WITNESS the Night is Kishwar Desai’s first novel. The plot revolves around Durga, a 14-year-old girl who has been arrested on charges of killing 13 of her family members in Jullundur and a social activist from Delhi who has come to rescue the girl. Interwoven into this story are female foeticide, female infanticide, incest, drugs, woman exploitation, avarice and conspiratorial silence of the society that knows all and would pretend to know nothing. The evidence is all too obviously against the girl, as if it was all set up. But the girl herself says nothing. The murders seem to be related to the affair and disappearance of Durga’s beautiful elder sister Sharda. She vanished after delivering a male child. The persons behind the travails of Sharda and Durga are the local police chief and the local politician. The novel is tepid. Desai, who has worked in both print and electronic media and has authored a book on the ‘true love story’ of Nargis and Sunil Dutt, leaves the reader dissatisfied. Everyone goes scot free, as though the 13 murders didn’t take place, a la Arushi-Hemraj.
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