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Welcome to the great Indian political tamasha

April 29, 2009's American reporter Matthew Schneeberger gets a taste of the great Indian political tamasha. Photographs Dominic Xavier.

Inside a small, musty police station in rural Karnataka, I am stuck on a narrow, rickety wooden bench, answering rapid-fire questions from an Assistant Sub Inspector.

"What is your name?" he shoots. "And your father's name?"

He pushes a pen and pad of paper across the table. "Here, write down the details. Add your employer's address in India and home address in America."

It is hot outside, over 35 degrees centigrade, and my shirt and shorts cling to my body, soaked through with sweat.

"Ahh, so you are nervous," the mountainous Assistant Sub Inspector observes, while twirling the ends of his massive moustache. "Why exactly have you come to my district? What business do you have here?"

Two constables stand astride him, examining my passport. "Is your visa valid or not valid, it could be a big problem," one of them explains knowingly. "What is your salary?" his partner asks, eyes glinting suggestively. "Must be at least 3 lakhs a month. "

Finally, after an hour of subtle accusations, after an hour of eliciting the details of our itinerary, after an hour of making me feel like a criminal, the ASI returns my documents. I am told bluntly to get lost.

But such is life in Bellary, Karnataka's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde constituency -- the home of some of India's most profitable iron ore mines, where corruption and mistrust reign. Where, as a general rule, no one lets his right hand know what his left is doing. This is true of politicians, business leaders and the police, all the way down to the common mine worker.

Image: A Congress party roadshow in the Bangalore Rural constituency.

Also see: Rahul's quiet mission: Capture Uttar Pradesh | India Votes