giving a complaint to the Commissioner, I and my brother moved into one of our friends place, to play safe. Our things are still there. Yesterday, 15th June, I called Anwar and asked him if there was any reaction there. He said, nothing much has changed. But two days ago a team of Police had gone to the mansion, enquired for Mr.Narayanan and went back.
I called up the senior Journalist yesterday and asked him why the process was so slow. He said, "If we had a more brisk system, you fellows wouldn't face this much trouble." He also asked why we were not staying in the mansion. He said, "They are all scared to hell now. The Inspector had gone to the owner's house and told him not to meddle with you and your brother, as this issue is growing beyond a limit."
We have also registered a complaint against the Inspector and Sub-Inspector in the State Human Rights Commission, here in Chennai.
We are still waiting for action from the Asst. Commissioner of Nungambakkam.The case is stronger from our end. It must not take a genius to zero down to the truth. Let's see how the drama unfolds.
Sequels to this post.