For the past 31 years, Julia has been haunted by two recurrent nightmares.
In one, she imagines herself a seven-month-old, sleeping blissfully by her parents. Then, her mother whips out her father’s service revolver and pumps five bullets into him. Her father lies dead as the blood spreads on the bed, not leaving the baby untouched.
In the other, the setting and the characters are the same and the tragedy played out in the bedroom is similar. Only, in this sequence, her father takes out his service revolver and shoots himself five times in the forehead.
If reliving the moment is not bad enough, what troubles Julia the most is that for 31 years, she did not know which of the images to believe as real — her father’s murder by her mother or his suicide.
The agony of the unanswered question finally ended on Friday, with Calcutta High Court stating that Julia’s mother, Husseinarah Begum, had not killed her father, Abdul Karim, then officer-in charge of Kushmandi police station, in Dinajpur. The court also stressed that Julia’s mother had “no connection” with her father’s death.
It was the night of April 14, 1972, that changed the lives of the mother and daughter, forever. Police from Kushmandi thana rushed into the family’s quarters on hearing five consecutive shots. Karim lay dead, shot in the head, in the room where there was no one but his wife and infant daughter.
Preliminary investigation suggested that Karim had committed suicide. However, his mother filed a criminal case in a Malda court alleging that Husseinarah had killed her son. She said it was impossible for a man to pump five bullets into himself.
The Malda judge had asked the police to conduct a forensic test on the body. The findings concluded that Karim had been murdered, prompting the court to sentence his wife to life imprisonment.
Husseinarah then filed an appeal in Calcutta High Court. She was released from jail on an interim bail in 1985. After two-and-a-half years of detention, she was set free by a division bench, where the appeal was pending.
At the high court, two division bench judges differed in their opinion on whether Karim had been murdered. The matter was then sent for a third opinion.
Justice G.C. De, who heard the case on Friday, said that science now considers it possible for a man to fire five consecutive bullets into his own forehead, if he intends to commit suicide. Justice De added that Karim had committed suicide and his wife was not guilty.
But Julia, who had never missed any previous hearing of the case, was not present in court on Friday. It might have been that the case had come up earlier than anticipated or that she feared being confronted with the truth after three decades.