Saturday, 21 January 2012

Collateral damage –A short story

Everyone was looking at the television screens in a state of shock and disbelief. All schools and colleges were given the day off. Policemen and military forces were patrolling the streets in major cities. The state was in a state of mourning. The Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra had just been assassinated in the morning in a terrorist attack. A member of Parliament accompanying them had also been killed. The security forces were in a state of high alert. According to security agencies, the 3 leaders were returning to Mumbai after inaugurating a project in rural Maharashtra. When the motorcade was crossing a bridge, 2 powerful bombs exploded in a span of few seconds killed the 3 VIPS.

Television channels were working overtime and having a field day. Every channel ran exclusive coverage of the terrorist attack. Barkha Das, a TV reporter was looking very happy. She was telling her friend. “My dumb boss had given me pink slip yesterday. But today he called me on the job and gave me 10 percent salary increment also”. Every channel had a panel of experts; each channel panel consisting of experts talking nonstop. Some experts were surprised that the attack happened in a non naxalite area. And according to security and intelligence agencies, neither the CM nor his deputy was on the target list of any banned outfit. And hence the attacks were more shocking.

In New Delhi, the home minister of the country was having a heated argument with his own home minister; his wife.
“All because of you” he was shouting at her.
Apparently, the media was lampooning him for changing shirts and trousers thrice in a span of 2 hours during the press conferences after the terrorist attack.
She was in tears. “I find it humiliating when my kitty party friends say you have no dress sense. You were wearing a very poor dress combination in the first press conference. That’s why I called you and asked you to change. But you have no taste. You again wore something silly. That’s why I had to rush down to get you in a decent dress. When the whole country is watching, how can you afford to dress so shabbily?”
“You don’t understand”, he was telling her. Now the media is asking for my resignation on these grounds. Madam high command may order me to resign anytime. If it was just common people dying, I could have understood your pestering. But this time, high level ministers have been killed. People like us”


A full 2 days had passed since the assassinations. But the security agencies still had no clue as to the perpetrators behind the attacks. Television channels camped outside the houses of the killed politicians and gave a live telecast. Party leaders and party workers called on the family members to console them. As is the convention in a democracy, all major leaders across party lines, who were criticizing the 3 politicians till a few days back were now all praise for them.

The VIPs were not the only casualties. There was further collateral damage as well.
 About 20 people travelling with the VIPs, which included security personnel, personal assistants and government contractors were also killed. The news channels met the family of these killed commoners as well. Sushil Patil, a peon with the state government and his family were in a state of grief. One of his sons was driving the CM’s car and was killed in the attack. Sanjay Jaykar, a construction and building contractor has lost his brother Babanrao Jaykar in the attack.
Babanrao and Sanjay had a family construction and building business and they had worked on quite a few government contracts. Babanrao was travelling along with the Deputy CM as they needed to discuss a new project proposal. Babanrao was killed along with the Deputy CM. Ironically, the bridge which the terrorists blew up was constructed by Sanjay and Babanrao’s construction company. The personal secretaries of the CM and deputy CM were killed. Elsewhere families of policemen killed in the attack were yet to come to terms with the tragedy. Around 40 onlookers who had thronged on both the sides of the roads to watch the ministers in their glory were injured. There was quite a severe collateral damage.


The security and investigation agencies were under a lot of pressure from the government.  By the end of the week, they had collected a good deal of evidence. But each known terrorist enterprise they tried to match the evidence to, they came up empty handed. The design and planning signature of the attack did not match any known terrorist enterprise or its franchisee. The police had formed a profile of the terrorist as a person or persons who had good skill and experience in construction and engineering and knew exactly where to plant bombs for optimal impact.

Infighting had already started in the party for getting tickets for the two State Assembly and one parliamentary by elections. The high command had appointed one of their obedient men as the CM. The CM’s son wanted the CM’s post else he threatened to quit the party.


A week later, the policemen announced that they had arrested the mastermind behind the attack and the plot would be unearthed shortly.

A bunch of ministers, intelligence officers, military officers and police officers were waiting outside a cell in jail in Mumbai. A policeman came out from the cell and saluted them. “Sir, there is no need for third degree, He is willing to talk.” All of them walked into the cell and crowded around the prisoner. Sanjay Jaykar looked up at the crowd.
Inspector Patil said “So Mr. Sanjay Jaykar. You thought you were very smart and we could never catch you. Start talking”

Sanjay Jaykar said, “Our father had started this construction business from nothing. I am proud of my father”

 “Come to the point”, thundered Inspector Patil.

“Yes, that is the point”, continued Sanjay Jaykar. “My father had taken great pains to build this business. After he died, my brother and I took over the business. However, my brother used to dominate me and double cross me and keep most of the money for himself. He claimed that the business ran because of his skills in bribing politician and bureaucrats and the business would be nothing without him. But it was not true. Even I was good at the job.” He looked up at one of the ministers. “Raosahebji, did I not bribe you Rs. 50 Lakh for that sewage project?”

“I have some important work, need to leave” said Raosaheb Deskhukh and excused himself.

“So I was very angry with my brother. I wanted him out of the way and the entire wealth for myself”, Sanjay continued. “Since the Deputy CM was coming to inaugurate the project and since I knew my brother would be travelling back with him to do strike a deal, I struck upon a plan. I knew the quality of materials we had used in the bridge and I knew the bridge would not withstand even take a moderate explosive impact. So I planted explosives a few days earlier and then detonated it through the mobile phone”.

Inspector Patil asked. “Where did you get the explosives?”
“We in the construction business have a lot of contacts” replied Sanjay.

Inspector Patil replied “Very clever, but not clever enough. Our investigations revealed some eyewitnesses who found some of your behavior for the past few days very suspicions. And even your employees and neighbours knew that your relations with your brother were strained.”

“I wanted to make it look like an audacious terrorist attack so that I was not suspected” said Sanjay.

Inspector Patil said, “So how are you going to explain the killing of the CM, Deputy CM and an Member of Parliament to the country?”

“Collateral Damage” replied Sanjay Jaykar.

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