In his short story, In the Penal Colony (1919), Franz Kafka writes about a special machine for enforcing capital punishment. As part of the punishment, the machine also inscribes on a person’s body the commandment they have disobeyed. The condemned person in the story is required to get these words etched on his skin: “Honour Thy Superiors”. If the failure to obey the superiors was sufficient to invite public execution in a fictional tale a century ago, one’s alleged criminal record is now enough to attract public punishment and a voyeuristic celebration. Last month, Ramesh Sachan, a government officer in Hamirpur district of UP, posted a photograph of a bulldozer on social media and wrote: “Yah hum hain, aur yah hamari car hai, yah hamari party ho rahi hai. (Here we are, this is our car and here we are holding our party).” A day before, the administration had bulldozed the property of a suspected criminal in the district. Coming from an officer, the telling words epitomised the space the monstrous machine has recently occupied in Indian administration.
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