This study attempts to achieve the inherently impossible: to understand an aspect of Indian society undergoing profound change. There are two principal causes of the diffi culty of the exercise. The fi rst – which at heart is irremediable – is the inherent complexity of Indian society. No single discipline, certainly no individual scholar, can pretend to grasp more than a small part of the infi nitely complex whole. The second is inherent in any attempt to understand the present as history. Without the luxury of hindsight we attempt by giving meaning to fragments of evidence to discern the direction in which social change may be headed. Our attempt to understand social change across India through the dark, sad lens of suicide rests unavoidably on the use of offi cial statistics of suicide deaths. As we shall see, many Indian scholars believe these to be grossly inaccurate. If they are correct, it must place the reliability of this entire enterprise in grave doubt. Curiously, however, the confi dant dismissal of the reliability of India’s offi cial suicide statistics is made in the absence of systematic published evidence. It is essential, therefore, at the outset that we do what has heretofore not been done and examine systematically and critically the evidence for the reliability of India’s offi cial suicide statistics as reported by the National Crime Records Bureau in their annual publication Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India.