At the very earnest request of Mayadevi, 16 years old wife of Kesar Mai, I reproduce elsewhere her picturesque petition** praying for the release of her young husband, 21 years old. The case presented seems to me to be unanswerable but a good cause has been spoiled by a bad advocate. Though the petition is that of Mayadevi, it is quite clear that it is the handiwork of a draftsman who has written in a fit of rage against what he has, undoubtedly and with good cause, believed to be a monstrous injustice. But anger is short madness and noblest causes have been damaged by advocates affected with temporary lunacy. The petition is overlaid with useless adjectives and declamations. Whilst it has been a pleasure to me to dissect the many businesslike petitions that have come from that land of sorrow, in the present instance I have been obliged to labour through violent language to what I consider to be a right conclusion. I do not happen to know the draftsman of the petition. Mayadevi, who has sent a covering letter equally violently worded, gives me no information about the draftsman. But I do wish as a practised draftsman to warn writers of petition, whether they be pleaders or otherwise, to think of the cause they may be espousing for the time being. I assure them that a bare statement of facts embellished with adjectives is far more eloquent and effective than a narrative glowing with exuberant language.
Petition writers must understand that they address busy men, not necessarily sympathetic, sometimes prejudiced, and almost invariably prone to sustain the decisions of their subordinates. In the case of the Punjab they approach a Viceroy and a Lieutenant-Governor who have preconceived ideas. Petitions have to be read and analysed by public workers and journalists who have none too much time at their disposal. I know to my cost how difficult it is for me to do full justice to the value of the papers that pour in upon me week to week from the Punjab. I make a present of my valuable experience to young patriots who wish to try the art of advocating public cause by writing petitions or otherwise. I had the privilege of serving under the late Mr. Gokhale and for a time under the G. O. M.* of India. Both told me that if I wanted to be heard I must be brief, I must write to the point and adhere to facts, and never travel beyond the cause under notice, and I must be most sparing in my adjectives. And if some success has attended my effort it is due to my acceptance of the golden advice given to me by the two illustrious deceased. With this preface and warning I proceed to the analysis of the case of young Kesar Mai.
I am anxious that the excellent case of young Kesar Mai might not be overlooked by reason of bad draftsmanship of the petition. The wonder to me is that so many petitions have been written with marked ability and amazing self-restraint. But when a badly drawn document comes their way it is the business of public workers to sift the grain from the chaff and present the former to the public.
Let it be remembered that this is one of the Hafizabad cases arising out of the tumult that took place at Hafizabad station during which Lieut. Tatam is alleged to have been the object of the mischievous attention of the crowd that had gathered at that station. Kesar Mai was sentenced to be hanged, the sentence being subsequently commuted to ten years' imprisonment. The wife's petition says, "It is justice which Your Excellency's petitioner most humbly seeks and on justice Your Excellency's petitioner insists." And on that account she asks for the release of her young husband. The grounds as can be collected from the petition are:
- The prosecution evidence is inconsistent with itself.
- The charge against Kesar Mai is that he was trying to snatch Lieut. Tatam's child from him, but according to the petition, the police produced Kesar Mai a dozen times before the Lieutenant, but Mr. Tatam would as many times nod his head meaning positive and complete nay and added each time, "none tried to snatch the child from me!"
- Lieut. Tatam did not identify Kesar Mai even as one of the men concerned in assaulting him.
- Identification parade was held sometime after the occurrence.
- Lieut. Tatam is reported to have said, "Your Deputy Commissioner Lieut. Col. O'Brien is a very strong man and he has unnecessarily compelled me to make too much of the case."
- The petition charges the police with having given colour to the proceedings which they did not deserve.
- The prosecution witnesses were nearly all Government servants, i.e., chaprasis, moharrirs, railway staff, police staff, and also pedlars, confectioners etc. who are alleged to have been made to give evidence.
- Prosecution witnesses against Kesar Mai were either prejudiced or themselves feared "implications" or expected favours.
- Lieut. Tatam himself had nothing against Kesar Mai. Bashir Haiyat stated, "Only Kesar Mai was wounded by the glass of the window." Haveli Ram identified Kesar Mai, but the Commission remarked about him, "demeanour bad — not to he trusted". Similar was the case with Wadhawa Mai. Kishan Dayal was another prosecution witness who is stated to have perjured himself and given evidence flatly in contradiction of Lieut. Tatam's. Kishan Dayal appears to have been a boon companion of Kesar Mai and yet is said to have stated to the court that he did not know Kesar Mai before. Chapter and verse are given in the petition to prove Kishan Dayal's intimacy with Kesar Mai. Kisan Dayal is stated to have yielded to police influence and, it is said, he is now sorry "for his wrong and cruel statement".
- The defence evidence was entirely ignored although the defence witnesses were impartial men of position.
- Young Kesar Mai belongs to a family which rendered services to the Government.