Brought into existence out of the author’s personal experiences “…when I was posted at the construction site of a power plant situated in the Naxal-infested interiors of Jharkhand”, Operation India One deals with “One of the deadliest insurgencies in the hinterland…” Classified as one of the most potent internal security threats by the government, the Naxalite Movement continues to baffle strategists, political leaders and masses alike as the mechanics and ideology associated with the movement has undergone a massive change since its inception. In spite of being labelled as one of the biggest internal security threats, only a few authors have mapped the Naxalite Movement in their works and there too, the focus has been primarily on the impact of the political upon the personal.
The politics of the Naxalite Movement has rarely been dealt in a work of fiction and in doing so; the author has taken a bold step.
Set in the present day Bihar, the book begins with the inception of the clandestine operation, “Operation India One” with the aim of eliminating MAF, a part of the Naxalite group that has spread its tentacles across rural and tribal areas. Operation India One commences with a high-run chase between the police officer, ACP Gautam Dhaliwal and the commander of the MAF, Gireesh Marandi that unearths a shocking nexus between the government, terrorist organizations and the business enterprises, “The country’s government supports certain companies and get contracts in India using their diplomatic clout. They also offer these companies the raw materials for factories in India at lower costs. In turn, the foreign government strikes a deal with these companies wherein the latter has to provide a fixed sum to terrorists who swear by communist ideologies. With these funds, the terrorist organizations enter the arms market near the border and procure sophisticated weapons to wreak havoc on our security forces.” However, as the investigation deepens, it turns out that nothing is what seems to be, the people who are fighting for the oppressed and poor are hand in glove with the oppressors, “On the one hand, the MAF claims to fight for the rights of the oppressed and takes a stand against the corporate class invading their land but on the other, they accept money from the same organization.”
In Operation India One, the author avoids to lean towards any side. Criticizing one and all, the author points towards the agony of the people of Bhagatpur who are forsaken by the government after 1947 as even after so many years, they have “No food, no water, no jobs, no roads, no electricity, no proper schools or hospitals.” Moreover, “Poverty and indignity have plagued us…They snatch away our land and make us homeless in minutes. When we protest, they label us terrorists and kill us in fake encounters.” However, MAF is not the answer either, “But they, the MAF, do not want anyone in this area to be educated because then they will realise the futility of the gun.” As stated by one of the villagers, “The police and the MAF, both are equally brutal. No one can be believed. The land means so much to them, far more than human lives.”
Through Gautam, the author questions the role played by the government in the area, “Are these young boys the greatest security threat to the nation? Gautam thought.” “In fact, before the formation of the RR, the government sent the PRM here. They burned our villages, raped our women and killed everyone they could lay their hands on.” Refusing to take sides, the author brings out the dark side of both the parties involved in the strife, “While Charulata showed them photographs of the victims of the police raid, Gautam recalled the contents of the file provided by Subhash Joshi that had similar photographs conveying tales of horror and tragedy. That had been equally macabre. The propaganda machinery of both sides ran a malicious campaign against each other.” In doing so, the author portrays a realistic picture of the conflict bereft of propaganda and this is the biggest achievement of the book.
Facing the reality of the situation and torn between his duty as a police officer and his sympathy towards MAF, ACP Dhaliwal chooses to renounce both, “…In the last five years I thought we were part of the best police force in the world. However, I came face-to-face with the ugly truth here. There is violence and corruption. For whom are we fighting?…I am convinced that the MAF are not terrorists. They are born out of the failure of the administration.”
Like Gautam, the author also chooses idealism and democracy over communism as the only way forward. By using thriller as a means, the author has written a compelling story with racy plot.
Meticulously researched, Operation India One poses difficult questions and does not give any easy answers as the politics of the conflict cannot be whittled down to any simple solution.
Refusing to project any side as a hero, the author ultimately chooses the people over any ideology and propaganda delivered by either of the parties. Although, the story weakens in the third part of the book, the overall structure of the book is taut with elements of suspense.
Read in a single sitting, the book is a thrilling read and is recommended to anyone interested in the Naxalite politics.
Title: Operation India One
Author: Shiv Kumar
Publisher: Om Books International
Reviewed for: Author
Genre/ Sub-Genre: Fiction/ Political Thriller
Rating: 4 of 5
About the Author
Shiv Kumar is working as commercial tax officer in Government of Bihar (India). Previously he had worked as an engineer in BHEL (A government of India Undertaking) for nine years. He has travelled extensively throughout India during the course of his work. He is deeply passionate about reading and writing and most prefers subjects which provide an insight into issues concerning contemporary Indian social reality. Other genres he is fond of, are travel writing, thriller and crime fiction. He lives in Patna with his wife, Sarika, and daughter, Lavanya, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org