KHAIRLANJI, A Strange and Bitter Crop by Anand Teltumbde could not have appeared at a more appropriate time.

The first book in the series Holocaste from Navayana, the book is a complete analysis of one of post-independence India's worst caste atrocities and its aftermath. In Khairlanji, on 29 September 2006, 44-year-old Surekha Bhotmange and her daughter Priyanka Bhotmange were stripped, paraded naked, and raped repeatedly. Surekha's sons Roshan and Sudhir were lynched. The entire village was involved. The Bhotmanges were dalit. The Bhotmanges have been forgotten.

After all, two dalits are murdered every day in India.

On Monday, September 15, 2008, the sessions court in Bhandara gave its verdict and held eight people guilty of murder. It acquitted three. The quantum of punishment will be pronounced on September 20.

In the Khairlanji massacre, the sessions judge did not find any expression of 'caste hatred' and hence did not think it necessary to invoke provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Nor did he find any evidence of rape. Teltumbde's book helps to understand why this is not surprising, to understand how in most crimes committed against dalits the prosecution and the judges do not find it necessary to invoke the PoA Act, to know what really happened in Khairlanji, for a chronicle of the state repression that was unleashed on the protesting dalits in the aftermath of Khairlanji, and to know why Khairlanjis have been happening and shall continue to recur in India...

'The right of life and death was one of sovereignty's basic attributes,' said Foucault. 'The right of life and death is always exercised in an unbalanced way: the balance is always tipped in favour of death.' In post-independence India, the authority of caste found a new ally—the state and its police. The state admits to the murder of two dalits every day, a crime against a dalit every eighteen minutes. Atrocities pile up, forming a landscape of tears, blood and ashes. It could be said this is not genocide. It could be argued this is not a holocaust. What is it then, this slow, everyday ritual of murder? Unreported, easily forgotten.

On the jacket, Arundhati Roy says "Anand Teltumbde's analysis of the public, ritualistic massacre of a dalit family in 21st century India exposes the gangrenous heart of our society. It contextualizes the massacre and describes the manner in which the social, political and state machinery, the police, the mass media and the judiciary all collude to first create the climate for such bestiality, and then cover it up. This is not a book about the last days of relic feudalism, but a book about what modernity means in India. It discusses one of the most important issues in contemporary India."

An important book. A timely book. In our Dalit Studies section, and also in the Navayana booklist. Demy Octavo, 210 pages, Rs 190 ISBN: 978-81-89059-15-6