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Sifting fact from fiction

Arjun Sen, New Delhi

PEGGY Mohan’s second novel, The Youngest Suspect, is a fictionalized account of what happens when young Muslim boys are brutalized into confessing to terrorist crimes they did not commit. It is a novel on the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat, ‘an indictment of sorts of the Modi government,’ says Peggy Mohan.

After every terror attack, the police pick up young Muslim boys as suspects. They are tortured into writing confessions indicting themselves. Many of them turn out to be innocent. Yet they languish in jail for years. The stigma leaves their lives in tatters.

Mohan is a linguist from the Indian community in Trinidad. She did her doctoral thesis on Trinidad Bhojpuri. She has twice been an expert witness responsible for analyzing confessional statements in terrorism trials in India – once in the Parliament Attack case in 2002 and then for the Tiffin Bomb Trial in Ahmedabad in 2003.

As an eyewitness of POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) trials, Mohan could have written her book as fact, not fiction. But she wanted to relate her story with all its horrors through the eyes of those who suffered.

Mohan, who also teaches music at Vasant Valley School in New Delhi, spoke to Civil Society about her book.

Reading your book left me wondering how much of it was fact and how much was fiction. What was your objective in writing this book?

I have tried to capture the ground realities in Gujarat after the Godhra riots of 2002. The book is based on my personal experience as an expert witness called in by the defense in the Tiffin Bomb Trial in Ahmedabad. My job as an expert linguist was to analyse the confessional statements of the accused and convince the POTA Court in Ahmedabad that those confessions could ...

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