The courts ? Are they any better ? Right now, a judge of the Mumbai High Court is being prosecuted for his alleged links with criminals. A few years ago, no less a person than a Supreme court judge was hauled up for accumulating wealth that was disproportionate to his known sources of income !

Hopes of purging this huge Poisonville are getting dimmer and dimmer. Reforms or revolution ? Gandhism or Marxism? A change in the Constitution ? Those who argue for one or the other do not themselves believe in any change any longer. The Left has reconciled to the drift and has adopted the credo: ‘If you can’t lick ’em, join ‘em.’ The Naxalites, who some three decades ago started with a clean slate, have become poisoned by Poisonville. The various assortments of Marxist-Leninst groups seem to believe in a 'revolution' of petty revenge - the MCC cadres slitting throats of the PWG cadres and vice versa, or in a pique of anger blowing up obscure railway stations, or killing a village sarpanch. But all of them become squeamish Gandhites when it comes to confronting the real enemies like the killer Shahabuddin of Siwan in Bihar, or goons of the Sangh Parivar. Notorious communalists like the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, or the Vishva Hindu Parishad chieftain Ashok Singal, are strutting around with no Naxalite outfit daring to touch them. A cat scratches only the soft earth. The Naxalites also are experts in choosing soft targets. In the past, the oppressed people dreamt of some saviour - a god in the shape of human avatar. But the gods in the Poisonville of India, watching the drift of the wind, have joined villains. Ram has given the lead. He is busy leading all the mobsters and outlaws, mafia dons and racketeers in wiping out the minorities, in the name of fighting the memories of Babar, and has little time for the hungry masses.

Maybe, one has to look for other kinds of heroes and other means of fighting ! In Hammett's Red Harvest, the boss of Poisonville at one stage finds that he has lost control over his thugs who are getting too hot for him. He seeks the help of a private detective from San Francisco who arrives at Poisonville to clean up the town. He goes about it in a fashion that is as diabolical as the methods of the thugs. He hits at the underbelly of the underworld. The gangsters' world is perpetually haunted by mutual suspicion. Making use of it, he circulated rumours that set the thugs against each other. He breaks their combination, and smashes things up enough so that none can any longer count on his partner. Thus, instead of his doing the dirty job of eliminating the goons, the latter are led to fight among themselves and get finished off in the process.

An ugly solution ? Perhaps. The liberal consciene will squirm at the thought, and will insist that we should always swing the play legally. But then, in a country where laws never work, there is no use taking the criminals to the courts, no matter what you have got on them. They own the courts, and in any case the courts are too slow. The only way in which they are got rid of - if at all- is through gang-warfare, or personal vendetta. In Malpura in Rajasthan, the main accused in the 1992 communal riots following the Babri Masjid demolition, Kailash Mali, met his end only recently at the hands of his rivals. Ethics are rusty in India, and retributive justice is