By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
After I wrote two articles over two weeks about how I acquired my two guns, a double-barrelled shot gun and a pistol, a good many of my readers have asked me if after going through so much of effort to possess them, I ever had an occasion to put my guns to some use to protect myself or my family.
Here I would like to tell them that a gun is just like a health or vehicle insurance policy that comes into play only when we are faced with an unforeseen emergency. The amount of money we pay for such an insurance policy cannot be said to have gone waste if we go through its validity period without any need to fall back on it.
Most readers may know from my many previous articles, that I was once attached for many years as a Physician to a Christian Mission Hospital at a small village called Kamagere, nestled on the edge of what was then called ‘Veerappan Territory’ because that was where the once most dreaded bandit in South India then roamed, striking terror in the hearts of all those who were opposed to his ways. It was the same village from which a serving MLA H. Nagappa was abducted at gun-point by Veerappan, never to return alive. His bullet riddled body was found nearly four months after his abduction at the site of a shoot-out between Veerappan and the Tamil Nadu Police.
While Nagappa’s house stood at one end of the village, our house stood at the other. It was because of this kind of a threat and also because our solitary house was located in a thirty-acre plot of land, in the middle of nowhere, that I had the practice of always having both my guns in readiness at all times. If not for the sense of security and safety which my guns offered me round-the-clock I would perhaps never have chosen to serve as a doctor in such a God-forsaken place.
When I decided to take up an assignment there, every one of my friends and relatives said that I was doing a very rash and foolhardy thing by being over-adventurous at a very wrong time. But I was always a man in search of adventure and that is why living in a city still does not appeal to me much!
The first thing that I did on going there as a Physician was to teach my wife how to shoot well, both with my pistol and shotgun. Very quickly she became such an accomplished shooter that when she later enrolled for a civilian rifle training course conducted by the District Police authorities, she managed to get the third place, competing as the solitary lady against a batch of seventy-five men, many of whom were former NCC cadets, trained in rifle shooting. That is why she used to stay all alone in our house very comfortably very often, even when I would have to rush to Mysore and stay back overnight for some reason.
Those were also the turbulent days when four of my very close friends fell to Veerappan’s bullets. Ramalingu, my former college-mate from St. Philos, was the first to die on 9th April 1990 along with three of his colleagues. P. Srinivas, the DCF, who thought that he could reform Veerappan through peaceful means met the most brutal death by beheading on 10th Nov. 1991. Two nights before he walked into the very cleverly laid trap that took his life, he was chatting with me at the hospital. He used to carry a revolver always and the last thing that we discussed that fateful night was the merits and demerits of revolvers versus pistols.
As we parted, he told me that he was going to meet Veerappan very soon through a mediator and he would go there alone and completely unarmed to prove his sincerity in arranging amnesty for the brigand. That step sadly proved to be the last one he took!
T. Harikrishna, Superintendent of Police and Shakeel Ahmed, his closest and most trusted deputy, fell next on 14th, August 1992. They were united in life and they remained united in their death too! They used to be regular visitors to our house in the woods, sometimes in the middle of the night, to rest their weary bones. Hari became very close to me through Shakeel whom I knew from my early boyhood, having played cricket with his older brother Jameel Ahmed, who later retired as a Professor of Political Science.
Very recently, Prof. Jameel wrote a very long and interesting account in SOM about how he and his late father Abdul Kareem, a former DSP gave the slip to a pursuing posse of Policemen who were hell bent on preventing them from boarding a flight to New Delhi to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the release of some associates of Veerappan. Since he was an officer of the rank of a Superintendent of Police, I used to initially address Harikrishna as Sir. But I had to stop doing it when one day he told me that he would stop coming to our house unless I started calling him Hari.
He was a great book-lover like me, which is why we could gel very well with each other and he had a huge library at his house here in Mysore. He and Shakeel would regularly bring some of the suspects they had apprehended to me for treatment, notably among whom was Gurunathan, whom they nabbed in a very dramatic operation only to lose him in a shootout the very next day. Soon after the incident, Hari and Shakeel on their way to Mysore, stopped at the hospital to show me the beautiful 470 caliber, double-barrelled, elephant hunting rifle they had seized from him which the gang had maintained in almost mint condition!
Very often, the three of us used to sit on the front porch of our house and chat for hours while my wife would keep replenishing the snacks like kebabs and samosas which the two used to relish very much. Two nights before they died Hari said, “Doc, we are on the verge of a breakthrough in our battle. So very soon you will be seeing the end,” to which Shakeel laughed and said, “Yes, it may either be Veerappan’s or even ours!” And, those were their last words to me!
Sadly, many more lives were lost after that but thankfully my family and I and our hospital staff remained safe. Although I never had to really fire any of my guns in self-defence, for which their licences were granted to me, I can say with some confidence that on two occasions they have saved me and my family from harm. Once when I was travelling by a late-night bus from Kamagere to Mysore with my assistant, Dr. Maher, our bus was stopped by boulders which were placed across the road. About half a dozen men armed with stout sticks boarded the bus from both doors and asked the driver to switch on the cabin lights. I told Maher to remain calm and quickly pulled out my loaded pistol from my trouser pocket and flicking off the safety catch I held it concealed under the handbag in my lap. I decided that I would shoot the first person point blank in his chest if they tried to harm any of the passengers. But after looking through the whole bus one of them asked if there was a man named Palakshappa in the bus. On not finding him among the passengers they quickly alighted and disappeared into the darkness. The pistol I had with me, instilled in me the confidence and courage that night to face what certainly looked like an adverse situation.
On another occasion while I was driving late in the night, on the very same road with my family, our car was intercepted by a group of four people in a truck that had been parked obliquely to block the road completely. That was when I quickly got down from the car and confronted them with my double-barrelled gun much to their shock. With my cartridge belt looped around my neck and in the glare of the headlamps which I had left on, I must have looked like the most formidable bandit to the bandits themselves!
At gun-point I first made them move the truck to unblock the road and then I threatened them that I would shoot them all and set fire to their truck when they started pleading with folded hands that they would never do anything shameful like that again. I let them go after noting down the number of their truck. If my family had not been with me that night, I would have made them get into my car and at gun-point made one of them drive it straight to a Police Station. There was simply no way of doing it with eight people!
After reaching Mysore, I lodged a Police complaint and it was later found that the lorry belonged to a respectable rice mill owner in Mandya and it was stolen and used to commit the crime. The funny thing was that as I was holding the four thugs at gun-point, a bus passed by and a good many of the passengers from Kollegal recognised me doing something very unusual. The next day the news of this incident was all over the place and I had a pretty busy time telling both patients and people about what happened that night!
After all this, I believe very strongly in the dictum that it is better to have a gun and not need it than to need it and not have it and I would certainly prefer be tried in court for killing a criminal than to have a criminal tried in court for killing me!.
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