Rahul Pandit swore with disgust. In the office, he sat watching the live telecast of the terror attack right in the heart of his city. He kept hurling abuses at the TV screen. He had a lot of pent up frustrations. He hated these terrorists.
It was too hot that day. Rahul kept fanning himself with one of his school textbooks as he waited for the bus to come. He was one of the very few kids at his school who preferred to use the BEST bus over the school buses. He was always taught to be independent. He liked it that way. The boy was a loner.
“Yeh saale l**nde kisi ke sage nahi hote. Maar daalo inhe. Bhagaa dalo inhe Hindustan se”. These words kept echoing in his ears. These words were uttered by the shakha pramukh of the Hindu Rashtra Sena. Others called them a right wing party full of fanatics led by a scheming bastard. Rahul was wary of them at first. He was alarmed at the hate and anger in the speeches of the pramukh. Why was he so angry at them? He had not even faced an ordeal as horrific as he had.
The wait was getting excruciating. Why was the bus not coming? He had the bus time table memorized. They were never this behind schedule. There must have been a traffic jam, he thought. But at 1 in the afternoon, the chances of traffic jams were very low. Then he saw the bus coming. At first he was relieved. As the bus came closer, he noticed the broken window panes. He saw some bright flashes of red coming out from the back. As the bus came really close to him, he saw that it was on fire.
“Haraami hain ye sab. Khaate hain yeh idhar ka, dil hain unka us taraf.” These were the words of another leader of another hindu right wing party, the Hindu Swatantrya Sena. Rahul wondered how this gentleman had understood the “khwaaish” of his “enemies”. “Sab ek jaise hain ye” was the reply. How did he know that? Had he seen them as closely as Rahul had that fateful day?
He saw the group of men running towards him. They had an assortment of weapons in hand. Choppers, swords, axes, you name them. The sight of this mob with their steel accessories would have frightened a grown up man. What chance did a 14 year old boy have? He did the only thing he could. He ran. However they were faster and caught up with him in a few minutes.
“Kya naam hain tera”.
“Hindu hain na tu.”
“Tere logo ne hi masjid todi na”.
“Maar daalo ise”.
“Jalaa daalo ise”.
“Kyun de inke Haj ke liye hum subsidy. Humein bhi Kashi jaana hota hain. Humein koi nahin deta discount.” Another leader of a party, the Hindu Prajarakshak Sangh had said these words. Though not as inflammatory as the others, this leader seemed to be well, more “active”. His men were at the forefront of all anti Muslim riots and fights. He seemed to be a man of action. His party seemed apt.
The mob walked him to the middle of the street. They wanted him to burn in the middle right in front of everybody. He was going to be the symbol of their fury. As he was being walked he was being bathed in rockel. He was going to make headlines. As he became more terrified, the adrenaline in his body kicked in. He bit the hand of the person holding him and ran. This time he ran faster than them. For some time. He could see them gaining on him. He turned a corner. Briefly he was out of their sight. He frantically searched for a hiding place. He could hear their footsteps now. They were going to catch him. Then suddenly…
“It’s time.” He woke up from his reverie and saw the person who said those words standing in front of him. “Okay. Let us go. Got a long night ahead.” She smiled.
It was dark in there. He had no idea where he was. He could figure that he was inside a small house. He could see his would be murderers searching for him through a small window. They went all over the place. He feared that they would barge in this house and catch him again. Then they seemingly lost interest in him and left, probably searching for another bait. He heaved a huge sigh of relief. Then he felt someone standing behind him.
“Lagta hain wo chale gaye, beta. Thode der ruk sakte ho. Shyaam hote hi jab yahaan police aayegi, tum unke saath nikal lena”.
She led him to the others. They were all there in their “assault” uniforms. All of them looking like god’s own soldiers. Eyes full of intent. Waiting to kill.
“Thank you sir. You saved my life.”
“Jaan maine nahi, Mere bete ne bachai hai. Usi ne to tunhe andar ghasita. Badaa bahadur hai yeh. Naaz hain mujhe ispe.”
“Gentlemen, meet Rahul Pandit. He is a native here and knows inside out the area we are targeting. He knows the soft targets where we can concentrate first. He will be here in the office and will be communicating with you all on the walkie talkie.”
“Kya naam hain tumhaara bete”.
“Main hoo Ishrat Ali aur yeh hai mera beta…kya hua bete??”
Rahul fainted with shock.
“So you are Rahul Pandit.” So said the leader of the NSG commando unit.
“Loved your work in flushing out the conspirators of the Jalgaon blasts. Which party were they from?”
“Hindu Prajarakshak Sangh. Had to go undercover there. Full of dangerous bastards.”
“Brave chap. Now let us get to work. Commandos. Next stop, the Taj.”
Rahul saw them leave. Go get those bastards, he said silently. He hated these terrorists for sullying the names of their co-religonists. People like Ishrat uncle who was like a father to him. Then he remembered. Uncle had called. His son was missing.
Where are you, my brother? Where are you Akhtar?