The sun was about to set, and the western sky had turned blood red. Sirens, shrieks, and suspense clouded the atmosphere. Even with my eyes closed, as I was being held in the stretcher to put in
the ambulance, I knew all the faces were set upon me; I could feel the
greatness of veneration with which the media persons and other policemen
were looking at me.
The rumbling of the van was nothing as compared to the pandemonium going in my head.
"Patil! Take a jeep too and escort him safely to the hospital!" I heard my superior's commanding voice.
"That won't be needed," I tried to object, but my meek protest went unheard in the chaos of the situation.
The ambulance doors closed shut and began to move, as few doctors inside started to fumble with my upper left arm that had been shot.
I knew that in no time, more and more media people will start pouring in. Some were already trying to flash their cameras incessantly on the van, in which I laid, while others were broadcasting live feed as newer facts were coming into light.
But, despite the fact that in a couple of hours I was going to be the star of the nation, the only fact that mattered to me was that I had killed a man. I had become a murderer and a sinner.
An hour ago - Dharavi slums
"Stop!" I yelled for the tenth time, but as expected it was of no use and I continued chasing the man.
I realized for the first time how intricate the slums of Dharavi were. But, it was not the time to marvel at the labyrinth. I had been running since 20 minutes. My legs were tiring.
Half an hour ago, thanks to the relentless efforts of my trusted men, I had got a tip about the whereabouts of this man, who had been eluding Mumbai Crime Branch since a year. Immediately with a team of seven, I had rushed to the spot.
But, the sinuous lanes of the slums had proved treacherous to us, and the man had had a head-start in running away. Only I could keep up with the ensuing chase, owing to my IPS training.
But, the maze was getting excruciatingly puzzling. Left, right, right, left, right, left, we kept on moving and in no time, I lost the track of where we were going. My only focus was on apprehending that man, who kept on jumping, turning, and pushing anyone and anything out of the way.
Ah, there he was! Dead end, at last! I rushed forward with a spurge and he started to violently throw whatever things he could get hold of, as he saw me approaching with a gun in my hand.
"Finally, a cornered cat!" I smirked with triumph.
"You have no idea whom you're dealing with!" He grunted, panting heavily.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you Aslam Sheikh, a filthy fugitive who killed hundreds of people last year?" I regarded him unsympathetically.
"Oh! And you are some bold cop with a pretty loud tongue, aren't you?"
I kept my unflinching stare fixed upon him.
"What are you looking at, huh?"
"A son of a bitch, who's going to spend rest of his life in jail!"
"Look, officer, can't we sort things ourselves, huh?"
"I don't deal with spineless creatures, who kill for no reason!"
"No reason? We only kill sinners and those sinners died because they didn't surrender their will to Him."
"You are the one who kill, yet the ones who die are sinners?"
"Anyone who refuses to believe us or Him is a sinner, because we are doing God's work!"
"And for that, you terrorize people?"
"No stimulant is as good as fear. One day, the world will kneel before Him and we will make sure of it!
"Hmm... but, who are you to make sure of it? Which God gave you the right to kill?"
"It's ordained, you foolish person! What will a foul-mouthed and blasphemous person like you understand about God and the religion based upon His will?
"I do understand that the only essence of any religion, if any, is to have compassion for all and have a non-violent attitude. And anyone who kills is a sinner. So, now, I'm going to call for back up and turn you in!"
As I dialed for more forces to nab him up, everything happened in a jiffy: he took out a gun from in back pocket and pointed it at me.
"If you had been a Muslim, you would have understood!" He hissed.
"Then, I believe ignorant atheism is better than misguided theism
. Now, keep that gun on the ground, and place your hands above your head, or else - NOOOOO!"
Two gunshots reverberated at the same time in that narrow lane. I screamed in agony. A bullet had soared past just above my heart and blood had started oozing out. But, my aim had been more unfortunate; Aslam lay on the ground. Unlike his bullet, mine had gone for a head shot. I had killed. I had become a sinner.
An Hour Later - Minister's office
"Sir ji, did you see the news?" my secretary asked, as he stepped into my ministerial office.
"If I have to watch the news by myself, why have I kept you, Shinde?" I replied, with my head immersed in writing the reply to a show-cause notice I had received last week from the party's high command.
I still couldn't figure out why was there any need for such notice! A week ago, during the Hindu Mahasabha rally, I had said something very obvious.
"Muslims are terrorists!"
"Listen, the party can't afford to fall into any controversy at this point!" The high command had retorted back on the phone.
"But, even the public was cheering at the rally, sir!" I tried to explain.
"Look, the media has made an issue of it, and this is a very crucial juncture for the party, with elections coming next month."
"You better give a decent reason why the party mustn't take any action against you. Also, if you want a ticket this time, then better apologize publicly!" Yelling so, he had hung the phone down.
It was not that I hated Muslims; I just found them to be odious. A Muslim will always patronize with his fellow Muslims, even if they kill. A Muslim can never love this country or do any good for it.
"Oh sir ji! But, you can't miss this! Let me turn on the TV," my secretary urged eagerly.
"This better be good, Shinde!"
I always thought that all the news reporters are nincompoop, because for them every other petty things was a breaking news.
A lady was blabbering, "In an eventful evening today, the highly notorious criminal Aslam Sheikh, most wanted terrorist for the Mumbai bomb blasts last year, was allegedly encountered on the outskirts of the Dharavi slums. The police investigation is currently going on and..."
The world had gone silent for me.
Aslam Sheikh encountered? God! That's so amazing! A terrorist dead. Another Muslim dead. My statement had just been substantiated. Party high command will now understand. No need for apologies. This event will definitely be polarizing. My reelection is sorted. Hahaha.
The news continued, "... our sources have reported the officer who chased the terrorist is allegedly shot, and on way to the hospital..."
Brave person, I remarked. Mumbai police have always been brave. This man should definitely be rewarded. Let me recommend this officer's name for the Presidential felicitation. Oh wait, what's his name again?
I gulped. Guilt overwhelmed my aversion. Maybe to deliberately break my prejudice, the breaking news had flashed his name: Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sarfaraaz Khan
© Story by Manas Madrecha