Mohan was driving the jeep towards the main bazaar. Tall and stodgy in his starched Khaki uniform with its stripes,with a baton on hand and a pin pointed mustache, he was evoking instant respect. His wide leather belt that carried the holster for the pistol and his cap in Khaki and black that sat trim on his head only added a vague fear. It was evening around 5pm.He saw a crowd in the middle of the road with the people on the periphery craning their necks to see what was happening in the middle. There was a babel of angry voices,” Kill her”. “Strip her”, “Break her hands”, and so on.
When the crowd heard the shrill horn of the jeep and saw Mohan’s khaki uniform, it instantly parted and gave way for the jeep to proceed. Some people started to disperse silently wishing to avoid trouble and some remained curiously to witness what was likely happen. Mohan saw a woman in her early thirties beaten blue with bruises on her eyes, lips and cheeks. Blood was oozing out. Her clothes were torn and upper garments removed except for a torn blouse hiding her chest. Even the sari had been pulled away and she was in her petticoat. It was a distressing sight to see the mob in mindless fury assaulting a defenceless woman.
Even as Mohan stopped the jeep, some men came near the jeep on their own and started telling him unsolicited “Sahib, this woman is evidently a witch from her looks and unkempt hair. She is very likely a child abductor as we saw her talking to and dragging an unwilling child. She also stole a packet of bread from the opposite shop. We were teaching a lesson that she would not forget before bringing her to police station. Luckily you have yourself come, Sahib”
Mohan turned to see a four year old girl child crying in a corner and understood the situation. Had he not come, they would have stripped her naked and possibly killed her too. In an authoritarian tone he said to the crowd in general” Move away. It is wrong on your part to take law in your own hands. Leave the job to the police. Disperse immediately.” He asked two men to lift her and put her in the rear seat. The woman was promptly put in the jeep.
When she in pain turned and pointed to the weeping girl child who had ambled towards the jeep and pleaded almost inaudibly,” Please do not leave my daughter alone here. They may kill her. Allow her to come with me.” He lifted the child and put the girl by her side.
Turning to the mob, he said “I will take her at the police station and arrange to have the matter enquired into. Beware, if she perchance dies, you will all be in trouble.” One or two fellows wished to come along to see what was done at police station.
Mohan said “No one need come. If you still come, you could be made witnesses. When she lodges her complaint that you all beat and stripped her, you may have to prove your innocence.” Thereupon the men quietly withdrew allowing the jeep to proceed.
After traveling some distance, Mohan stopped the jeep and asked the sobbing woman as to what had actually happened. “Ayya (Sir), my children are starving for the last two days. My husband has deserted me. It is true I stole the bread without knowing the crowd would beat me up.”
Mohan said” I understand your predicament. Lucky I was there in time as otherwise they would have put you to great shame and injury. You should not steal henceforth. Take these 200 rupees, get food and go home. Don’t go near the bazaar for a few days.” She thanked him profusely as she got down with her child.
Mohan proceeded towards the school where he was supposed to be at 5-30pm.As soon as he reached the gate, his wife and son came rushing towards him. “Mohan, Why so late? The function is to start in a few minutes. The chief guest has already come. You look swell in your uniform, cap and all,” said his wife
He saw his boy dressed like a politician in kurta, pajama with black glasses a pan parag box in hand and long angavastram on his shoulders The boy was taking part in school fancy dress competition that evening. and he had requested his dad to come behind him as a special protection guard as netas are seen. Mohan had agreed to play along and had come in hired uniform for an evening.