One fine morning the tiny sleepy village woke up to the shuddering news of the murder of three members of a family. A mother, who was a teacher; her daughter, a college-going student; and son, a school-going boy, had been stabbed to death in cold blood during the night. Their bodies lay in the village square, the common meeting place of villagers.
It was first in the history of the village, or in the neighbouring villages, that something so horrendous had happened. People were so frightened that they preferred to keep silent. When they talked, they did it in a very hush-hush voice. Even within their homes, they talked in a subdued voice. The teacher Suseela (‘teacher didi’, as she was fondly called) was very respected and loved in the whole village. She taught in the school in the next village because there was no school in that village. She, however, used to take free tuitions to the poor children.
Suseela’s daughter Sumati was a beautiful girl. She went to the town to study in a college there. Since the town was a little far away and had no easy access from the village she stayed in the hostel and came home only occasionally. The village pradhan’s son, a spoilt boy, had an eye on her and used to stalk her. She was frightened since the pradhan was very powerful, not only within the village, but even outside. She told her mother about it. Suseela consoled her and encouraged her to face such challenges boldly. But such things are easier said than done.
One evening Sumati was coming home from college. The pradhan’s son met her on the way and tried to misbehave with her. She tried as much as possible to evade and run away from him and his friends, but couldn’t. Having left with no option to save her vanity, she slapped him with all her might. The crook was shocked. This was the first time in his life that he had been slapped, and that too by a village girl! Even his parents didn’t punish him for his misdeeds. It was then that he decided to teach her a lesson. That night he went to their home with a few of his goondas. He raped and killed Sumati in front of her mother and brother. Then they killed them, too. He wanted to warn the villagers what it was to defy him. So he asked his friends to drag the bodies and leave those in the middle of the village square for everybody to see first thing in the morning.
The same day the pradhan went to the police station and saw the inspector ‘properly’. Then matters moved fast. The police came, saw, and conquered. They sent the bodies for post mortem, seized the offending weapon from the teacher’s home and started investigation. They questioned several people, all innocent poor people from the village. The whole village knew it was the pradhan’s son behind the heinous act. But none dared to speak. The villagers knew how and where the investigations were heading. And it happened a few months later. The case was closed due to lack of evidence or witnesses.
This is a very common and logical end to a crime involving high profile people. But unfortunately for the law enforcement agents, there were a few educated youth in the village. They started an agitation to give justice to the slain people. They even did door-to-door campaigns to apprise the people of the need to strengthen the protest. Slowly the movement gathered momentum and more and more people joined it. A few reports came in the local newspaper as well. The matter even made news in the capital. Due to the intense public pressure, the court ordered the case to be reopened and a fresh investigation carried out.
This time the Police Crime Branch was entrusted with the case. After prolonged investigations, the police found that the knife, which was used in the crime, was the real culprit. Their argument was that if it was not for the knife, the teacher and her children would not have died. The police submitted its report to the court. They also submitted the knife in the court recommending the severest punishment to it. They patted on their own backs for the excellent and efficient investigation carried out this time.
Several rounds of arguments followed in the court. The educated village youth argued in favour of the knife because they wanted the person who wielded the knife to be punished. The police argued against the knife. In spite of the best efforts of the common villagers, the police was able to convince the court that the actual culprit was the knife. The knife was sentenced to death.
The knife, however, could not be killed like a human being. The court, therefore, called the best blacksmith in the area to the court. The knife was cut into several pieces. The pieces were then thrown into a deep pit specially prepared for the purpose. The police celebrated for getting a criminal punished for the heinous act committed by it. The newspapers celebrated the event as the victory of justice. The judges were praised for the exemplary courage to award punishment to the criminal knife.
The villagers were silent and sad. The pradhan’s son partied with his friends.