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What if Naxals and jihadis join hands?

October 25, 2012 09:52 IST

Naxalites joining hands with jihadis from Pakistan has often been discussed at many security review meetings. In the backdrop of such a scenario, Red Jihad -- a book written by Sami Ahmed Khan -- catches one's attention.

Set in 2014, the book -- a work of fiction -- narrates how a jihadi leader from Pakistan travels to the Red corridor in India and sets up an alliance.

Khan discusses his book in an interview with's Vicky Nanjappa.

Tell us a bit about your book

Red Jihad is a political thriller/military fiction set in 2014 when Pakistani Jihadis collude with Indian naxalites and try to destabilise a secular, democratic South Asia.

The book portrays how India reacts to threats of terror, and how decisions are made on a war-footing by the apex triumvirate of bureaucracy, military and political executive.

It talks about people (despite their differences) coming together to achieve common goals and how in some exigencies, realpolitik dictates forging alliances with contradictory, antagonistic discourses to further one's own individual agenda(s).

The concept of and ideas in Red Jihad have been taken from actual happenings, though they have been suitably fictionalised to give the novel better unity, cohesion, and pace- after all, it has been written as primarily a thriller.

As I wanted to write something with greater appeal, I have tried to keep the language simple and lucid. Moreover, in Red Jihad, I experimented with a form where there were no heroes, no outstanding characters, only situations -- and how the character responded to it.

This plot, which was driven not by characters but by situations, gave me a better chance to write a thriller that (I hope) was devoid of mushiness or excess human sentiments. I wanted Red Jihad to be cold, hitting and almost brutally direct -- at the same time, I tried my best to be non-partisan in my approach, and to allow contradicting ideologies to give forth their side of the arguments.

It is a fiction set in the future. What prompted to you go into this subject?

Basing the novel in the future gave me the liberty to extrapolate from current material realities and project a tomorrow that may well be possible.

It also provided me the opportunity to exercise my speculative fiction cells so that I could ask the question 'what if...?'

The reason, however, why I went into this particular subject was because some people had started to think that the only fiction that Indian youth were capable of producing and enjoying was that which pertained to either campus romances, relationships or that which dealt with the existential angst of IIT-IIM graduates.

I wanted to let those people know that while novels on romance and relationships are much read and widely enjoyed, they aren't the only focus of Indian youth.

We do think about the direction in which our country is headed and are interested in the underlying politics of such development(s).

Terrorism and parochial violence are some of the most potent threats to a secular, tolerant and democratic way of life. I chose to write on them so that the youth could be vindicated of its apolitical 'tunnel vision approach' many blame it to have -- a worldview that ostensibly perceives broken hearts from the prism of failed relationships alone.

A victim of a terror bombing, or a communal riot, or an honour killing, is as much the protagonist of youth fiction as any other. This is what I had in mind when writing Red Jihad.

To make people realize that though many might think all we youth are concerned with is what happened during last night's party, but that is absolutely not true and our youth is as much concerned with larger national and international realities.

There has been talk of Naxals joining hands with Pakistani terrorists. Do you see this as a future threat as has been depicted in your book?

Although I pray that this does not happen, yet, there is a possibility that this just might. Moreover, if newspaper reports are to be believed, it already has.

In that case, it is going to be an extremely dangerous threat and must be met quite seriously.

Perhaps, I felt this both subconsciously and consciously -- Red Jihad is the result.

Moreover, the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' has been a very important maxim in strategic affairs since time immemorial and today is no different.

If Naxals join hands with jihadis, how do you see the situation changing in South Asia?

If the non-state actors from different ideological spectrums unite to face a common foe, the most efficacious option available for the states is to join hands themselves.

After all, those who believe in a shared existence based on mutual respect, tolerance and non-violence must come together to face the demons of violence and extremism, or all is lost even before the first shot is fired.

South Asia needs to battle not only poverty, illiteracy, corruption and unemployment, but also political extremism and religious fundamentalism. This needs to be done by pooling all the resources and allies a democracy has to offer.

How has the response been to your book?

The response has been quite warm and heartening. I am happy to note that people have appreciated not only the plot and the narrative, but the research that went into the novel and the ultimate message (if any) -- which is one of peace, mutual brotherhood, and tolerance in the spirit of vasudeva kutumbkam, apart from a pro-active desire to nip terrorism in the bud.

At some level do you suspect a coming together of these forces? Is your book more of a warning about the future?

A part of the plot was ripped from newspaper headlines, so yes, there is a material base behind my speculations. However, as I said, I have taken extreme liberties with facts, thereby turning them into quasi-facts, to serve a dual purpose -- One, to make the readership think about our future and the direction in which we are headed as a nation. Two, to tell a good story (written quite simply and lucidly) that people enjoy reading (without the wordplay of 'literary fiction'), for I loved writing it.

In a way, this book can be seen as a warning. However, I believe in writing what I feel is out there, and then allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

I do not believe in the idea of spoon-feeding the masses the idea of a troubled tomorrow, uncertain present or a golden past. My job is to provide an interpretation of external reality, which can have multiple interpretations so that the readers might choose their own.

Would you write more in the future and will terrorism be your primary subject?

Yes, I hope to write in the future, though as for my subject matter, I am not sure if terrorism will be my primary subject. It all depends on what issue writes to me then!


Vicky Nanjappa