‘There’s something rotten in the state of India’

Dilip D’Souza‘s review of KAFKALAND: PREJUDICE, LAW AND COUNTERTERRORISM IN INDIA (authored by Manisha Sethi ).  

Now here’s a whole book that speaks, in essence, of that same arrogance. Of people who carry out wholesale subversion of our laws, of the very idea of justice, in the full expectation that they will never pay a price. And perhaps they are right in that expectation, because perhaps a lot of people really don’t want them to pay a price anyway. Manisha Sethi actually spells this idea out on page 125: “Bias is not simply the bias of police and agencies. … Rather, it rests on the knowledge of that bias in our society, polity and media, and uses it to its full advantage. [Two named police officers] know that they can get away with their jaundiced assumptions.” Kafkaland

Few of us like to hear that there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark, in this case India. It is much better to lose ourselves instead in a web of self-congratulatory rhetoric and euphoric hosannas to the latest messiah. Acche din (better days) are coming, we think.

Yet (Manisha) Sethi reminds us that for many Indians, there are no prospects of better days. More than that, the hosannas mask an ugly reality that is also India: that justice is too often too remote, even nonexistent for too many of us. We may choose to turn our faces away from that, or pretend it’s not true, whatever. But over the years, as this book so clearly tells us, our pretence has allowed for a formidable cache indeed of such injustice.  

And until we are able to look that cache in the eye and address its implications, we will remain what this book calls India. Not Denmark, okay, but Kafkaland.