Back in 1969, six Touchable policemen cross the river to look for Velutha. They walk through the jungle and the narrator describes all the little animals and plants they pass by with violence in their hearts. They come to the History House and fan out, feeling the responsibility of the “Touchable Future.”
Like Velutha passing through the same jungle, the narrator emphasizes the small things, the plant and animal life that lives alongside the arbitrary dramas of humanity. The policemen are not so much hunting a criminal as preserving the status quo.
The twins and Velutha are all asleep when the police find them. They wake Velutha up by stomping him with their boots. The children wake up and realize for the first time that Velutha is there. The police kick him brutally, and the narrator explains that they are only “history’s henchmen” acting out the inevitable. They are not really there to arrest Velutha, but to prove that the Touchable order of the world is still intact. The twins watch as Velutha is beaten almost to death, and his blood smells like old roses to them.
This is the climactic tragedy of the novel, the violence that is not cherished and preserved like Sophie Mol’s death. The police achieve that place beyond rage that the twins would later see in the story of Bhima, and again Roy steps back to examine the larger implications of this single moment. This is also the explanation for the smell of “old roses” that comes to haunt the twins.
The police finally stop, and the narrator describes Velutha’s broken body, which has been abandoned by “God and History, by Marx, by Man, by Woman and… by Children.” Rahel tells Estha that it isn’t really Velutha, it’s his twin brother Urumban, but Estha won’t let himself believe this. The policemen suddenly grow friendly and tend to the children, making sure Velutha didn’t hurt them. Then the police notice the childlike “supplies” and start to get worried – maybe Velutha didn’t kidnap them after all – so they take all the toys for themselves, forgetting only Rahel’s watch, and drag Velutha out of the forest.
Though the twins are very young, Velutha seems the only truly innocent victim of the story. Rahel immediately tries to retreat into fantasy and ignore the enormous thing that she has seen. The police have dehumanized Velutha to such an extent that they can immediately go from beating him to helping the children. It is only when they consider that maybe Velutha is not an Untouchable kidnapping monster that they realize he might be human.