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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Delayed Justice - sad story of UP Postman - suspected, suspended & humiliated

It is the view that matters…… perceptions overtake reality…….the recent acquittal of Seers of Kanchi was welcomed widely ~ though there were some media which sought to provide a colour to it ~ and the same people argued differently when a top political leader was acquitted in a murder case in which he was the direct accused.  In Uttar Pradesh, a Postman has been declared innocent in a case of allegedly stealing money order……… the declaration of innocence has not made him anyway happy ~ coming as it does after 29 years and the trial was for a paltry amount of Rs.57.60…. Some times justice delayed is not merely justice denied but downright cruel.

In my school days remember this short story in English lesson ~ one by the eminent Russian – Leo Tolstoy, first published in 1872.  Titled - "God Sees the Truth, But Waits" – it  is a story of a man sent to prison for a murder he didn't commit ~ the brilliant narrative took the form of a parable of forgiveness. English translations were also published under titles "The Confessed Crime" and "Exiled to Siberia". The concept of the story of a man wrongfully accused of murder and banished to Siberia also appears in one of Tolstoy's previous works, War and Peace, during a philosophical discussion among two characters who relate the story and argue how the protagonist of their story deals with injustice and fate.

This short story is of  Ivan Dmitrich Aksionov, a merchant living in a town in Russia, Vladimir. One day he decides to go to a fair as a business venture, but his wife pleads for him not to go because of a nightmare she had the previous night. Aksionov doesn't consider his wife's dream and leaves for the fair. Aksionov meets another merchant on his way, and the two decide to travel together. They check into an inn and have a good time drinking, then they retire separately.

Next morning Aksionov wakes early  and leaves soon to be stopped and arrested by Police of murdering the other merchant ~ evidence being a blood stained knife found in the bag of Aksinov; he is sentenced and sent to Siberia. After his trial flogging, his wife can finally visit him, and she sees that Aksionov's hair has begun to go gray from the stress. Resigned to his fate, Aksionov spends twenty-six years in Siberia, becoming  a mediator of sorts in the prison, and he is well respected by the other prisoners and also guards alike. One day some new prisoners, one of them being Makar Semyonich, are transferred to the prison. After overhearing several conversations, Aksionov is convinced that Makar Semyonich is the man who committed the murder for which Aksionov was blamed. Eventually Aksionov confronts Makar Semyonich, but he denies committing the murder.

Later he stays put in not telling the authorities of a escape attempt of Makar – eventually the killer admits his wrong deed.  Aksionov forgives Semyonich, and feels as if a terrible weight had been lifted. Makar Semyonich confesses to the authorities, and the process for Aksionov to be cleared is begun. Unfortunately, Aksionov dies before he can reach home, but he dies in peace.

This story was adapted into television series, Katha Sagar (1986) directed by Shyam Benegal. It was adapted into a CBS Radio Mystery Theatre program, All Things Are Possible (1978) directed by Himan Brown.  Simple, yet a resounding story which will make the readers feel bad for the hero.

Now coming to the TOI news from Kanpur -  An Uttar Pradesh based postman, who allegedly stole a money order worth Rs 57.60 in 1984, has been declared innocent in the case after 29 years.

Umakant worked in a postoffice in Harjinder Nagar area of Kanpur. Department authorities at the post office handed Mishra Rs 697.60 in cash to distribute as money-order. Of the total Rs 697.60, Umakant distributed Rs 300 and the rest he claimed to have returned to his senior colleagues. But they accused him of stealing Rs 57.60 and lodged an FIR against him. That was on July 13, 1984. A case was registered against him for stealing Rs 57, and he was promptly suspended. The police booked him for criminal breach of trust. He was suspended from his job and had to attend over 350 court hearings till date. A local court has finally declared him innocent in the case.

Now after 29 years and 350 odd hearings, Umakant has proved himself to be innocent ~ the loss he suffered in this period is  enormous. The judgment was delivered by a metropolitan magistrate on November 25. Umakant wept when he was approached for an interview. Struggling to find words, Umakant said, “I retired three years ago and remained suspended for nearly 26 years. I have no idea what to say or do.” "I am shattered. I lost my job, my reputation. It was a long struggle. Finally, truth has come out but at what cost," said Mishra. His wife Geeta said, “I am relieved and happy with the verdict, but if we’d got justice at the right time, our children’s career wouldn’t have got ruined. We lived with the stigma and financial trouble.” “We lost everything, borrowed money for our livelihood, children’s education and marriage,” she said. “Without regular income, we had trouble arranging for the education and marriage of our children. We sought donation to marry off our two daughters. Since we could not educate our children, our son Ganga has an insecure job.

We  for sure are  at a loss of words !!!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

3rd  Dec 2013.

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