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27 July, 2009

A son’s plea for justice for his slain father

The following is a communication addressed by Himanshu Sabharwal, son of Professor H.S. Sabharwal, who was killed by riotous students at Ujjain. The police registered a murder case against six members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad in connection with the crime. On July 13 a Nagpur court acquitted all the accused for want of evidence.

Himanshu Sabharwal

My father, in his last moments, dishevelled and helpless, stood 5 feet 11, robust and smartly turned out. A romantic at heart and a philosopher in the mind he was known to never leave his house without his prized possessions of his Rayban sunglasses and his Cross Gold pen. These only indulgences in luxury were, I think, 15 years old gifts... He would clean his car himself after his two km long morning walks and it always looked like it was just out of the showroom. He had bought the car so that I don't feel inferior in my snob school.

A migrant of 1947, he came to Ujjain at the age of 5 having lost his father in the riots. A self-made man, while studying for his doctorate he worked as time-keeper in the Public Works Department to fend for a family of two younger brothers and an ailing mother. He studied in the Hindi medium throughout, but his knowledge of English literature, which he had learnt on his own, was admirable. However, he always called Zee TV 'Jee TV'. When I corrected him, he answered with a smile. "Old habits die hard".

That man had the vision to send me to one of the best residential boarding schools of the country and would never forget to come for my house evenings, annual days and other functions. His reason to come were the delicious 'samosas' served with the evening tea, but I know now he came only for me. Each visit would have a rehearsed surprise of producing a Cadbury milk bar out of the upper pocket of his shirt for me.

On my first day at college he came to Delhi to see me off, gifting me a tailored shirt and a pair of trousers, proud that I was going to be a graduate. In his time even matriculation had meant a lot. I was the only one dressed like an executive in the whole of Delhi University where everybody else was sporting jeans. When he got to know this he laughed no end at himself. That was one thing of many that I admired about him, his courage to laugh at himself and add a poetic couplet or a funny anecdote to build it. He knew poets like Kabir, Rahim, Ghalib and many more by heart.

When I decided to go to the film school, he did not know how to react, because by what he had seen of life being in theatre, film, art etc meant being a pauper in a never ending struggle. I salute the spirit of that man who finally said, "hamare khandaan mein kabhi kisi ne film nahi socha hoga, chalo tum hi sahi" . He himself was a brilliant actor having worked with the likes of M. K Raina in plays like Inna Ki Awaz and knew the addiction it was.

Some time in my first job, he quietly asked me one evening if I would like a drink .The first one that I had was with him. He treated me more as a friend than as son. I could discuss with him anything under the sun, from religion to sex.

After he got tired of answering people used to having knowledge of conventional fields, about the nature of my work, he used to answer with a humorous "pata nahi sahab kya karta hai, magar mujhse paise nahi mangta" .

Kids were a magical therapy for him. The most popular uncle in the neighbourhood, he had a never ending supply of chocolates for them.

When he came to visit me in June 2006, I offered him a holiday in London with me. A strange smile lit his face. He had never been abroad but he declined, saying “Perhaps in the next incarnation.”

On the 26th of August'2006 this man was killed in cold blood after his face was smeared with mud, his clothes torn and he was kicked and boxed in the chest, breaking his ribs and puncturing his lungs. I saw his body on the 27th, blue and black in the mortuary with eyes static in oblivion.

For this man I demand justice.

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