1. JUMMAN Shaikh and Algu Chowdhry were
good friends. So strong was their bond
of friendship that when either of them
went away from the village, the other
looked after his family. Both were greatly
respected in the village.
2. Jumman had an old aunt who had
some property. This she transferred to
him on the understanding that she
would stay with him and he would look
after her. The arrangement worked well
for a couple of years. Then the situation
changed. Jumman and his family were
tired of the old relative. Jumman became
as indifferent to her as his wife, who
grudged even the little food that the old
lady wanted every day. She swallowed
these insults along with her food for a
few months. But patience has its limits.
3. One day she spoke to Jumman, "My
son, it is now obvious that I am not
wanted in your house. Kindly give me a
monthly allowance so that I can set up
a separate kitchen."
"My wife knows best how to run the
house. Be patient," said Jumman
shamelessly. This made his aunt very
angry and she decided to take her case
to the village panchayat.
4. For many days, the old lady was seen
talking to the villagers explaining her case
and seeking their support. Some
sympathised with her, others laughed
at her and a few others advised her to
make it up with her nephew and his wife.
At last she came to Algu Chowdhry and
spoke to him. "You know, Chachi,
Jumman is my best friend. How can I
go against him?" Algu said. "But is it
right, my son, to keep mum and not say
what you consider just and fair?"
pleaded the old lady. "Come to the
panchayat and speak the truth," she
said. Algu didn’t reply, but her words
kept ringing in his ears.
5. The panchayat was held the same
evening under an old banyan tree.
Jumman stood up and said, "The voice
of the Panch is the voice of God. Let my
aunt nominate the head Panch. I will
abide by her decision."
6. "The Panch knows neither friend nor
enemy. What do you say to Algu
Chowdhry?" the old lady announced.
"Fine," replied Jumman hiding his joy
over this unexpected piece of luck.
"Chachi, you are aware of my
friendship with Jumman," said Algu.
"I know that," replied the aunt, "but I
also know that you will not kill your
conscience for the sake of friendship. God
lives in the heart of the Panch, and his
voice is the voice of God." And the old
lady explained her case.
"Jumman," said Algu, "you and I are
old friends. Your aunt is as dear to me
as you. Now I am a Panch. You and your
aunt are equal before me. What have you
to say in your defence?"
"Three years ago," began Jumman,
"my aunt transferred her property to me.
I promised to support her as long as she
lived. I have done all I could. There have
been a couple of quarrels between my
wife and her but I can’t stop it. Now my
aunt is claiming a monthly allowance
from me. This is not possible. That’s all
I have to say."
7. Jumman was cross-examined by
Algu and others. Then Algu announced,
"We have gone into the matter carefully.
In our opinion, Jumman must pay his
aunt a monthly allowance, or else the
property goes back to her."
8. Now, the two friends were seldom
seen together. The bond of friendship
between them was broken. In fact,
Jumman was Algu's enemy and wanted
9. Days passed and, as ill luck would have
it, Algu Chowdhry found himself in a
tight spot. One of his fine pair of
bullocks died, and he sold the other to
Samjhu Sahu, a cart driver of the village.
The understanding was that Sahu would
pay the price of the bullock in a month’s
time. It so happened that the bullock
died within a month.
10. Several months after the bullock’s
death, Algu reminded Sahu of the
money he hadn’t yet paid. Sahu got very
annoyed. "I can’t pay you a penny for
the wretched beast you sold me. He
brought us nothing but ruin. I have a
bullock. Use it for a month and then
return it to me. No money for the dead
bullock," he said angrily.
11. Algu decided to refer the case to the
panchayat. For a second time in a few
months, preparations for holding the
panchayat were made, and both the
parties started meeting people seeking
12. The panchayat was held under the
old banyan tree. Algu stood up and said,
"The voice of the Panch is the voice of
God. Let Sahu nominate the head
Panch. I will abide by his decision."
13. Sahu saw his chance and proposed
the name of Jumman. Algu’s heart
sank and he turned pale. But what
could he do?
14. The moment Jumman became head
Panch, he realised his responsibility
as judge and the dignity of his office.
Could he, seated in that high place,
have his revenge now? He thought
and thought. No, he must not
allow his personal feelings to come
in the way of speaking the truth and
15. Both Algu and Sahu stated their
cases. They were cross-examined and
the case was considered deeply. Then
Jumman stood up and announced, "It
is our opinion that Sahu should pay
Algu the price of the bullock. When
Sahu bought the bullock, it suffered
from no disability or disease. The
death of the bullock was unfortunate,
but Algu cannot be blamed for it."
Algu could not contain his feelings. He
stood up and said loudly over and
over again, "Victory to the panchayat.
This is justice. God lives in the voice
of the Panch."
16. Soon after, Jumman came to Algu,
embraced him and said, "Since the last
panchayat, I had become your enemy.
Today I realised what it meant to be a
Panch. A Panch has no friend nor
enemy. He knows only justice. Let no
one deviate from the path of justice and
truth for friendship or enmity."
Algu embraced his friend and wept.
And his tears washed away all the dirt
of misunderstanding between them.
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