Thursday, July 20, 2006

'Before I am killed, give me a signal so I can shout a slogan'

'Before I am killed, give me a signal so I can shout a slogan'

After combing the Thirunelli forests for two days, the Central Reserve Police Force posse set up camp near a local temple. They had sighted Varghese and his comrades winding their way through the trees the day before. But the Naxalites had given them the slip, setting off a country bomb in their wake which left a constable badly injured.

The next morning, the police received a tip-off that Varghese was holed up in a house occupied by one Sivaraman Nair, who served as caretaker to an elderly widow called Ittichiri Manayamma, a known ally of the Naxalites.

The police team approached the house and rapped on the front door. 'Who's there?' asked a voice from within. The police announced their presence. The voice ranged out: 'Nair, have you betrayed me?' The cops stormed the door and entered. Varghese stood with his arms up in the air. He smiled: 'Don't worry. I'm alone and unarmed.' The Naxalite leader was led out, wrists bound with a rifle sling, and bundled into a jeep.

Thirty minutes down the road, en route to Manathavady, they were joined by a convoy of police vehicles. Constable Ramachandran Nair says he recognised DSP Lekshmana and DIG Vijayan in one of the jeeps.

''Varghese turned to us,'' Nair recalls. 'They are going to kill me,' he told us. 'One of you will have to do it. I have one request. Before I am killed, give me a signal so that I can shout a slogan.' He was so calm when he said that.'''

It was 1400 hours. A cop walked up to Varghese and blindfolded him. The policemen settled down to eat. Constabtle Nair shared his food with the prisoner. He also offered him a bidi. At 1830 hours, Lekshmana addressed the constables guarding the Naxalite leader. Nair recreates the sequence of events: ''Lekshamana told us that Varghese was going to be shot. DIG Vijayan was standing nearby. Then Lekshmana ordered those of us who were willing to shoot Varghese to raise their hands. Rappai and Sreedharan raised their hands. Haneefa hesitated but finally raised his. I did not.''

The prisoner should be produced in court, Nair reasoned with his superior. ''Lekshmana reminded me that policemen could die in accidents. I recognised the threat. Varghese was going to die anyway. If I died, my family would be helpless,'' Nair ended his resistance.

The dissenter was then chosen to perform the deed. Nair looked at his target. He winces at the memory: ''Varghese was sitting between two rocks. He was calm but alert, as though he was waiting for something to happen and wondering why it wasn't happening. I went up to him and rested the nozzle of my rifle on the left side on his chest. Then I remembered his request. I sounded a signal with my tongue. 'Long live the revolution,' he shouted and I pulled the trigger. He fell over.''

Another cop then fired a shot in the air and put the weapon in Varghese's lifeless hand. The encounter death was complete.


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