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The euphoria lasted for about half of the week, gradually giving way to increasing apprehension as the next Sunday approached. There was no flag ceremony on the second Sunday either, nor on the third, counting from the week they had sent their letters to the prison authorities. There was tremendous relief all around, and people again began to smile at Ramesh instead of giving him dirty looks.
Ramesh and his fellow campaigners thought the matter was resolved definitively in their favor, with the authorities having apparently realized that they had no right to make the prisoners stand in their residences in homage to the flag. They forgot about the issue and went on with their prison routine.
Then lightning struck, taking all of them completely unawares. Although they had continued to be slightly apprehensive on every Sunday, there was no reason for apprehension on other days. On the morning of June 10, 1957, which was a Monday, guards stormed into Ramesh’s hall and ordered everybody out. Ramesh was in the toilet when the guards came into the hall. He declared his presence in the toilet, and the guards summarily ordered him out of it without respite. He could not wash his hands and was the last prisoner to be taken out of any hall. As his hall was behind the front line of halls, he had no idea as to what was going on even when he reached the yard and saw all the other prisoners in Aguada standing in the yard with their backs to the sea. He was ordered to join them.
There was a brutal sergeant who used to come into their halls at night brandishing a pistol for the counting of the prisoners. He now had a submachine gun in his hands, which he cocked in an exaggerated manner and with much demonstrative clatter. With a menacing flourish of the gun, he ordered the prisoners to stand at attention.
Clueless till now, Ramesh realized what was going on only when the trumpet sounded. With misty eyes, he saw the flag being raised. He stood there like a statue, seemingly paralyzed, not believing that this was happening. Before he could gather his wits together, the flag was hoisted and the prisoners were ordered back into their quarters.
Ramesh came into his hall, crestfallen and utterly miserable. He was totally unprepared for this outcome and naturally felt responsible for the humiliation of his colleagues. Single-handedly, he had brought down on their heads the wrath of the authorities when he could easily have let sleeping dogs lie as he had been repeatedly urged to do in so many words. He could not look his comrades in the eye; there was total silence in the hall. People did not know what to say. Except for Ramrao, they were all angry with Ramesh and even more angry with the prison authorities. But the anger in general was impotent and untranslatable into action.
Not for Ramesh. He was angry, more with himself than with the authorities, for meekly subjecting himself to the humiliation. He could have shouted “I protest” while the flag was going up. But he had frozen and could not utter a word while the trumpet sounded. Now he had recovered his wits and had plenty of time to plan his future course of action.
“It’s not over yet,” he said to Ramrao in the hearing of everybody in his hall. “They have to take the flag down in the evening, and at that time I will not obey their order to stand for the flag.”
There was consternation in the hall. Ramrao was dubious about the advisability of Ramesh’s proposed action, given the no-nonsense display of naked power earlier in the day, but he could clearly see that Ramesh was in no mood for arguments. The word went around that Ramesh was going to make a fight of it, and surprisingly, all the anger previously directed toward him now metamorphosed into genuine concern as to what might happen to him.
Ramesh was too agitated to eat lunch that day. He was waiting for the evening with trepidation. Manohar Amonkar smuggled a note to him i
- Xlibris US, November 2009
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