Sidholi Havoc

Posted By Author on October 4, 2009

Sidholi Havoc

I reached Sidholi.  Adjoining the road there was a mango tree in a field.  Baba and the girls were clustered below the tree. A throng of about two hundred hooligans encircled them. Majority of the hooligans were unruly students. Baba had put on a turban like cloth.

The crop of Netajis (leaders) is profuse in India from Dilli to Galli (from the capital Delhi to narrow lanes all over the country).  It does not require any qualification, experience or preparation.  It grows like weeds.

The township of Sidholi was a stronghold of Jana Sangh and ostensibly people were too prompt and diligent for National welfare.  There was an Intermediate College nearby.  A Khadi clad lecturer from there was dressed like a neta (leader).  He was intensely self-praising. He told the students of the college that there was a Sadhu eloping girls and was in fact a Pakistani spy.  He had seen the Sadhu bargaining with a truck driver for a ride to Lucknow and that he was escaping in the reverse direction.  The result was that the college students got the day off and Baba was under a siege.

The crowd swelled with senior citizens as rumor spread that Baba was a Sadhu of Shaulmari Ashram supposed to pose as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The young miscreants began to shout abuses from a distance, and demanded as to who he was. Two constables in mufti (civilian dress on duty) approached and at this juncture I arrived.  Dipali was crying and panicky.  I consoled her and assured the rest not to worry.  I met Baba. A few people were squatting a few feet away.  He told me to drive away the crowd and request the senior citizens to help.  Hooliganism was accelerating and I knew my efforts would be futile.  Except me there was no Ashramite, who could understand or speak Hindi.  The two policemen asked a few questions and I answered them all.  They asked me to follow them to the ‘thana’ (police station.) I agreed on the condition that I would carry all Ashramites to the ‘thana’ but Baba should be left alone with no person within hundred yards.  They agreed and in their style repelled the crowd.  We walked about half a mile followed by half the crowd.  The procession arrived in the ‘thana.’  While leaving, Baba asked me to book the Inspection Bungalow of Sidholi. I heaved a sigh of relief for safety of the girls.

We arrived in the ‘thana’.  The head constable was in white pyjamas (pajamas) with khaki official shirt above.  With his legs on the table, giving relief to his big belly, he sprawled in the chair in real royal fashion.  There was no inspector or assistant inspector.  Like our police of Maharashtra, the head constable asked the same question time and again and I repeated the answer to his satisfaction.  I told the ladies and others to wait in the ‘Thana’ till I escorted Baba to the Inspection Bungalow and returned to escort them.  I walked down to Baba. Owing to nuisance of crowd he left the mango tree and was sitting in the open field below his umbrella.  The blistering Sun was at zenith.  I told Baba that the crowd did not allow me to bring the car.  I promised to send the girls to the Inspection Bungalow and that from a shorter route from the rear side both of us would reach there quickly.  He agreed.

I returned to the ‘thana’ and put all the girls and Ashramites in Motisingh’s taxi.  As the car took speed, the crowd watched and rushed towards the car leaving Baba alone.  The car had to stop as the crowd surrounded it.  Some miscreants, meanest of mankind, put hands inside the window of the car and tried to molest the girls.  I lost my temper.  I took Dinudada’s darati (sickle) and climbed on the roof of the car.  Told ladies to shut windows.  Then, though out of practice, in the most possible filthy language I challenged the crowd.  I kicked two boys in the face standing adjoining the car.  The result was fair enough.  I got down and the car took speed.  A boy removed the petrol cap and about four boys climbed over the car on the rear buffer.  When the car crossed the field and reached the main road it was again surrounded by a crowd and stopped.  Motisingh came out and guarded the incumbents well.  All the miscreants thought that Baba was to board in this taxi and run away.  I was walking fast towards the car.  I was behind the crowd.   I ran towards Baba and as fast as possible we rushed cross-country towards Ramanidada who was returning in his car from Lucknow.  Baba entered the car and luckily the seat was already processed.  The car moved fast ahead.  By that time four or five boys ran towards Baba’s car and seeing that they could not catch, pelted stones but fortunately the car was beyond reach.  My relief knew no bound.  The crowd was angry and abusing me for Baba’s escape. They maintained a safe distance as I had a sickle in my hand.  I tried to calm them and assured that I would go to the ‘thana’ but no one should take law in their own hands.

Again me and the car came back to the ‘thana’ surrounded with a crowd like a wedding procession.  The hooligans remained outside showering invectives on me.  The dodge they received at my hands and Baba’s escape were an intolerable defeat for them.  As we entered ‘durbar’ (Royal Court) of the Head Constable, the same old rut began. It was a humdrum rigmarole of his repeated questions and my answers.  I rebuked him for not providing two dressed constables to escort the car to safety earlier.  I asked him to summon the inspector.  He said he had gone ten miles away.  I requested for a phone and he said it was out of order.  There was an educated person and he talked in subdued tone.  And what luck!  Six-feet tall and like a lion, Radhakantji arrived.  He roared and began to fist the table so vigorously that the corner of the table chipped off.  The crowd literally panicked and melted away.  The constable requested us to lend our car so he could go to his Head Quarter at Sitapur for permission to release us.  I flatly refused.  He went on bicycle.

We were at the police station from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. I arranged snacks for all.  At 3.15 P.M. Ratan Maheshwari and Ramprasadji Merhotra, a disciple from Kanpur, came in the latter’s car.   I drafted a strong complaint and wanted to get it approved from Baba.  I asked Ratan where was Baba.  Ratan told that Baba was waiting about five miles away towards Lucknow.  I took Ramprasad’s car and sped but Baba remained untraceable till I reached Lucknow at 30th mile.  I went to Ramkrishnaji’ house but Baba was not there. I then went to the office of Srinath Agrawal.  Neither he nor Baba were there.  I rushed to Srinathji’s house behind Lucknow club.   I met Srinathji and Ramanidada near his house. Ramanidada said that out of anxiety about us they were proceeding to the Home Minister as directed by Baba. I told them not to worry and that it was confirmed that an assistant inspector of police from Sitapur had started and was reaching Sidholi.  They told me that Baba had gone to Ramkrishnaji’s house.  I requested Srinath to place a phone (trunk) call to Sidholi and get all members at Ramkrishnaji’s house.  The head constable of Sidholi had lied to me that his phone was out of order but when panicky he rang his superior.

Ramanidada’s car and my car reached Ramkrishnaji’s house.  Baba had just arrived.  He enquired further happenings of the incident.  Then I read out the complaint.  He advised to omit his name as far as possible.  He ordered Ramanidada and Srinath to cancel their trip to the Home Minister and told me to go instead.  On his advice one M.L.A. was already contacted to arrange audience with the Home Minister.  I had grown up beard and was clad in dusty clothes that I had ever worn before.  I said I would quickly change and leave.  Baba laughed.  He said, ”Suresh, you are an Ashramite now.  Why should you be ashamed of clothes? Proceed.  I am going for a good bath on a canal which is twelve miles away.” I was unaware of addresses and so Srinathji was allowed to accompany me.

We moved in the car.  A narrow lane opened to the main road.  A truck blocked the lane and was unloading coal.  We were stuck up.  It would have taken two hours for the operation.  Therefore, I approached the driver of the truck and politely requested him to move back the truck for a few minutes.  He was smoking bidi (crude Indian cigarette) and did not move an inch as if he heard nothing.  When I threatened to  lodge a complaint with the police, he gave a sarcastic smile of a villain and educated me by telling that the law was under his armpit.    He sardonically blurted as to what for was he giving regular ‘haftas’. (Regular bribe)  I was speechless.  Our car could not be turned and we knew not another route.  I got hold of two urchins and enquired.  They readily agreed to render help.  I put them in the front seat. They were overjoyed and probably it was their first time to have a ride in a car.  The car backed out and under their guidance and with great difficulty we crossed a very narrow lane and came towards the road.  I paid a quarter rupee as baksheesh (reward) and told them to alight.  They shouted from window and called their pals and with all pomp and pride alighted.  It was amusing to watch.

We went to the Corporation Building.  It was 4 P.M. and Srinathji said he would peep in his office and be back in a minute.  He kept his promise but expressed his inability to accompany me as some officer was just then suspended and he was to take his charge immediately.  However, he provided a person who would guide me to Dr.Gairula’s house who would introduce me to the Home Minister.

Dr. Gairula was moving in the courtyard up and down.  He was eagerly waiting for the arrival of the Secretary of Shaulmari Ashram as per previous appointment on phone. He was an M.L.A. or M.L.C. of Lucknow Assembly. He was worried it was almost time for offices to close and we  both rushed to the Secretariat immediately.  The driver Chauharja Singh of Ramprasadji’s car No.U.P.I.2968 knew the location and drove us fast. The Home Minister was not in his office. Then Dr. Gairula took me to the Deputy Secretary R.K.Kaul of the Home Ministry.  I was standing in the Deputy Secretary’s office while Dr.Gairula was greeted and offered a chair.  I briefly narrated the incident and callousness of the police in Hindi.  I posed a question to him that whether it was shameful or not for the police department and indirectly the state Government that pilgrims and ladies from other province were molested in presence of cops, the custodians of Law and Order.  He was in the act of offering a cigarette to Dr.Gairula.  He abruptly reclined in his chair and confessed his anxiety. He sincerely apologized. I spontaneously blurted a question in fluent English. Mr. Kaul was shaken and surprised.  From my soiled dhoti, shirt, disheveled long hair, stumps of grownup beard and gamcha on the shoulder, Mr.Kaul thought that I was some rustic uneducated blind follower of some Sadhu.  When Dr.Gairula told him that I was Dr.Suresh Padhye, a Ph.D., Mr. Kaul was dazed with shock.  He got up from his chair and requested me to occupy a chair.  I politely declined and requested the priority of work first.

Within a few seconds he was talking with inspector Ghosh of Sitapur on a lightning call.  Mr. Ghosh informed that a demagogue of the college generated the whole episode. He spread a rumor that the Sadhu was smuggling girls.  He further informed that an assistant sub inspector was rushed in a jeep to Sidholi.  Mr. Kaul again expressed his deep regrets.

Dr.Gairula then told Mr.Kaul that he was with Subhash Chandra Bose for three and half years at Vienna, Berlin and Rome.  When Bose was operated, he was taking care of him. He further explained that there was a strong rumor that the Baba of Shaulmari Ashram was Subhash Bose.  I was simply stunned.  I bade namaskar to Mr.Kaul but he got up and said why not shake hands at least while parting .  So I did and we left.

I brought Dr.Gairula to his home.  While in the  car I asked Dr.Gairula as to why he did not visit the Ashram to confirm the identity of Subhash Chandra Bose?  He said he did write and send photographs to the Ashram but was not permitted. (It might be he was avoided from experience of Uttamchand Malhotra).  I queried further as to why and how and by who was he asked to contact the Home Minister. 

He said he did not know and it was a mystery but when somebody gave him a ring telling as to how Baba of Shaulmari Ashram and his entourage were in trouble, he agreed to call upon the Home Minister.

His philosophy was wonderful.  He said if Baba was Subhash, he would be working for his old friend and if not he would be serving a pious sadhu. We parted good friends. However, he cautioned before departure to be careful about bad elements while treading the lane leading to road.  Just a day before some ruffians came with sticks, gagged a girl and raped her in the lane. He called the police.  I left the car midway for Ramprasadji as desired by the driver and came by autorickshaw to Ramkrishnaji’s house.

I had a good bath. Baba arrived.  I gave him a brief account.  He came back again.  He was restless and in high pitch he blurted in Hindi meaning, “ I will whip with a hunter and take the skin out from the Home Minister’s back. What sort of administration is this? (Mai hunter se uske pith ki khal khichunga) I have asked to purchase two canes from the bazaar.  If the government is not taking prompt and proper action, Ramani and Ramkrishna would go immediately and cane the culprits.”

Ramkrishnaji and I tried to calm him.  I posed a legal difficulty of obtaining evidence and witnesses in Sidholi.  Ramkrishnaji promised him that he would personally call upon the Home Minister.  Baba then desired to know the name of the head constable and constables.  I admitted I knew not but Radhakant might know because he had  collected senior citizens of Sidholi and tried to end the imbroglio.  Radhakant promised to give the names but then requested Baba that as there were so many cases already going on, why add one more.  He pointed out that the sub inspector apologized to him. Let the matter be closed.  Baba roared in Hindi, “You are bewakuf (idiot), you are janwar (brute).  Such things are not condoned on personal level. He must apologise before all.  Suresh, you draft two complaints at Haridwar.  Send one to the Director of Education and another to the Home Minister.  Show it to me and I will suggest necessary changes. You will make a draft of resignation of your service later on.  You are too exhausted.  Take rest here for the night and start in the morning.  I shall proceed ahead at 10 P.M.”  When I said we do not mind starting with him he asked to start preparing for the journey immediately. It was 7.30 P.M. I took a fair bath to my satisfaction, washed clothes, put on a clean set and dined.

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