An agonising pang builds up as one reads journalist-turned-author Shevlin Sebastian’s new book ‘The Stolen Necklace: A small crime in a small town.’
Will our policing mechanism and criminal justice system ever be able to correct the heinous shortcomings after all? If the common man ever gets wrongfully incarcerated for a crime they didn’t commit, what in the world can they do to prove their innocence?
What can be done so that justice is not delayed or denied? Plentiful thoughts on these lines steal your sleep leaving you thinking about the real-life ordeal narrated in this book, based on the experience of Doha-based Malayali businessman V K Thajudeen. He was wrongfully branded guilty of the robbery of a necklace. The reason: Thajudeen apparently has a slight facial similarity with a thief whose picture was captured by a CCTV camera back in 2018.
Readers might often pause while flipping through the pages of the book to think and put themselves in the protagonist’s shoes. Written in a straightforward manner, the book details the extent to which certain officers of the Kerala police went to quickly write off the case terming Thajudeen the culprit.
The aggravating yet insightful narrative can scare readers at times imagining how officials can easily sideline relevant information resulting in an innocent man’s indictment. It's one thing when information to prove a man's innocence is hard to find, but another when easily available information is conveniently ignored. The book makes you question how not even the supposedly responsible superior police officers who led the investigation didn't take enough steps in this direction.
However, as a testament to the power of patience and hope from the victim's side, the book reveals how Thajudeen’s family sustained through the darkest of times as everyone turned against them after the heart-wrenching experience. Shevlin paints vivid images of Thajudeen’s hurried conviction, lack of sympathy from neighbours, life behind bars, flashbacks from childhood - when he was in his 20s, and more, in an attempt to present a comprehensive picture of the protagonist’s personality and life.
Nonetheless, 'The Stolen Necklace' does test the patience of readers who would pick up this book wanting to know how Thajudeen finally clears his name. While the intermittent chapters on his personal life definitely offer a lot of background information, like the man's troubled connection with his father, side stories of prisoners while in jail and so on, the chapters might tempt you to flip past them as they no doubt disturb the story flow at times. The book ends on a note that makes one wonder whether the sad domino effect following the misidentification of Thajudeen would ever come to an end.
It may not be an easy read but it's worth your time and makes you think hard on what you can do if you ever get unjustly incarcerated. And more than anything, whether you will survive such a life episode.