October 30, 2008


All hail Vishwanathan Anand -- the undisputed chess champion of world. On a day when the whole of India celebrates and shares in Anand's spectacular win at Bonn, news comes of a czechmate of another kind and this is in a sense that is hilarious if not downright poignant.

The rule of law in India as articulated by the police and the judiciary is shown up to be the sham that we in India know so well.

When terrorists are exploding bombs all across the country and Raj Thackeray's thugs are beating up Biharis in Bombay who does our police jump on ? a Czech entomologist, Emil Kucera who is collecting insects in Darjeeling ! Ok, perhaps he was Chinese spy or a Pakistani terrorist in disguise but since no has even hinted anything like that it, is unlikely to be so. What is more likely is that fell foul of the law and local sarkari babu felt that this was too good an opportunity, to make money, to let go so easily. Had Emil been wise to the ways of the India he would have coolly pushed across a Rs 500 note to the oily babu ( such is our perception of the Indian bureaucrat) and that would have been the end of the story. But then Emil being who he is, he perhaps thought that it is best to the stick with the laws of the land ... and that was his biggest mistake. It is of course too easy to fall foul of the law in India. There are so many silly and idiotic laws in the country that almost anyone can be found to be guilty of one or the other as Emil Kucera discovered to his misfortune.

But his bigger revelation was the utter ineptitude with which the judicial process moves in the country. Those of us who have been in the 'system' know that unless you know how to 'work' the system, justice is very scarce in the country. While thugs, ministers and people who have the right connections are rarely inconvenienced by the nitty-gritty of the law of the land, it is the common people and the foreigners who have to face the full brunt !

Emil was lucky. Being a foreigner he could afford to flee ! And this he did with great panache without breaking any law -- other than the laws of India. His own country legally arranges for a second passport ... so that he can walk out of the country without the original passport that the Indian system was triumphantly holding on to ! He had realised that the best way to beat the Indian system was to step out of it. Thugs and politicians do it all the time !

Unfortunately for the rest of us -- the much beloved Aaam Admee -- in India, there is no place run to ! If you fall foul of the authorities -- however foul and unfair they may be -- you have no recourse but to work the system. Get to know people, pay the right kind of money and then you may be allowed to live at peace until the next thug -- very often with an official designation -- comes to make your life a little less peaceful.

That is the tragedy.

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