We have had several movies made on the decades old Kashmir problem but yet to see a good movie in recent years doing full justice to the still burning issue. Kashmir has been burning for the past twenty years. However if you read a Hindi novel written almost two decades ago, quite surprisingly you will find it doing complete justice to this issue giving constant pains and tension to we, the Indians. This novel is – Dehshatgardi (terrorism) penned by the renowned Hindi mystery writer Surendra Mohan Pathak in the year 2000. Presently 2018 is running and still the novel looks quite relevant because the status of the things depicted in the novel is as it is, even aggravated, to be precise. It’s not a mystery though the author has earned name and fame as a mystery-writer. It’s a thriller without any mystery. Anybody who can read Hindi and fond of reading fiction, will find this one decade old novel far better than the contemporary movies claiming to be dealing with the sensitive Kashmir issue.
The story starts with a hardcore terrorist Bakhtiyar Ali Khan who is involved in the terroristic activities with the help of ISI and some like-minded high profile people among whom one is a jute-manufacturing industrialist of Kolkata, a corrupt army officer posted at Binapur (W.B.), an international arms dealer and the like wise. But there is a peace-loving seasoned Kashmiri leader, Shauqeen Ahmed Lon who opposes his terroristic activities and wants his wrong steps to be checked. In their bid to get arms and ammunition on mass scale from Germany with the disguised help of the corrupt Iranian ambassador in France (who endorses on the documents that the purchase of arms and ammunition is for Iran), the international arms dealer, Ibrahim A. Rehmani has to arrange a few murders out of which, one is of the Indian foreign secretary in Geneva. The assassins arranged by him are Shah Jamaal, an international contract killer and Madaam Zoya, his lady associate who jointly run a night-club cum brothel in Paris. John Haster, the Swiss police officer, investing the murder of the Indian foreign secretary in Geneva, is able to reach the truth behind that high profile murder with his sincere efforts but prohibited by his senior officer because of the apprehension of a political confrontation due to the involvement of the Iranian ambassador in France in the murder conspiracy. But he continues with his attempts to catch the criminals at his personal level.
Here, in India, the terrorists plan to hit an inter-continental train, named as ‘The Continental Express’ which is a luxury train connecting six different countries and run mainly to provide a luxurious international trip to the extremely rich people. The people who get involved in the mission to protect this train from the terrorist attack are a senior RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) official, the chief security adviser of the company managing this trip of the train, the general manager of the insurance company giving insurance cover to the train and an international lawyer representing the railway boards of the different countries touched by the train. They plan to seek the help of C.I.A. in their mission through the Govt. of India and succeed in arranging a trained C.I.A. agent sent by the Govt. of USA to travel in the train in the disguise of a senator. Bakhtiyar Ali Khan, through Ibrahim A. Rehmani, again hires the services of Shah Jamaal to arrange a lethal attack on the train. Sheela Garner is the keep of the jute industrialist, Kamaldev Chaudhary (who is in fact, a Bangladeshi with his real name being Kamaluddin Chaudhary) and works in the Public Relations Department of the American Consulate at Kolkata, arranging useful information for Chaudhary. She comes to know that Peter Kody, the American senator coming to India is actually an impostor and passes this information to Chaudhary. The Swiss police officer, John Haster also decides to move to India to catch his coveted criminals red-handed during the terrorist attack on the train.
All these relevant people involving both, those masterminding the attack and those engaged in preventing that attack, get assembled on the train in which Madaam Zoya, by her wit, ensures the presence of some members of the British royal family too. In the fast-paced, action-packed and prolonged climax, the terrorists alongwith the corrupt army officer, Sharad Adhikari are killed, Ibrahim A. Rehmani is arrested and Chaudhary is killed by the ISI people at his residence in Kolkata. Resultantly, terrorist activities are calmed down in Kashmir at least for some time.
This novel grips the reader from the very first scene and if you read it in one go, it will give you the experience of a roller-coaster ride for sure. The narrative moves through different countries and locations and involves several characters in action. It is nothing less than an edge-of-the-seat thriller if you compare it with a movie. I have read it many times and every time, I get the same kind of thrilling pleasure. The action scenes are just marvellous. I wonder if this novel is adapted for making a movie, how thrilling that movie can be. The storytelling job has been done in not only the most interesting manner but the most authentic manner also. The only thing is that neither any inter-continental train as shown in the novel, exists in present, nor likely to exist in future. If we ignore this fact, no incident or the fact mentioned in the novel, looks artificial or out of the real world.
The novel very truly pinpoints that the problem of Kashmir is multi-faceted and the terrorists are getting help from different sources including some well-off Indians who are not identified as anti-nationals as well as the corrupt military officials. Their helping branches are spread in several countries which have to be traced out and cut if these activities are to be curbed in the genuine sense. The novel underscores that the common Kashmiris are not pro-terrorism and they want peace in their state. It also propagates the idea of dividing J&K into three parts – Kashmir, Jammu and Laddakh so that the terrorist activities getting strength from the valley, get centralized there and dealing with them becomes less-confusing. It also highlights females’ active role in the international terrorism.
The novel is not character-based. It is event-based. Hence there is no hero or heroine in the novel. You just start reading and within the reading of barely a few pages, you will be so engrossed in the fast-moving narrative that it will be a Herculian task for you to leave the book without reading it to the last page.
I recommend this novel to all the readers of Hindi fiction as well as all the people interested in getting an authentic account of the Kashmir terrorism. Whether you read it for making yourself knowledgeable upon this topic or you read it for sheer entertainment, it will serve you in both the ways.
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