‘Japani magistrate’ who found maize amazing : The Tribune India

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‘Japani magistrate’ who found maize amazing

‘Japani magistrate’ who found maize amazing

File photo



KC Verma

THERE was a story that went around in Bihar in the early 1970s that everyone believed to be true, even though there was disagreement about its provenance. Some said the incident happened in Banka, while others insisted that it occurred in Naugachhia. And there were others who declared that two distinct but similar incidents had been witnessed in different places. Be that as it may, the place is only a matter of detail and quite immaterial to this narrative.

There were two prominent land-owning families in Banka (or Naugachhia) who were known to grow the best maize crop. Once, a quarrel broke out between the two families over a minor dispute. Both families laid claim to the crop standing on a large patch of land near their village. The dispute escalated, and the warring parties took the matter to court. The court granted an injunction and directed both parties to stay away from the disputed farmland and contest a civil suit for its ownership. The court further prohibited the two families from harvesting the produce and ordered the deployment of an armed picket near the cornfield to maintain peace. Accordingly, a posse of one havildar and four constables was despatched. The armed force, however, required a magistrate too. But unfortunately, no magistrate was available to be posted to a village in the middle of nowhere.

To meet such exigencies, the government is empowered to appoint any person as a special executive magistrate for a short term. Till the 1970s, such ersatz magistrates in Bihar were called ‘Japani magistrates’ — a nod to cheap knock-offs manufactured in post-war Japan. And it was the good fortune of Misserji, a schoolteacher from distant Bhagalpur, to be appointed as the ‘Japani magistrate’ for Banka (or Naugachhia).

Misserji and the five policemen buckled down to camp for an indefinite period at the remote location, far away from any market or eatery. They made themselves as comfortable as they could in a tent pitched next to the cornfield and arranged their meals. They had brought dry rations from the city and purloined whatever vegetables they could from the fields around them. But Misserji was a man widely known for his love of life, his girth and gargantuan appetite. He found the daily ‘dal roti’ boring and craved something more. And eureka! He discovered corn! He and the policemen started helping themselves to the luscious bhuttas ripening in the disputed field. After a few weeks, the cornstalks swayed in the wind as majestically as ever, but totally bereft of cobs. People said it was an exaggeration, but the ‘Japani magistrate’ and the five cops were said to have gobbled up about a thousand kilograms of corn in six weeks. Whether it was true or not is anyone’s guess. But since then, residents of the village have been wary of quarrelling over a piece of land with a maize crop.

#Bihar


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