Sam D’Cruz (sorry, not his real name) was a friend and neighbour. He lived by, among other things, arranging fake degrees for youngsters who wanted to go abroad, and moonlighting as a police informer. Among the many true stories about police cases he told me was this one about a bear and a monkey.
Mangat Ram Tangat Ram Sharma, President of the local PETA – People for Ethical Treatment of Animals – went hunting in a reserved forest near the Great City. Before he could pull the trigger of his double-barrel, a notorious bear caught him from behind and hugged him to death..
The body bore tell-tale marks of a bear-attack, so pressure fell on the police to find the culprit. The Chief Minister, whose election was financed by the victim of the bear-hug, called the Home Minister, and the Home Minister roared at the Commissioner; the Commissioner warned the local Police Inspector that if he did not find the bear in the next 24 hours, he would be transferred. The inspector, who had wangled the posting to the station at great personal expense and lived a happy and prosperous life at the expense of forest poachers, could not imagine being posted out. He urged his constables to go get the notorious bear – and after an afterthought – any damned bear.
The policemen combed through the forest all the way to the boundary. When they found no bears, they chased monkeys – the larger ones with black fur. Some were shot and wounded, others ran helter-skelter. None could be caught.
One of the monkeys made bold to land up at the police station to report that he knew the bear, and where he (the bear) could be found. He was arrested.
“This is the one, for sure,” said the Head Constable, with the honorific of Havildar for his vast experience.
“But he is not a bear,” moaned the inspector, who woefully lacked the Havildar’s thirty-five year experience in the same rank and the same posting and had managed to build a mansion in his village and to bag a wine-shop contract for his son in the city.
“Now, now, Sir, we will make him one”, said the Havildar with a suggestive twinkle In his eyes.
The inspector respected the old head-con’s thirty-five years of experience in the force.
“Then do the needful, “ ordered the Inspector.
Every police station keeps a constable with great agility and ability to roll human bodies under his boots, stretching the victim’s balls till they looked like ribbons, placing pins under their nails and rolling a heavy pestle over his body till bones cracked – the last one he had learnt while on a deputation to Kerala Police. Nobody believed his boast that he was trained in a distant place called Guantanamo Bay by a white expert named Rum Fell.
So the same Constable was called for doing, as they say in India, the needful.
At lights out, the Constable started working on the transformation of the monkey. The exercise went on through the night. Nearby houses – Police Stations are housed in rented places in or near housing colonies for citizens’ safety – familiar to the screams and wails that rose from the police station every night, closed their shutters, wondering why this time the screams and wails were somewhat unlike human. They didn’t dare investigate.
Next morning, the monkey with black fur put his thumb impression on a confession in the blood that flowed from under his pin-holed nails. A monkey’s – he meant bear’s – signature will become suspect in the Court, advised the Havildar. Since everyone agreed with that wise line of argument, his signature was not sought.
Courts do not trust a confession obtained by police interrogation. So the monkey was taken early morning to a magistrate in his house. His eyes swollen with sleep and a hangover, the magistrate questioned the monkey:
“Do you, in the name of God swear that you are a bear?”
The monkey grunted with pain when a policeman pinched a sore spot from the previous night’s ordeal at his bottom .
“Good. Did you hug Mr. Mangat Ram Tangat Ram Sharma, the President of PETA and great benefactor of the poor and the needy?”
“Did you leave him in the forest trail to die after the cold-blooded murder?”
“Isn’t it true that you were captured against claw-and-nail resistance by the brave policemen, and that you had not surrendered nor gone yourself to report to the Police?”
Ouch. Grunt. Ouch. Grunt.
The magistrate personally ensured that the monkey’s hand was held by the Havildar and led to press his thumb on the confession sheet. The blood from his fingers and nails had been wiped clean earlier, so an ink pad with the regulation magenta ink was used. The magistrate signed with a flourish that the confession was made by the self-admitted bear’ of his own free will, and that neither physical force nor mental duress was applied on him.
Seventeen witnesses were produced in the criminal court against the monkey who had by then begun to believe that he was a bear. They swore that they were present when the bear – the same bear that they earlier identified in court – had hugged Mangat Ram Tangat Ram Sharma, benefactor of the poor and needy and lover of animals, to death. Prosecution did not ask the witnesses why they did not intervene. The Defence, whom the monkey did not pay a Rupee yet and it didn’t look like he would pay any, did not ask either.
One of the witnesses, whom the judge recognized as one holding a frequent-witness card, testified that he had personally been attacked by the same bear a few months earlier. He showed the Court a deep scar on his exposed chest to prove the point. The judge vaguely remembered that the same witness had produced the same scar in another murder case a month or so earlier.
One needs to go by the evidence, not moral code, the judge wrote while sentencing the convict to death. This is a rarest-of-the-rare case, stated the judicial order, since the bear not only committed the crime, but masqueraded as a monkey and tried his best to destroy evidence. With the possibility that he could be in line for elevation to the higher Court in mind, the judge emphasized the rarest-of-the-rare part in the sentence.
Newspapers screamed foul. One produced a photograph with a caption, “Are you blind? How can this puny monkey who is not a bear hug the massive Mr. Sharma to death? “
Three days later, the journalist who made that report was found hanging from an iron beam on the ceiling of a public toilet.
The editor of a weekly news magazine who published an article written all by himself from pirated data and photograph, but gave the names of his three data-entry operators as those who did the research, was arrested on a money-laundering case. A young woman who was named by the editor as one of the three researchers was raped in an auto-rickshaw by seven men, six of whom had earlier appeared in the witness box for the prosecution.
The higher courts on appeal ceded that a criminal hugging a man to death was rare, that his masquerading as someone else before the honourable court was even rarer. Hence the appeals were dismissed.
The Prime Minister in a nationally televised speech roared “ “Let all those bears masquerading as monkeys beware. We know what you are up to. We can deal with you. For every citizen you hug to death, we will hug three”.
A canned applause rang through television speakers. The screen showed a few faces showing victory signs to the television camera when they were given a sign from behind the camera.
Since then, for the last twenty five years, the monkey has been sitting in a solitary jail, wondering if the noose would hurt him too hard.
The bear, in the meanwhile, is fed his favourite bananas and honey in a zoo in Dubai. The rumour is that Pakistan foots the bill.
“I know the bear, and I know the monkey”, concluded Mr. Sam D’Cruz.