വാഴയിലയില് ഒരു പിടി ചോറുമായ് കാത്തിരുന്ന ഒരമ്മ.
Please give this to our son Rajan. I trust only you.”
She didn’t utter a word after that. Cold death had already touched her.
The next day after her death, I had a nap on the couch. The
weight of that packet of coins, which she entrusted to me,
was still in my hands.
March 10, 1976, Manmohan Palace at Trivandrum was quiet. The atmosphere of the Emergency even lay upon that historical building, the residence of the State Home Minister, but there were no khaki-clad men around.
We were not made to wait long to enter the room of Mr. K. Karunakaran, the State Home Minister. It was one of the last doors I was knocking at. I was at the residence of Mr. Karunakaran in search of my son, who had been taken by the police from the front yard of the Calicut Regional Engineering College hostel. There were two others with me: Surendran, one of my former students, and his friend, a professor from Vennala, Ernakulam. This professor was a close friend of Mr. Karunakaran.
Surendran and I had started early from Calicut and reached Ernakulam before dawn the next morning. We spent the rest of the time at Ernakulam North railway station, on a cement bench, fighting the mosquitoes and the chilly wind, waiting for light. I was burning inside. There at Ernakulam, some three to four kilometers away, my son’s mother and his sisters were still asleep in our house, ignorant of everything that was happening.
When the day dawned, we reached the professor’s house at Vennala and told him of my problems. He immediately came along with us. He too seemed to be worried about my son Rajan’s disappearance. He was so close to Mr. Karunakaran that he had access to even the inner rooms of the Minister’s house. Mr. Karunakaran’s wife, Mrs. Kallianikutty Amma, was also close to him. When we reached Trivandrum, the professor went straight to the residence of Mr. Karunakaran and arranged an appointment.
Mr. Karunakaran greeted us with a broad smile, but as he saw me did that smile fade a little? Foolish thoughts, I consoled myself.
He hugged me. “Why didn’t you tell me all this earlier? I would have taken care of it then and there,” he said. A hope flashed in my mind.
“This name Rajan seems to be familiar to me. He seems to have got into some serious trouble,” he continued.
I pressed my hands in respect. I was unsteady with an unknown emotion.
“No, he is not capable of doing things like that. When the extremists attacked the police station at Kayanna (near Calicut) he was participating in the youth festival at Farooke College. He was the Arts Club Secretary at the Engineering College where he studied,” I said.
Karunakaran touched my shoulders. His voice was very soft. “I will enquire and let you know. I will do whatever I can. That’s the relationship we have, isn’t it?”
I paid respect to him once more with folded hands. My eyes were blurred in the sun at the front yard of Manmohan Palace. Was that fading too, the last island of hope?
It was on February 26, 1976 that I last met my son Rajan. He was then a final year student of the Chathamangalam Regional Engineering College, 13 kilometers away from Calicut. I was a professor at the Hindi department of the Government Arts and Science College at Calicut. I was staying in Kerala Bhavan Lodge, just opposite to the General Hospital near Muthalakkulam. Rajan used to come there often to meet me. He last came for some money. I met him in my room on February 26. I asked him to come home during the vacation. He nodded yes.
I was born at the Thiruvullakkavu Varriam at Cherpu, in Trichur District. After partition of the ancestral property I left that home, moved to Ernakulam, and built a house in Parambithara road. We named the house ‘Sauhrida Nilayam’ [‘house of friendship’]. I was living there with my wife and three children, my sister, Kochammini Varasyar, and her husband, Mr. Achutha Varier. He was my wife Radha’s brother. He worked with the Railways.
On March 1, 1976, when I reached my college as usual, I came to know that the police had taken my son into custody. One of Rajan’s friends, Mr. Karmachandran, informed the college authorities of this by telephone. It was 10am. With the permission of the principal, I rushed to Chathamangalam.
The premises of the Engineering College were as quiet as a cemetery. Rajan had been arrested on the morning of February 29. He was coming out of the college bus in the front yard of the Engineering College, after returning from the youth festival at Farooke College. The police were waiting for him. According to the information then available, he was first taken to Calicut and then to Kakkayam Camp, a police camp established to investigate the attack on Kayanna police station. Many people told me that no purpose would be served by going to the Kakkayam Camp. But I went.
The camp at Kakkayam was established at the asbestos-roofed building of the State Electricity Board. There was a pond in front of the camp. Access was through a temporary wooden bridge, guarded by a police sentry with a rifle. I spoke to him. He was very serious, but didn’t utter a single indecent word to me. He went into the camp, and came back to tell me that I would not be permitted inside. He told me that my son Rajan was inside, and was well. My emotion cooled a little, but I told him, “I just want to meet my son.” He was standing in front of me like a mountain.
I felt so lonely that I shouted out; I shouted loudly.
“I can do nothing,” He replied. Then his face darkened.
“Then allow me to meet Mr. Jayaram Padikkal at least,” I was adamant. Mr. Jayaram Padikkal was the camp ‘monarch’, and a Deputy Inspector General of the Crime Branch.
My childlike adamancy echoed back from the watery surface of that pond. I stood still in front of that guard. His upright rifle wavered sometimes to the sides. He tried not to listen, or care for me.
Waiting alone there a sob got trapped in my throat. I felt, as though I heard a cry calling me, “Oh, father…” from somewhere through the walls of the detention room of the camp.
I felt tired and started walking back. Once more I turned back to look at the camp. The policeman was there still staring at me. When he saw me looking at him he turned his eyes to the nearby hills.
After the meeting with Mr. Karunakaran, a reporter of the Mathrubhoomi daily called Mr. Sadirikkoya telephoned me. He was one of the dear disciples of Mr. Karunakaran. I had met him three times to find out the details of my son. “I am at it” was the only reply I got. But this time he gave me a very different version of things. He told me that Rajan had escaped from custody while being taken to an extremist’s secret den.
I asked him as to where he got this information.
“From reliable sources,” was the reply. The source, I knew, was Mr. Karunakaran himself. Mr. Sadirikkoya’s revelation gave me some hope. It also brought black clouds of anxieties. I continued the search.
The principal of the Engineering College, Professor Vahabudeen, had visited the police camp at Kakkayam together with another professor. Mr. Jayaram Padikkal’s behaviour was very rude with these loving teachers. The students in custody peeped through the windows to see their principal. Rajan was not among them.
I steadfastly believed that Rajan would come back. I always asked my wife to keep apart a bowl of rice and a plantain leaf for him. He may step in any time. He may be hungry. There should be rice ready at home for him. Yes, he will come back. Sure he will…
At night when the dogs barked and made noise for no reason, I woke up and waited at the doorstep… waiting for a call of “father”. Keeping the door open, I went back and fell tired into the bed. A sob, “Oh my little child”, got choked in my throat. But I shouldn’t cry. I shouldn’t allow even a teardrop to roll down my eyes, for there was his mother, Radha, ignorant of all this…
(Courtesy: Asian Human Rights Commission - Publications)