Faceless Enemy in Balachandra Rajan’s The Dark Dancer


This research is a critical study on Balachandra Rajan’s “The Dark Dancer” in which this research tries to show the faceless enemies in the novel. The term faceless enemy lets us know that something or someone that does not have the physical appearance but can create fear, humiliation, and inferiority to human beings.

The novel The Dark Dancer is a serious study of a squabble of the division of India and Pakistan. This novel actually retells the sufferings of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs of Shantihpur, where their identity has been separated from themselves. The enemy of the novel is not identified so the enemy can be called the faceless enemy where one has fear of another without knowing that they would harm them or not.

The writer Rajan is a South Indian Hindu and this novel is semi-autobiographical as he was a witness of political upheavals, inhuman activities, riots while he was working as a government officer. This novel is about the partition violence in which Pakistan was formed from India and its several clashes. While working as a senior diplomat in Delhi, Rajan observed partition violence and published this novel in 1958, after a decade of partition. Here the writer tries to show the impact of the faceless enemy. The faceless enemy spread the fear, terror, humiliation inside the mind of the victim. Besides this the faceless enemy, the term is slightly differently defined in the area of the Trauma studies. According to Ishtiaq Ahmed, an author of Pakistan Descent, “when there is pathological politics, the ‘enemy’ becomes faceless. Individuals not only prefer people of their own ethnic stock, culture, religion, language, nationality and so on but dislike and despise those belonging to other groups”(147).  He claims that the faceless enemy not only respects and protect his/her own culture but also hates the existence of groups which can create threat and terror to victims.

The effect of a faceless enemy occurs because of the loneliness of identity or when use is displaced. When we feel we are of nowhere then we feel it. Krishnan is neither full English nor Indian. His sense is lost.  The enemy does not always have a recognized face, it does not always relate to blood-shedding, wound, and disaster but also the cultural displacement has been an important factor. Cynthia, who represents the Western view, accuses the Indian society of partition. There is an oriental gaze. She is giving Western view she is saying Muslim and Hindu cannot stay in one place. The character of the novel is haunted by the faceless enemy which has to create them inner terror and displacement of the mind.  The first extract that shows the faceless enemy in the novel is

“Frightful rotters the British. Absolutely satanic. Don’t know what we would do without them. Who are we going to blame after they leave?”(32).

This extract is the part of speech from Vijayaraghavan and Krishnan. The text has been present against the British government who is ruling over India. The British settlement as the colonizer in India has present as cruel ruler and supreme authority of India. For which the speaker thinks that the Indians themselves are responsible. This speech against the British shows the mass presenting that the speaker cannot forget the suffering and pain caused by the British. For speaker’s rule of British colonizer is fearful and scary which can trigger him to recall the terrible past of his nation. The speaker’s psychology to have fear with the British in the absence of them can be the representation of the faceless enemy. The British ruler is called as “Frightful rotter” and “satanic” which indicate them as the destroyers and the heartless to the Indian people. So the speaker is haunted by the cruel and demonic figure of the British. That’s why the British colonizer has taken as an enemy with faceless who is in every Indian psychology though they are physically absent and their memories are haunting them.

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The speaker is unable to indicate the particular enemy and the dull images of the enemy make the victim loss psychology. Similarly, the lines which we feel the perception of the faceless enemy on the narration of the narrator;

“Forget about your sister raped, your mother in the ditches and the haunting face that reminds you of the crime, which is everyone’s face, wherever the curved knife slashes”(101).

This extract come when Krishnan was planning to continue teaching and he was asking Kamala for it does his decision has hurt her or not.  The narrator assumes with his decision of resuming his profession that can he be able to teach any new thing to his student, can they get any new knowledge as Krishnan teaches, forgetting all their past blood-shedding events.  Furthermore, he can get his learners to begin something better than the past created through violence. From the text we can find that the writer has created the deathly images in his mind, he has imagined the cruelty of the perpetrators, the Sikh, who inhumanly behaved with the Hindu and Muslim during the time violent partition.  Here in this line, the narrator seems afraid of the behavior of the Sikh because of terror that they had created in the mind of Hindu and Muslim people. The narrator has to forget the rape of his own sister and the ditches of the mother which is impossible. Even though he says that the victims could not recognize a particular enemy but can see the face of the enemy in everyone’s face after the incident that occurs in their life that’s why he says “everyone’s face wherever the curved knife slashes.”  “There’s the army and our foreign assists, the railways and the administration. Everything you can think of goes into the slicing machine” (109). This extract also provided evidence of faceless enemies. Here the enemies are the British who came to colonize India. And the Indian people are afraid of whole armies’ troops.

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The next extract that shows us about the faceless enemy is “There were six of you against myself and my wife. You did the only thing you know how to do with a woman, and when you’d done enough of it you killed her” (192). This is about the Moslem who has lost his wife by a member of the Hindu community. He narrates it to Krishnan how he was helpless to save his wife from that inhuman activity and the death of his wife very cruelly. After that torture and treatment to them which even forced to die. He says that he feels afraid with another member of the Hindu community that they may kill him. In the beginning, he was thinking Krishnan from his same community but later when he came to know that Krishnan was from the group which has killed his wife, the fear inside him start about the death that he may be killed as his wife was. Likewise, Krishnan starts to get panic about his own life from this man. Both characters are suffering from the same fear not because of the attack but because of the religious differences that have been created because of the partition.  The same fear-filled situations created by past deeds of both of the characters can be traced out as the result of the faceless enemy.

The fear of the religious differences haunted timely to the Muslim community people.  Even though a large number of the people from their community get to suffer from cholera but also they were not ready to go for medical treatment to a hospital because of the religious conflict. They think that in the hospital there are the people from Hindus and Sikh communities who were more dangerous than cholera. But Kamala takes the responsibility of taking care of those Muslim people who are suffering from cholera. The lines from Kamala’s view which show the incidence of the faceless enemy is;

“It isn’t different because they are Muslims. It just makes it more difficult to do what has to be done. They’re sick, they’re in danger, and our duty is to care for them. If they’re afraid to come to us because they don’t trust us, or because they can’t risk being discovered, then it’s our responsibility to go out and bring them in” (222).

this extract simply presents us that how those Muslims were getting fear from the other community’s people that they were ready to give up their lives from the disease instead of going to the enemy’s home for treatment. The Muslim people did not trust on Hindu and Sikh people by going to the past at the time of partition. They think that as their parents have been killed, separate and became homeless like that they will also suffer from the same case. So those Muslims were not ready to get treatment from the hand of Hindu and Sikh. The shocking bloodshed that takes place at the time of the partition has left a number of the Muslim feeling of terror from which they believe has been the savagery of the Hindu and Sikh. The recalling of their dreadful past by the Muslim makes them be much negative and suspicious to the Hindu and Sikh though their work is purely humanitarian without any conspiratorial intention as Kamala did in the novel. Even the feeling of the Muslim has been present as a faceless enemy. Supporting this event about the fear of not going to the hospital for the treatment of Muslims is that they have a fear of being an attack from Hindu and Sikh.  “This is a hospital. Whoever comes in leaves his religion outside? There are only sick bodies” (239) this event proves the fear of Muslim people as they have been afraid of being well than being killed. So they let their disease to be spread rather be treated from the Hindus.

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Recapitulation: Faceless Enemy in Balachandra Rajan’s The Dark Dancer

In short, this research paper tries to come up with some incidents from the novel to show the presence of the faceless enemy. According to Ishtiaq Ahmed’s view on faceless enemy there we can find that the loss of identity crisis to the Indian from British colonizer and Muslim from Hindu and Sikh at the time of partition. The representation of trauma by Rajan is not middle voiced. He should have played the role to patch the wound of the people or minimize trauma. But the writer fails though he attempts for social reconstruction presenting Kamala as the protagonist. In the whole novel, we can find the effect of terror and fear from each other as in one incident when one Muslim who lost his wife because of Hindu’s treatment counter with Krishnan, both of them have got the same fear but cannot express it out. At last from this research, we can claim that the novel by Balachandra Rajan “The Dark Dancer” has got the discourse of faceless enemy.


Works Cited

Alexander, Jeffrey. “Partition and trauma: Repairing India and Pakistan” Trauma: A Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012.

Ahmed, Istiaq. “The Partition of India: A Paradigm for pathological Politics in India and Pakistan.” Academy of the Punjab in North America, Web. 4th Feb. 2017

Rajan, Balachabndra. The Dark Dancer. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc, 1958.




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