Characters

  1. Jumman Sheikh: A good friend but a lover of money.
  2. Algu Chaudhary: A true friend of Jumman Sheikh.
  3. The old woman: A helpless old aunt of Jumman Sheikh.
  4. Ramdhan Mishra: One of the panches.
  5. Samjhu Sahu: A trader in the village who bought an ox from Algu. 

Introduction

‘Panch Parmeshwar’ by Munshi Premchand is a defying tale of Nepotism in Jurisdiction. This story is all about two friends Jumman sheikh and Algu Chaudhary, they are good friends in their Childhood days. Algu is famous for the wealth in the village and on the other hand Jumman Sheikh is popular for Knowledge and Wisdom. Both of them are helping the people of villages because they help many folks in the village and they are looking up for more help. In an interesting turn of events, the people of the villages decided to make both of them Judges in the village Panchayat. In this story, destiny plays an interesting twist and on the request of Jumman’s Aunty Algu Chaudhary gives her verdict against his childhood friend and this shows the anger in the Jumman Sheikh’s heart. After some time Jumman Sheikh became the judge against his childhood friend.

Summary

Jumman becomes selfish in possession

Jumman Sheikh and Algu Chowdhari were very good friends, such good friends that they trusted each other deeply. When Jumman went to Mecca, he left his house in charge of Algu and whenever Algu went out of the village, Jumman took care of his house. Jumman had an old aunt who had no close relatives except Jumman. Jumman wanted to have her small property in his name, for that he made false promises and took good care of her until the deed was done.

Jumman became quite indifferent afterward, even his wife ill-treated the poor old woman. She wasn’t given enough food and was cursed day and night. One day, she decided not to live with Jumman’s family any longer. She asked Jumman for some money so that she could live on her own but Jumman refused cruelly. The old woman became very upset and decided to take the matter to the panchayat.

The old woman revolts against Jumman

The old woman went to every house in the village reciting her situation and even went to Algu’s house for his help to support her in front of the panchayat. Algu didn’t want to ruin his friendship but her words for justice kept ringing in his mind. 

In the evening when the panchayat sat down for the matter and the old woman told the panchayat that Jumman had not kept his word, he and his wife ill-treated her. They did nothing that they promised and now she asked the panchayat for justice. Ramdhan Misra, one of the panches, asked Jumman to settle with his aunt or name his head panch. Jumman noticed that most of the people present in the panchayat were obliged to him in one way and the other. He was sure that he would win the case.

He thus decided to let his aunt choose the head panch and the old woman proposed Algu’s name. Algu didn’t want to get involved and tried to back out but the old woman had faith in him and believed that God recites over the panch and he will serve justice. When Algu’s nomination was accepted, that very moment he decided to keep his friendship aside and see both of them as equals. 

Justice before friendship

He asked Jumman to make his statement in the panchayat. Jumman wasn’t worried and spoke peacefully and didn’t think he did anything wrong with the old woman. He made a point that there was no mention of the allowance in the contract and added that he would accept whatever the panchayat would decide. Algu, who used to visit the courts frequently, knew a great deal about the law and he began to cross-examine Jumman. Jumman wondered what had happened to his friend, Algu, and was shocked when Algu announced the decision in favor of the aunt.

Jumman could never imagine that his dear friend would go against him. However, Ramdhan Misra and other members of the panchayat openly praised Algu for the just decision. This decision broke the friendship between Algu and Jumman. Jumman all the time thought about Algu’s betrayal and lived now only to take revenge. And he didn’t have to wait long for his revenge. 

Samjhu Shahu becomes cruel towards an ox

The previous year, Algu had bought a pair of beautiful, long-horned oxen from Batesar. Unfortunately, a month after the panchayat decision, one of the oxen died. Jumman was very happy when he heard about it. Since one ox was of no use to a farmer, Algu decided to sell the other ox. He sold it to Samjhu Sahu who was a trader in the village. Samjhu bought the ox on the condition that he would pay the price of the ox after a month. Algu wanted to get rid of the ox so, he agreed to it. 

Normally, Samjhu used to make one trip to the market on his ox cart. He took gur and ghee to the market and returned with salt and oil which he sold to the villagers. With the new ox, he started making three to four trips to the market instead of one. Samjhu was very careless towards the animal and didn’t take care of food and water for him nor give him proper rest. At Algu’s house, the ox had been looked after very well but here the poor animal had to go through a life of torture. He had become so weak that his bones had stuck out. One day Samjhu, while making his fourth trip to the market, had overloaded the cart. The poor ox was so tired after the long day that it could hardly lift its feet. Samjhu began to whip it and it began to run. After running for a few yards, its strength failed and it collapsed to the ground. 

A sarpanch is neither a friend nor a foe

Samjhu couldn’t leave his belongings unguarded so, he decided to spend the night on the cart. When he woke up in the morning, he found his money gone along with many tins of oil. He beat his head with sorrow and wept and even cursed the ox for his loss. Several months passed, but Samjhu didn’t give Algu the price of the ox. According to Samjhu, Algu had cheated him and gave him a sick ox. Algu took the matter to the panchayat. This time Algu was to nominate his head panch. But Algu very politely let Samjhu select and he purposely proposed the name of Jumman Sheikh. Algu was scared and feared that Jumman might take his revenge on him.

As soon as Jumman was appointed Sarpanch, he felt a sense of responsibility. He decided that he would not stray even an inch from the truth. After a long discussion, Jumman announced the decision. He said that Samjhu Sahu would have to pay the full payment for the ox because the ox was in good health when he had bought it. Algu shouted with joy, “God bless the sarpanch.” And everyone praised the decision made by Jumman.

In the end, Jumman came to Algu and embraced his decision of being fair as Jumman had now learned that a panch is neither anybody’s friend nor anybody’s foe. He can see only justice. By this, all the misunderstandings were washed away in their tears.

Conclusion

A panch is neither anybody’s friend nor anybody’s enemy. He cannot see anything except justice. It is believed that God resides in the heart of a panch. Whatever comes from the lips of a panch is treated with the same respect as the words of God. So the people accept the decision of the panches as the decision of God. A panch sits on the highest throne of justice and dharma. So he can’t stray from the truth. He cannot turn his back on justice for the sake of friendship. No doubt, friendship is a divine bond. But it must be kept in a proper place in case of justice because man’s primary duty is to be just and true. This is what comes out in this story.