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An Innocent Victim

Updated: 5 days ago

Cover Photo by Pankaj Tottada

“My brother to my left, my brother to my right. Together we stand, together we fight” read a poster as I walked to the courtroom. It transported me back to the old days when this saying was our impetus chant. We were introduced as the brothers who were destined to defend our motherland and only death could send us back to her abode. In service, we were unaware when we bonded nor were we aware when we parted, but all that we knew was to defend each other until the end.

When I look back, five years ago, the day I arrived at the Officers Training Academy I sat quietly at a bench waiting for my document verification. Although it had only been a few hours since my parents left, I was already feeling homesick. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder and when I looked back, a guy with a lean figure smiled at me and asked me to make space for him. Little did I know that it wasn’t just the space on the bench but a large space in my life as well that Shyam would occupy. Since then, there wasn’t a day that passed by without talking to him.

In the beginning, our family of thirty cadets fought as if there was no tomorrow. We competed in everything and held ranks of hate against each other. In time, with the cross country runs, the morning drills, the afternoon shooting practices, the evening basketball matches along with creative and unforgettable punishments, our trainers turned us into men and we turned from strangers to brothers.

Now, on a cloudy day, I entered the buzzing courtroom followed by two havildars as the accused for whom this court-martial is being held. The court proceedings began with the prosecutor standing up and accusing me of murdering a civilian at the crown of our country where my battalion was posted. Calling me on to the witness stand and after I took the oath, he just asked me one question, “Did you shoot Mr. Sameer Jha?”

I answered without a moment of hesitation, “Yes.”

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