Lathi Strike, Rewind

My previous blog entry, Lathi Strike, brings to mind a brief sketch I wrote three years ago in Bangalore, after witnessing the brutality of the Indian police for the first time. I reprint it here in the hope that it helps to portray the banality of evil (to use Hannah Arandt’s phrase) endemic to situations of authority in India.

Four men enter the police station for help with the settlement of a dispute. There is nothing angry about their demeanor. The two well-dressed men tell their story to the duty officer, who sits behind a desk. The poorly dressed men say nothing, politely awaiting their turn. When it comes, they calmly, earnestly deny the allegation that they accepted money for services they failed to perform. The duty officer considers the stories, then reaches beneath his desk for a bamboo baton. He matter-of-factly demands that the poorly dressed men extend their right hands. He brings the baton down hard on the hand of the first man, shattering his cheap plastic watch and sending shards flying about the room. At the second blow, the man withdraws his hand in an involuntary act of self-preservation. This infuriates the policeman, who begins a tirade while delivering powerful body-blows with his weapon. When the man has been beaten to the floor, he is dragged to a room in the back. The second man is told to put out his hand. He too cannot keep from withdrawing it in advance of the coming injury. Like his colleague, he is badly beaten before being hauled to the rear of the station. The well dressed men exchange smiling pleasantries with the officer before they depart the station, chatting nonchalantly to themselves about some other triviality of the day.

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