It is my fervent hope that by the time this article appears in print Surla would be back in confinement. Not wholly misplaced optimism considering that our police are as good at nabbing culprits as they are at letting them slip through their grasp. It is just that the public, who are mute, helpless spectators to this ‘robber and police game’, will have to live with the disconcerting prospect of confronting the feared, and so, revered criminal whenever they venture out. Or probably, a few hurried raps on your backdoor well past midnight which may not really be opportunity knocking, but the dreaded fugitive, who carries on his person, not only AIDS, but secrets that can be more devastating. Just the other day they had a live demonstration of Veerappan storming into civilisation only to learn that he was a fake and it was a prank played by a well placed TV channel, which has the licence to do anything under the Sun, to test the sensitive nerves of the citizens.
Of course, Surla’s escape is real and it would be mischievous and even preposterous to speculate that he was ‘allowed’ to escape. But what really pains and beats one’s senses is the mode of his escape. Admittedly it would be a violation of human rights if Surla had not been allowed to answer nature’s call and there is no point in blaming the poor cops who obliged. But the fact that Surla should use this age-old, primitive technique enacted in scores of films by petty villains and dashing heroes alike, has made the police a laughing stock, once again like the clumsy filmy cops. The modus operandi also included bending the window bars, squeezing through the tiny frame, as toilets are not known to have French windows, and slidiing down a pipeline to freedom. No doubt Surla has relieved himself admirably!
It is learnt that it took the police quite some time to realise that the bird had flown. The news of Surla’s escape was missed by all evening papers, though the time of the event had been put around noon, suggesting that there was some confusion about the chronology. Obviously, Surla has been planning it for quite a few days now and though he was not expected to take the authorities into confidence about his plans as some brigands these days do, the fact remains that the police never even suspected anything foul in Surla’s general demeanour prior to the escape and even after he failed to emerge from the bathroom after a reasonable time.
Surla’s escape is bound to send the shivers down several spines, given the curious twists the case had been taking in the last few years. The anti-climax came when the CBI dropped the name of Surla from the acid attack case, but freedom eluded him after the victim went on an appeal. Surla’s AIDS and his admission into the Tambaram hospital offered even more grist to the media, and now comes the mother of all news, the great escape. His capture, if at all it materialises, will be less sensational as it would come more as a relief, not only to the police but also to the people.
The latter are more to be pitied. They were in fact expecting a reformed and rejuvenated forest brigand Veerappan to join them before the year end, given the hype about his surrender. That they now have to contend with just Surla in their midst as a new year gift must be quite disappointing. No doubt the mainstream has space and certainly for more of such elements, what with patient ears, acquiescent regimes and even amnesty with all attendant perquisites available aplenty for the asking. And with laws that are porous and policemen who have such loose fingers, that virtually anything can slip through, not to speak of a friendly brigand media that are ever ready to present the good side of even hardened criminals, the people had better prepared themselves for more such incursions from the underworld.
And while we wait for the special police team that is on Surla’s invisible trail to catch up with him; let me wish everyone a safe new year rather than a happy one.
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