A new book revisits the sensational case of Kerala’s VK Thajudheen, who had been falsely accused of stealing a gold necklace.
Kannur-native Thajudheen will never forget that day in July 2018. Two days after his daughter’s wedding, he was returning home with his family, following a celebratory dinner.
Outside their house, they saw a group of police officers. They accosted Thajudheen, told him he was a thief, and accused him of stealing a gold necklace.
Thajudheen asked for proof. They showed him a mobile that had a CCTV image of the purported thief riding a scooter. Even Thajudheen felt the man looked like him. The police arrested him.
Thajudheen spent 54 days in jail before the court released him on bail. After a few weeks, through luck, friends, and social media, Thajudheen identified the actual thief, who was already in jail for committing another crime.
Under interrogation, the thief confessed to stealing the necklace by ripping it off a woman’s neck as she walked down a deserted road. The police admitted their mistake and exonerated Thajudheen. This had become a sensational story in Kerala, with blanket coverage on television channels and other media.
Now, five years later, a book, The Stolen Necklace, written like a novel using the tools of New Journalism, has come out. HarperCollins, one of the leading publishers in India and the world, has published it. The book is available online, on Amazon (₹301; free delivery), and on the HarperCollins website.
“I am thrilled to have my story published by a reputed publisher,” said Thajudheen. “I am also grateful for my collaboration with senior journalist Shevlin
Sebastian. He has captured my life with all the drama in it.”
Kochi-based Shevlin said that Thajudheen opened up like the many skins of an onion. As Thajudheen spoke on one subject, other topics came up in his mind.
“This is an extraordinary story of an ordinary Malayali,” said Shevlin.
The other topics include Thajudheen’s love story, his colourful life in Mumbai, north Kerala politics, and his experiences in Doha.
“Shevlin has written it in a straightforward style,” said Thajudheen. “We are hoping readers will enjoy this story.”
Below is an excerpt from the book, The Stolen Necklace, authored by Shevlin Sebastian and VK Thajudeen.
The group inside the car stared at the policemen, their lips partly open, and breaths coming out in short bursts. Young Thazeem pressed his face against his mother’s arm. Had they been waiting for us? Thajudheen thought to himself. But why? Thajudheen’s upper teeth pressed into his lower lip.
The houses around were in darkness. It seemed as if no one in the lane was watching the Football World Cup, even though the sport was a craze in northern Kerala.
A policeman knocked thrice on Thezin’s window with his knuckles. Thezin pressed the button to lower the glass.
The policeman said, ‘Where are you heading?’
‘Our house is further down the road,’ said Thezin, pointing with his finger and keeping his voice calm.
The policeman peeped into the vehicle and observed all the passengers, his glance moving from one person to the other. He had protruding eyes, with a fierce look that seemed to say, You are all prey. I am a lion looking for meat!
Thajudheen counted eight police personnel. A couple of them, muscular men with sloping shoulders, had unsmiling faces. They stood near the second jeep.
Three of them were in uniform including Sub-Inspector P. Biju of the Chakkarakkal police station. Biju had an erect posture, but this show of bravado was a result of his knowing that he was the powerful representative of state authority acting against a powerless individual.
The policeman asked whether the boys could help them. The wheels of the second jeep had fallen into a rut. Could they bring out the jack?
The three boys looked at each other. Then Thezin turned around to look at his father. Thajudheen nodded. Rezaihan switched off the engine. Since the air conditioner could no longer work, he pressed the button to bring down the glass panes of the windows.
The boys tumbled out of the car. Rezaihan opened the boot. Thezin took out the jack. The trio walked towards the other jeep.
The policeman looked at Thajudheen and said, ‘Can you step out?’
Thajudheen pushed open the door. As Thajudheen stepped out, the law-enforcer raised his palm and told the women to stay where they were. Thazeem stared goggle-eyed at the cop. Thazleena and Nasreena remained silent.
‘Can you help with the jeep?’ the policeman said.
Thajudheen said he suffered from lower back pain. It had been a hectic day, and he felt tired. ‘My son and his friends will help you,’ he said.
The policeman beckoned Thajudheen with his forefinger and said, ‘Please come to the front of the car.’
‘W-why, sir?’ Thajudheen said.
‘We need to discuss a matter.’
When Thajudheen stepped forward, the policeman led him to the back of the jeep, facing their car. Now his family could not see him.
‘Show me your ID?’ the policeman said, proffering his palm.
‘Why do you want to see my ID, sir?’ said Thajudheen.
‘Who knows, you may be a terrorist,’ he said.
‘What are you saying, sir?’ said Thajudheen, as his mouth fell open inadvertently.
Terrorism is a word everybody fears in India. Under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) 2019, they could jail you for months or years without bail.
‘Show it to me,’ the police officer insisted.
Thajudheen took out his purse from the back pocket of his trousers, rummaged through the folds, and proffered the license.
The man inspected it by switching on the flashlight of his mobile phone.
He looked at the photo and then at Thajudheen.
After a few seconds, he returned the card.
‘Show me your Aadhaar card,’ he said.
‘I don’t have it. It’s in the house,’ said Thajudheen.
As they conversed, another policeman began taking a video of Thajudheen, while a third took photos on his mobile phone.
‘Why are you doing this?’ said Thajudheen, raising both his hands in exasperation. ‘Am I a thief or what?’ All this took place while Biju watched silently from a distance.
Four of them surrounded Thajudheen. One held his collar and said, ‘You snatched a necklace from a woman’s neck, and now you pretend to be a respectable family man,’ said another police officer.
‘We are going to punish you,’ said another.
Tiny drops of spittle from the policeman fell on Thajudheen’s face. All Thajudheen could see were bared teeth and widened eyes.
They pushed Thajudheen from side to side. He grabbed for his spectacles which had slipped off his nose. What is happening? What necklace? Where? Surely, this is a case of mistaken identity, he thought.
Hearing the loud voices, Nasreena, Thazleena and Thazeem pushed their way among the cops and stood near Thajudheen.
The police stepped back. Thajudheen took this moment to put the spectacles back on. He took out his handkerchief and wiped the spittle off his face.
Nasreena wrapped her arms around him from the back. Thajudheen felt relief as the warmth of her body and the strength she transmitted seemed to envelop him.
He had met her as a giggly teenager. Now, she was a grown woman and a mother of three.
Thazeem held on to his father’s legs. Thajudheen reached out and placed a comforting palm on his back. Thazleena stood in front of her father, with hands on her waist. She had the anger of somebody whose happiness was about to be snatched away.
‘What is the problem?’ said Nasreena.
‘He stole a necklace,’ said one of the policemen. ‘We have proof.’
‘Show it,’ said Nasreena.
One policeman showed a grab taken from a CCTV on his mobile phone.
Right at the edge of the photo, on the left, taken at an angle, at the height of a first floor, there was the image of a balding man with thick ears sitting on a white Honda Activa scooter. He was bespectacled and had a scraggly black beard. There was a black watch on the left hand.
Behind the man, on the left, party workers had tied a red Communist flag to a lamppost.
The date on the image: 5 July 2018. The time: 12.39.
The man resembled Thajudheen. Even he thought so. But he did not own a scooter and could not recognize the place. Nor did he have a watch with a black dial.
‘How did you get Thajudheen’s photo?’ said Nasreena involuntarily.
Thajudheen stared at the photo without blinking his eyes.
He finally said, ‘It looks like an old photo.’
Suddenly, Sub-inspector Biju said, ‘We are going to arrest you.’
(Published with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, India).
The Stolen Necklace
About the authors
Shevlin Sebastian has been a journalist for over three decades. He has worked in major publications in Kolkata, Mumbai, and Kochi, and published over 4500 articles on subjects like history, spirituality, literature, and sports.
His blog, ‘Shevlin’s World’, has received over 22 lakh hits. He has published four novels for children.
VK Thajudheen was born in Kannur, north Kerala. After his B.Com degree from Calicut University, he worked in Kannur, Mumbai, Dubai, and Dammam. Thereafter, for 10 years, he was an entrepreneur in Doha, Qatar. He returned to India in 2019 and presently works for a textile company, Urban Design, in Bengaluru. He is the father of two boys and a girl. His wife is a homemaker.