Terror Incognito

Amitava Kumar credit MADHU KAPPARATH An interview with Amitava Kumar on his new book, in Time Out Delhi:

In 2006, Amitava Kumar went to Walavati, south of Mumbai, to report the case of an accused terrorist, Iqbal Haspatel, whom he later wrote about in Time Out. Kumar, a writer who teaches English at Vassar College, had already explored the dark world of Islamophobia in Husband of a Fanatic, prompted by his marriage to a Pakistani Muslim. In his new book, Evidence of Suspicion, he goes a step further in asking why we hate the people we hate, in this case, men accused of terrorism. “Terror is the new fetish,” he told Raghu Karnad. “Its meaning is taken for granted.”

Before you wrote the Haspatel story, you obviously already had strong feelings about the way India prosecutes terrorism.

I decided to go to Walavati and meet the Haspatels because a piece of textile machinery – a bobbin – found in their living room had been mistaken for a projectile. They were tortured for days because the police had made a malicious mistake.

But before that, I had been working on another story, also about terrorism, but in the US. It was the story of Hemant Lakhani, a used-clothing salesman convicted of selling a missile to the FBI. Both illustrated the problems of the war on terror: the state’s desperation to find villains, its ability to produce only victims.