Oct. 20: A misnomer of a “kiss” that blasted its way back from an 18-year-old past has shone a light on the inglorious uncertainties of life, a possible change in attitudes in the country and the price of “youthful” reckless behaviour that can wreck careers and traumatise even those unborn then.
The Telegraph had reported on October 10 that the Supreme Court had upheld the conviction and sentencing of Ajahar Ali who had pulled a girl by her hair and kissed her in a Malda village in November 1995.
The act was described as a “kiss” but the girl suffered a bleeding cut in the lower lip, not to speak of the terror and humiliation at being attacked. Both Ajahar and the girl were then aged 16.
Eighteen years down the line, the following changes have taken place in their lives.
Ajahar, described by the Supreme Court as a “roadside Romeo”, is now a policeman in Calcutta. He is a constable with the Calcutta Armed Police, a reserve force that stands by for law and order contingencies.
The attacked girl was married off to one of Ajahar’s cousins six months after the roadside assault took place.
Ajahar, now 34, has a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.
A police constable for the past eight years, Ajahar may lose his job after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and six-month jail term.
Senior officers at Lalbazar, the Calcutta police headquarters, said a report on the case had been sought from the Malda district magistrate and that after its arrival, the constable was likely to be sacked. How Ajahar got his police job despite having a molestation case against him remains unclear.
When this newspaper had contacted the constable over the phone on October 10, he had said he was on Puja duty in Alipore and was “aware of the verdict”, passed on October 4. Ajahar said he had been framed “because my family and the girl’s did not get along”.
“The court has given me four weeks’ time to surrender (to Malda police) — I haven’t decided when,” he said.
Rajeev Mishra, joint commissioner of police, headquarters, Calcutta, said action would be taken against Ajahar in keeping with the rulebook but did not elaborate.
“Since he has been convicted by the apex court, he will lose his job,” another senior officer said, asking not to be named.
Ajahar’s childhood friend Akram Sheikh, a resident of their village, Gorakhpur in Malda, said Ajahar “was never a bad boy”.
He alluded to the changing times and increased awareness about women’s issues, saying: “Whatever he did 18 years ago would have caught the media’s attention had it happened today.”
The Supreme Court did not mince words when the defence sought leniency and explained why Ajahar had to serve time in jail. “The appellant has committed an heinous crime and with the social condition prevailing in the society, the modesty of a woman has to be strongly guarded,” the court said.
“If any person uses criminal force upon any woman with the intention or knowledge that the woman’s modesty will be outraged, he is to be punished,” the court had added at a time public outrage against assaults on women has been growing.
Members of the girl’s family said they were satisfied with the verdict. “The Supreme Court has finally brought us relief. What the boy did 18 years ago was unpardonable,” a relative said. “Even after kissing the girl, Ajahar used to roam around freely for years.”
Ajahar’s father Mozrul Haque, who was in the National Volunteer Force (a back-up force of civilians that often helps the police), said his son was “innocent”.
“He was falsely implicated. He was a good student,” Haque said. “I have no idea what will happen to him after the (Supreme Court) order.”
How the case wound its way through several layers and erupted on the family underscores the mysterious way in which the system works.
Jayanta Lodh, the inspector in charge of Chanchol police station, said: “Anil Roy, a sub-inspector posted in this police station then (1995), was the investigating officer. The police submitted the chargesheet within a year. The case, however, continued in various courts for more than 16 years.”
The first verdict was given by a magistrate’s court on May 9 last year — 17 years after the crime.
When Ajahar appealed to the sessions court in August last year, it upheld the six-month jail term. He moved the high court, which too endorsed the sentence in September 2012.
On October 4 this year, the Supreme Court said Ajahar had “behaved like a roadside Romeo” and rejected his plea that since he was a juvenile at the time of the incident, he could not be punished under the regular law.