Maybe it's not right to pick out one phrase from an entire book; maybe you think it does not even best capture Iftikhar Gilani's experience. But it works for me. In four words, it speaks of everything perverse and venal in what happened to Gilani in 2002; perhaps in our country itself.
What happened when he first entered Tihar jail, says Gilani, was a "ghastly display of patriotism."
To understand this, of course, you need to know that Government hatchet men raided Gilani's Delhi home and "stumbled" on a computer file about Indian troop deployments in Kashmir. They used that to accuse him of spying for Pakistan, charging him under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (itself an abomination). Denied bail, he spent 7 months in Tihar.
Never mind that this was a publicly available document that Gilani had pulled off the Internet, as you can. Never mind that Military Intelligence told the Government the document had "no security value." No, he went to Tihar regardless.
And when he got there, fellow inmates beat and abused him, calling him "Sala gaddar, Pakistani agent!" That is, he was punished as a traitor by murderers, rapists and thieves. Something there, quite apart from questions about Gilani's innocence, is perverse and obscene.
Yet that's just the lesson to take from Gilani's book, the perversities in this thing called patriotism. Consider: He was accused of dealing with Pakistan under an Act devised by the colonial power we fought to free ourselves from. The "evidence" for this accusation was a paper itself authored by Pakistanis (later doctored by Gilani's Indian accusers) and freely available. Then he was thrashed by criminals for being a "traitor" to his country.
And if all that irony hasn't sated you, think of this: after 7 months, the Government quietly dropped the case against him and set him free.
Altogether, a display of patriotism enough to turn your stomach. Ghastly all right.