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The case of the spooky detective

By Sherna Gandhy
August 07, 2014 10:29 IST
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'Murders happen every day. Some get correctly solved, some get incorrectly solved and some never get solved. Most of the time, nobody bothers. But if the murdered person is someone big or related to someone big, then it becomes a problem...'

Sherna Gandhy's tongue-in-cheek take on how some cases are solved. Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

I am writing this account to clear my name. All sorts of things are being said about me by these presswallahs and I must defend myself.

I am retired now, but I was in the police force when the incident occurred.

Murders happen every day. Some get correctly solved, some get incorrectly solved and some never get solved.

Most of the time, nobody bothers. But if the murdered person is someone big or related to someone big or is in the public eye, then it becomes a problem if we don't show that we have caught the culprit.

We are only humans, and badly trained ones at that. How can we solve all these many murders?

We have heard vaguely that there is something called forensics that is used a lot in Western countries to solve murder cases. Here, we don't even know how to secure the scene of the crime from contamination so how we can do any forensics-shorensics?

There are so many cases of different kinds we have to deal with in this one billion-plus country that we cannot devote lots of time to solving one case. Finish jaldi-jaldi and get on to the next case.

Nobody understands this. If the murdered person's relatives are able to make a big noise and get heard in the corridors of power, big-big pressure is put on us to solve the murder asap.

We try, of course. There is this perception among the public that we know who did it, but we don't want to say because of 'political pressure'. That is often true.

Even we badly trained fellows can follow up some obvious leads. But then comes the warning from higher-ups not to be so smart. Let sleeping dogs lie, they tell us, otherwise they will get up and bite (not us, but the higher-ups and their cronies or political masters).

Now, when we got this case of a victim who was said to be against superstition, we thought no one would bother whether we caught his murderer or not.

I mean, no one in this country is rational and everyone is superstitious -- they won't eat on certain days, they will wear certain stones for good luck, they do important business on certain days only, build their homes facing certain directions, believe their future lies in the stars, and so on.

A man who rubbishes all this couldn't be very popular, I thought.

But I was wrong. There was quite an outcry when he was murdered and it reached all the way to Delhi.

Now, a short while ago, there were news reports of this godman who had some kind of dream or vision in which he saw treasure buried in a certain place. The government of the time believed in his visionary powers and got some government agency or other to actually dig in that place.

I thought if the governmentwallahs believe that someone has extra-sensory powers then it must be true.

That is when I thought of using these powers to solve crimes. If the government believes in tantriks and so many powerful people go to sants, babas and such like for guidance, why shouldn't the police?

There was this former police constable I know who used to conduct seances to invoke the spirits of dead people. What a fantastic tool for us police investigators, I thought.

No more spending days and nights finding clues -- of what kind we didn't even know -- no more questioning dozens of people, sifting through evidence, making panchnamas --the whole painful process of investigation could be done away at one stroke and we would have our man.

So we used this constable who could communicate with the dead. We took along chaps we already had in custody for some other crime and our home-grown tantrik asked them their date of birth and zodiac signs, and voila! declared that they were the murderers. Talliah, and case solved.

What could have been more sure and authentic than getting it from the soul of the murdered man? He must know who killed him, no?

We were on a sure wicket. I wondered why no one had thought of using this easy-peasy route before.

We policemen can just put our feet up on our desks -- which is our favourite posture in the movies -- and let these seance-wallahs with their planchettes and Ouija boards and what not get it straight from the horse's mouth as it were.

But, alas, life is never so simple for us policemen. Always we are getting flak and gallis from everyone -- we are lazy, we don't care, we are ignoramuses and so on.

Then you have this dazzlingly great idea, worthy of a Nobel, and what happens?

I still can't believe it. Instead of being garlanded with police medals, I am ridiculed.

There are loud denunciations about the police being so ineffective that they have to resort to this mumbo-jumbo. A force that should use scientific methods is using black magic, witchcraft and tantriks just so it can close the case, it is said.

All these accusations have shocked me. Why shouldn't someone be able to talk to dead people? Lots of people everywhere in the world earn a good living by doing just this.

I have seen American TV series in which locations and people associated with the murder have been revealed by telepathy and other such extra-sensory powers and the police encourage it.

Didn't that Angrezi dramabazi fellow everyone makes so much hoo-ha about say much the same thing? 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'

That means, for those who cannot follow this Shakespeare wallah's high funda English that we humans don't know everything.

What hurts me most is the injustice of it all.

This whole country is one mass of superstition. An anti-superstition bill actually had to be framed, then languished for many years before it was passed in a watered down version.

But when I sought some other-worldly assistance, everyone came down on me like a ton of bricks.

Really, now I know what it is like to be wrongly accused, something we do quite often in the course of our investigations.

All I want to do is to live a peaceful retired life. Instead, there are calls for me to be prosecuted for misleading the investigation and wasting precious time.

I can tell you as a policeman, there is no justice in this life.

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