F_5. Manslaughter

Pulkit Srivastava

Volume 1, Issue 2, pp. 17-20

It was long due anyway. The Lism tribe had been violating the agreement even after continued warnings.

They stood silent like corpses. Breathing corpses with running blood! Dull and sulked were the women. Some were scared, others nervous. Whose life shall be claimed today? Whose house will weep today in grief? It’s pride and honour that follow the victory, the new head had said.

It was long due anyway. The Lism tribe had been violating the agreement even after continued warnings.

They are disrespectful,” said Amreek, the new head.

The battle was here. It would commence anytime now.

The dispute had spread to the neighbouring villages too, like forest fire, engulfing one town after another.

The story behind the dispute has been forgotten many times, remembered many times, twisted many times, but the main fact had always survived: the Lisms were enemies. There were but few who had witnessed the start of it all.

Sarovar, a raging stream, separated Lalgarh village from the unnamed, dense forest at the other end. The residents of Lalgarh were the Nidhs, the supreme caste of ancient warriors. Descendants of warriors, they called themselves. According to their beliefs, Sarovar was gifted to humanity by Vijaya, the Goddess of Compassion. They were instructed to consume its water for eternity, for it was holy and pure. Vijaya had incorporated magical properties in Sarovar’s waters, the use of which would heal the injured and protect the ailing.


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But everything fell apart when the Lisms came seeking refuge in the forests. They made their dwellings deep within the forest, across the Sarovar. Wild beasts, Nidhs called them, for they butchered the wildlife and destroyed the forests. If that wasn’t enough, soon they dared to touch the holy waters of Sarovar with their unholy bodies. The Nidhs were enraged swords were drawn, Sarovar was crossed, and there were threats to slaughter the Lisms. The scuffle lasted for two whole days until, finally, the sparring sides came to an agreement. The Nidhs agreed to build wells for the Lisms on the outer region of the village. The Lisms agreed not to touch the waters of Sarovar. This, however, was eight decades ago. It was, now, a legendary tale to be shared with the children – a story of the valiant men of the Nidh clan. Songs had been composed in their memory and poems were recited about their intellects. Now was no time to rejoice. The Lisms were consuming the waters of the Sarovar, again.

Lisms were the descendants of an outcast tribe. They were believed to be dacoits by their own people and forced to leave. They were displaced from their homes and were in dire need of a fertile land that they could inhabit. Their search finally brought them to a clearing in the forest a forest thriving with berries and animals. They were ill and malnourished with many on the brink of death. The forest became their new home and the stream of fresh water became their boon. Soon, they realized that the stream was the property of the Nidhs, who refused to share the waters with anyone, and demanded that they vacate the forest immediately. When the mutual agreement was finalised for the first time, peace was restored. The Lisms were contented with their wells. But eight decades is a long time the wells had gone dry and the rare few which hadn’t were contaminated. The Lisms were falling sick yet again. They had almost no water to drink. They had to resort to drinking from the Sarovar. People were dying, pregnant women lacked nourishment, and children were born with deficiencies. When word spread about their actions, the Nidhs were infuriated. They termed it a betrayal of their ancestors and disrespect to their Goddess.

The holy water had been defiled, which could make it lose its healing properties, Amreek believed and made sure everyone believed that too.

Amreek had told the village head about his intentions to finally do away with the Lisms - wipe them out. The head was taken aback by the barbaric thought. Never had the Nidhs killed such massive numbers of people. The head believed no such drastic action was required and that peace could be restored without the use of weapons, as was done in the past. Amreek, along with other young men of the village, was appalled at the sympathy shown to the dacoits.

They stole our forest, besmirched our holy Sarovar, broke the treaty and here we are looking for another cowardly way to tackle them. I say, ‘Kill them all. Murder the traitors, the cowards.’ I have been told that they deserve mercy and we are not monsters to kill them. But are we cowards? What will our children learn about our heroic ancestry if we sit back in our homes like newly-wed women? Can’t we even protect our lands from invaders? Let us, the young, take over the command of the Nidhs. Let us relive the days of our glory and create history. We have been silent for too long.

The Lism are enemies. They are filth and need to be exterminated. We have to murder each one of them. Imprison women and children but leave no man alive. We will take our forest and our waters back! Hail Vijaya!” Amreek had said, to every young man of the village.

Hearing this, the young, hot blood of Lalgarh became determined to kill all the enemies the Nidhs had.

The uprising was on its way, and Amreek was the new leader of the men. He appointed men, allotting them duties, such as getting weapons and strategising the execution.

The plan was to cross the Sarovar and carry out the attack while the Lisms were asleep. They’d be remembered as brave warriors who saved their land from people drinking their water, Amreek told them.

The village head, like other elderly people of the village, was trying his best to stop the attack. Two old men went on hunger strike to call for peace, but most of the youth were fuming, maybe because they had been threatened by Amreek of dire consequences, if they betrayed their village or warned their enemy of the oncoming attack.

The women labouring on the farms were forced to work even harder, for the men were busy with the preparation of the attack. They noticed the men on their motorbikes, smuggling rifles, pickaxes, and even swords from the town.

Amreek had announced it everywhere that for the next few days, nobody will interrupt the fetching of water by the Lisms. Nobody was supposed to make any contact, whatsoever, with the Lism or the outside world.

The war was onto them and the village demanded their utmost loyalty. After all, the Nidhs had been warriors since antiquity.

Cowards who dared to leave or turn their backs were executed; nobody had the right to question the authority Amreek had made this clear to everyone.

A tall and slender man, with a dark complexion, Amreek’s face lacked muscles, and it looked like a skull with skin tightly wrapped around it, stretched over his huge nose and small eyes. He was regarded as the rowdiest man in the village. Often, he was caught stalking women, but would be let off on the grounds of being a ‘young lad’. He had been accused of murders too, but nobody ever came forward to testify against him, for they were afraid of the consequences. He stole from the villagers who never retorted. He rode his motorbike into town and brought a new woman back every day.

Anyway the Nidhs knew that Amreek was the head now.

Amreek’s mother was a sweeper in the town, and she barely managed to make ends meet. She had to clean drains and filter sludge that flowed through the pipes. A little before the Lisms moved in, she fell ill. The doctors in the town told Amreek that the reason could be excessive exposure to the harmful gases in the manholes and the drains she frequented. Amreek was, however, calm. He knew that a few days rest with some of Sarovar’s holy water would cure her. After his alcoholic father’s death, his mother was all he had. He was going to care for her and provide her great attention until she was fit. He gave her water from the Sarovar every day; nevertheless, she finally passed away. Amreek’s tears of grief were mixed with aggression he had faith in the power of Sarovar’s water. Therefore, something must’ve been wrong. He arranged a proper cremation for his mother and the village wept with him, for his mother was a hard worker.

Sarovar has lost its properties, Amreek had thought. Lisms’ filth had probably defiled the waters.

Since that day Amreek had been seeking vengeance. He wanted to slaughter every Lism at the other end of the Sarovar, in the hope of seeking revenge, but he remained quiet, for he lacked a proper backing.

Since that day Amreek had been seeking vengeance. He wanted to slaughter every Lism at the other end of the Sarovar, in the hope of seeking revenge, but he remained quiet, for he lacked a proper backing.

Amongst the hot-blooded young men lived a young maiden by the name of Vijayalaxmi, a fatherless nine-year old. She had voluminous curly, black hair and dusky skin. She had big eyes, and rarely talked. She and her mother worked on the farms of some landlords. Vijayalaxmi’s job was to fetch water from the stream, twice daily, in her clay pot for her lords. It was an eight-kilometre long walk every day, but she did it without complaining. With no big dreams to pursue nor any will to escape, she seemed to have resigned to fate. Nobody ever took notice of her, for she was doing exactly what all women were supposed to be doing.

As the men were preparing for war, Vijayalaxmi was scared and so was her mother. She knew that a war meant many would be orphaned and widowed, even on the side of the Nidhs. At least Vijayalaxmi and her mother didn’t have anyone to lose but themselves. It occurred to Vijayalaxmi that the Lisms might counter attack, and they had no defence for this eventuality. Vijayalaxmi thought hard and remembered a hatch in their lord’s granary, which was difficult to spot with an untrained eye. It had space enough to hold two women.

The Nidhs crossed the Sarovar at night, talking in hushed voices and tiptoeing till they reached the clearing where their enemies dwelled. Torches lit up the thatched huts, while the Lism men slept peacefully on the ground, oblivious to their attackers. The Nidhs giggled amongst them. With one cry of attack from their leader, the Nidh men ran screaming and attacking the sleeping Lism. Some unfortunate foes who rose to these cries were immediately put to sleep forever, even before they could take in what was happening. Men slaughtered each other, blood was shed; soon the place was drenched and bathed in red. People were torched. Houses were engulfed in fire. They wailed, women cried, children screamed. People were torched. Houses were engulfed in fire. There were open wounds on every warrior’s body.

The massacre that lasted four hours saw innumerable Lisms killed. The few that managed to escape would never dare to return. Women and children were caged like cattle and brought across the Sarovar, back to the village soon after the sun illuminated the land of bloodbath.

The Nidhs lost a few men and a few limbs but emerged victorious. Women screamed in grief at their arrival. Vijayalaxmi and her mother came out of their hiding too, to rejoice. The youth were hailed as heroes and the day was marked as a day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers. The whole day people wept as the dead were cremated. Vijayalaxmi had little time for celebration, so she went back to the Sarovar to fetch water.

The stream flowed with a red hue. It was either roaring at the victory or weeping for the dead, nobody could tell. Vijayalaxmi crouched to fetch water in her pot when she heard a whimper behind the bushes it was a cry for help. She couldn’t turn her eyes away. She walked towards the bushes and saw a man lying with blood gushing from his shoulder blade and spewing from his mouth. She wanted to cry for help but something stopped her. The man was a Lism. She couldn’t bear the thought of being the reason behind somebody’s death. She hesitatingly sat beside him, and slowly elevated her pot over the man’s head, pouring water for him to drink. The Sarovar truly was magical. The man raised his hand. Maybe he wanted to thank Vijayalaxmi. Nobody would know, since the moment the hand rose in the air, a sharp sword sliced his neck. Vijayalaxmi looked up and saw Amreek holding the sword’s hilt. The dark skin wrapped around his skull was heaving with fury at this betrayal. He pulled Vijayalaxmi by her hair and dragged her to the main market.


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Betrayer! Traitor! She’s a woman of filth. Men, I found her helping one of our escaped enemies, quenching his thirst with our holy water! What should be done?” Amreek screamed.

People gasped. They gossiped about her upbringing in a man-less household. They were convinced that she was a traitor. Vijayalaxmi’s mother came rushing in and begged Amreek to let her daughter go. Amreek did not pay any heed, and she was held back by his companions.

Nobody was willing to listen to Vijayalaxmi’s side of the story because Amreek was the new leader, and he could never be wrong. After all, the man had saved their holy water from the impure beasts. He was a celebrated hero. Men demanded Vijayalaxmi’s death to set an example for the consequence of betrayal, so nobody would ever dare to go against their Goddess Vijaya or her noble gift. Vijayalaxmi’s mother was crying incessantly. She was rolling on the floor, her heart racing, just like her daughter’s. Vijayalaxmi was sweating nervously and weeping. She saw her end and could not accept it.

In a flash of a second, a blood-curdling scream echoed across the village. The scream was of a mother who had seen her daughter’s body get pierced by a sword. People were appalled at the blood and the victim’s motionless body.

Vijayalaxmi’s mother was inconsolable. But for how long could that last? She could either starve to death, or move on and continue her living her life in silence. Lalgarh would return to normalcy soon, everyone knew that. The dacoits were gone, and their stream was saved.

Songs were written about the battle, about the overnight attack, about how bravely the men fought. They sang of how goddess Vijaya was pleased. Plays were enacted and children dreamt of playing the role of Amreek, the greatest hero that the village had ever seen. They memorised poems of how women prayed for the safe comeback of the men and how they cried for the martyrs. The Nidh warriors of that night were all considered immortals and revered as legends. Lisms were referred to as monsters and their men were described as having long claws and teeth.

But nowhere in the literary heritage was a single mention of Vijayalaxmi, the woman who dared to show compassion to a wounded man just like goddess Vijaya did. Nobody ever sang about how Amreek managed to find Vijayalaxmi behind the bushes. Was he stalking her? No song or poem described the Nidhs murdering an unarmed tribe when they were asleep. The songs cried about the loss of men, but nowhere was it mentioned that a woman was killed without a trial. What was pure and holy was now a symbol of war and bloodshed.

Amreek lived a happy, full life and died leaving behind a legacy of pride and wealth in the name of his children.

Somewhere in that village of warriors was a dilapidated house of a traitor, vacant after the loss of both its residents. Vijayalaxmi’s betrayal was sometimes mentioned amongst the women, and how the brave Amreek set an example for others to follow by killing a traitor. As for the Sarovar, it is still known for its magical properties, which it probably never had to begin with. The Nidhs worshipped it.

Whether people died or lived, it was all Vijaya’s will.

About the Author:

Pulkit Srivastava is a nineteen years old student pursuing BCA from the National PG College, Lucknow. He has been writing young adult stories since the last two years.



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Pulkit Srivastava


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