The Day The State Split Asunder-11
The Day The State Split Asunder-1111 mins 262 11 mins 262
Standing two feet behind the compound wall of the mountain sidewalk, high atop the steps of the Annavaram Satyadeva temple, Arjun's wife Sudha gazed at the spectacular view of the lush green mountains and the Pampa river flowing seamlessly under its feet, painting a picturesque background with fog.
"Arjun, hurry up! The view is amazing from here," her smile was magic, "I am so happy today, after a long time we got the opportunity to visit the temple together."
He struggled to ascend the steps with his played out legs, which were punctured more than a dozen times with the bullets.
"Wait, I can't walk fast like you," he begged, "I am getting a call."
He took out his mobile from his pocket. To his surprise, the caller identity on the screen displayed a private number. He swiped up to answer and all at once, his vision began to blur. The temple surroundings were completely replaced with tall trees and the sidewalk with giant grass and mud. The devotional music from the loudspeakers is couped with thundering gunshots, reverberating the entire area.
He looked around, his wife disappeared from his view and in her place stood the Greyhounds commissioner Acharya. All of a sudden, the mobile in his hand got transformed into an AK-47 and the commissioner ordered him to go deep into the forest and combat against the belligerents.
In short order, as he was about to venture into the forest, his wife obstructed him out of the blue.
"You failed to fulfill the promise," she said in a sobbing tone and tears started coursing down her cheeks, "I shouldn't have married a policeman."
"Sudha! Get out from my way, I am on duty the bullets can hit you."
Like a bat out of the hell, in no time, the bullet penetrated her chest from behind and she fell upon the ground with blood oozing out from her body.
"Sudha…" he let out a scream of anguish that resounded across the forest.
He felt a tap on his shoulder and awoke from his horrendous nightmare.
Stupefied with horror, he rose and looked around aghast, he is safe, inside of his home and his wife was beside him along with his son Sanjay in between.
He looked at the time on his wristwatch. It showed 02:15.
"What happened? Is it the same nightmare," asked Sudha.
"Yes, it was the same nightmare," his face was glistening with perspiration, "Did I scream?"
The mobile present on the table beside the bed started vibrating. She took the mobile into her hands and frowned, looking at the screen.
"What kind of a call is this?" said Sudha, "It is showing a private number."
"What!" in a flash he snatched the phone from her hand, tapped on the answer icon and said - "Hello"
"Hello Arjun. This is me Acharya."
"Yes sir," he got out of his bed.
"Arjun, start to the Rajahmundry Police Guest House as soon as possible. Owing to the sensitivity of the issue I cannot explain the matter on the phone. I know you are on leave, but you're the only one who crossed our mind." said Acharya. "DGP is also with me."
"Sir, I will start now itself and will be at the guesthouse in two hours."
"Arjun, we have already arranged the vehicle, it will probably arrive at your home in thirty minutes."
"We are expecting you soon." Acharya disconnected the call.
"What happened?" asked his wife in a loud tone, "Who called you and you said something like I will start now itself?"
"Sshhh… Don't shout, Sanjay will get up." he glanced at Sanjay who is lying asleep on the bed without any care for what's going on around, "Acharya sir called me and he said I need to meet him now."
"For which purpose he called you at this hour? Please drive your point straight, tell me what exactly is the matter ?"
"Sudha… the matter is…" said Arjun afraid to speak straightforwardly, "I may not be able to…"
"No good being mealy-mouthed when it's a question of life and death. I think you received orders to perform combing operation again? Isn't it?"
"Not exactly, I was asked to report to the Rajahmudry Police Guest House. I will get to know my task after having reached there."
"I swear I don't know."
"Tomorrow is Sanjay's first birthday. We are supposed to visit The Annavaram Temple tomorrow. Don't you have any love for your child?" asked Sudha sobbingly, "We had waited seven years to welcome him into our life. It is only because of the blessings of Lord Satyadeva Sanjay came into our life."
"I can understand your pain Sudha, but I am bound to my duty. As a policemen it is my responsibility to preserve law and order. In a month I will be released from the greyhounds and will be reinstated as Sub-Inspector, if time's good maybe I get promoted as Circle-Inspector."
"I don't want you to be in the police force. My father already told you about setting up an electronic showroom in Rajahmundry. Why don't you resign from this stupid job and look after the business?"
"Sudha!" he yelled loudly. "Don't call it a stupid job. All four generations of my family have worked in the police department. The duty to serve people and nation is completely soaked in our DNA. My great grandfather, grand father, and my dad served the police forces and later even Sanjay also need to take it forward, he will pass it to his son and he to his and so on and so forth."
His mobile started ringing again. A call from the driver who came to pick him up.
"I need to leave now and don't worry about me. Lord Satyadeva has protected me so far and I am sure, he is going to protect me this time also..." he looked at her sorrowfully for a moment, took her hands into his, "Sudha, you should feel proud for being the wife of a sincere police officer."
He then glanced at his son Sanjay who just awoke from his sleep owing to the loud conversation. He cuddled the child close and pulled the blanket up around him before setting him down among the cushions. He kissed on his soft, roly-poly cheeks and said - "Happy Birthday Sanjay, please excuse your Dad for not being present to celebrate your first birthday, until I come take care of your mother."
Right away, he put on the leather boots, walked out of his home and got into the jeep. In ninety minutes, the driver dropped him at the Police Guest House. He walked in swiftly to the lobby and the secretary of the guest house escorted him to the meeting room.
He saluted the DGP and to the commissioner Acharya.
The DGP and Acharya gave him the entire sketch of events and imputed the responsibility to lead the team in planning and launching an operation against the hostile forces.
By the time they completed briefing, the sun slowly arose from the east and the rays penetrated through the windows brightening the meeting room.
"Sir we can perform this operation. But, I can assure success only if you give me the chance to choose the members to be included in this operation." said Arjun
"Certainly Arjun," said the DGP, "Now I am putting the ball in your court, carry on all the necessary communication equipments and weapons needed. Our first mission is to capture them alive, if the situation seems to spiral out of control, then only open the fire."
"Sir, I am conscious of it. The Georgepet village which you just spoke about is a ghost village. I am sure, they might have hidden their ammunitions in that village. They usually walk in at nights, if we can recover the dump in daylight, we can arrest them at night."
"You can start Arjun, I am preparing the list, choose the persons you wish to include in this operation."
Acharya prepared the list and gave it to Arjun. Arjun selected the candidates and soon the entire team of ten reported in the briefing room.
The greyhounds weaponry unit dispatched the most advanced guns, pistols, smoke grenades and the bluetooth communication equipment along with walkie talkies.
Arjun spread out the map of the Georgepet village and briefed his team about the objectives of the mission. They later got into the greyhounds artillery practise fields and performed a mock drill till 12:00 PM and thereafter broke for lunch.
Having completed their lunch, they approached the special police training club seminar hall where they discussed about the procedures to be followed incase of any casualties.
By the time they completed it's already 01:00 PM. They got into the jeeps and began their journey towards Georgepet village. Two hours later they stopped at the frontiers of the village and parked their vehicles five hundred meters away from it.
"Guys, the village is just five hundred meters away," said Arjun, "Sudhakar and I will go and have a look around at the place. Stay here until we are back."
"Yes sir," everyone shouted in unison.
Arjun and Sudhakar started walking towards the village. From the distance they were able to see the ruins of around four hundred buildings.
Georgepet is located about eighteen kilometers south-west of the Rajahmundry town. The village township was centred around a temple of the mother goddess Lalitha devi. It had three longitudinal roads, which were cut through by a number of latitudinal narrow lanes. As this village is situated close to the forest it suffered frequent attacks from the people's war groups.
"Sudhakar, this is Georgepet. Three years ago I came to this place on the information that few militants are hiding here. But we couldn't find anything. This village looked better at that time. Only fourty to fifty members are staying in this village, most of them are farmers."
As they entered into the village they were confronted by an elderly man in mid seventies dressed in white dhoti and white shirt with dark skin and disheveled hair and beard.
"Who are you?" asked the elderly man, scanning them from top to bottom. "Looks like you both are well educated and hail from noble families. Have you any relatives in this village?"
"Actually," said Arjun, "We are on our way to Hyderabad but unfortunately our tyres got flattened and looks like it may take sometime for us to make alternative arrangements. We came to this village in search of any hotel."
The old man laughed
"A hotel here in Georgepet. Looks like you have been passing through this place for the first time. I am afraid whether you will feel good in resting under the tree. There are only few houses left with the roof and there are fifteen families staying here."
"No issues, we can adjust," said Sudhakar, "We managed marvelously in the forest, this place is like a mansion to us-"
Arjun stamped Sudhakar's feet.
"Ouch…" groaned Sudhakar.
"What forest?" asked the oldman with his eyes wide open.
"I mean he is saying there is a beautiful forest five kilometers from here, we thought of going there for a visit."
"Yes I love forest." said Sudhakar.
"Yes, the forest is his birthplace," said Arjun with a smile and turning his face towards the old man he said, "We can manage to sleep outdoors. You don't get worried about it. Meanwhile, we just want to have a look around to find a place to cook meals."
"No need of that, we will arrange food for you," said the oldman, "The forest which you spoke is extremely dangerous. Last week a leopard has killed one cow and two calves."
"No uncle we have no plans to get into the forest," said Arjun, "We are not two, we are a complete team of ten members. Please don't take the trouble."
"Where are the remaining?" asked the oldman.
"They are behind."
"Why don't you ask them to come? You are our guests. We will try our level best to make you feel comfortable?" said the old man.
"So sweet of you," said Sudhakar, "They will come soon. Till that time we just want to look at the beauty of your village."
"Your wish, but there won't be anything interesting." replied the old man.
Arjun and Sudhakar nodded in agreement and started walking around to survey the village.
"Let's recce the place," said Arjun, "make note of the entry and the exit points into this village."
There is a big temple exactly in the middle of the village which is not fully constructed, the bricks and concrete gravels are scattered here and there haphazardly.
Beside the temple there is a hay stack.
"Sudhakar if we can get to the top floor of the temple I can get the complete view of this village. In case if we are compelled to combat, I will get on to the top floor. I can hit the targets precisely from there."
"Where can they probably hide their weapons?" asked Sudhakar.
"They will definitely come to collect their weapons, they should have hidden it somewhere amidst these ruined structures. It's still four hours for the sun to call it a day. We will get to know the answer soon."
As they advanced further, they happened to see a well at the end of the line beyond which the area opens into vast stretch of agricultural fields. There are four coconut tree around along with a big mango tree. They approached the well and gazed into it. It is partially filled with water with mango and coconut leaves floating upon it.
"Arjun, do you believe in wishing well."
"Nothing in my childhood once I read a story about wishing well. If we throw a coin into it, it will fulfill our wish."
"Is it? Let's give it a try. I don't have any coins in my pocket. I will test my luck with this stone."
Arjun picked up a big stone beside and threw it into the well. He heard a metallic clink sound.
"Did you listen to the sound?" asked Arjun with his eyes beaming with pleasure, "Look's like the wishing well is not a fantasy?"
He picked up another big stone and threw it into the well.
To be continued…