The poor and illiterate were tired of being oppressed and exploited by rich men. People wanted to get rid of status-quo and create a classless society even if that meant to let loose a river of blood. This protest against injustice gave birth to the revolutionary “Naxalbari movement” in the late ’60s, mainly lead by radical communist leaders. “It is only in the case of the poor and the illiterate that the question of caste comes up. No one cares about the caste of the wealthy, whose only identity is that they are rich.”
There’s Gunpowder in the Air (Review)
“There’s Gunpowder in the Air” written by Manoranjan Byapari, is a tale set in West Bengal in the early ’70s. In the mainframe are five Naxals who have been recently transferred to Calcutta’s most impregnable jail. They have managed to plan a jailbreak earlier and are hell-bent on doing it again, irrespective of the consequences. Meanwhile, Bireshwar Mukherjee, the newly appointed jailer, is very close to retirement and wishes to pass the remaining years on the job the way he has for the previous 25 years, so he can finally taste the fruit of riches he has amassed over the years. Every ward now stuffed with four or five times the number of prisoners, it can actually hold. Most of the wards are filled with rebellious Naxalites who are not ready to accept the age-old tradition, Bireshwar Mukherjee fears their objective which is to paralyze the system, and for the first time, an invisible crack seems to have appeared in the impenetrable wall of his courage. Bireshwar Mukherjee’s earlier record shows that he has managed to sail through everything thrown his way, but the circumstances now are very different, will he manage to save the day this time? Will he emerge unharmed from this crisis? Will the Gods of lucks be in his favor? Who knows what lies in wait?
What holds my attention here is not the plot, but how it portrays the daily routine of those who have embraced this life. These anecdotes enable us to view criminals as more than criminals. All these characters have their own set of regrets, insecurity, and agendas. The backstories of these prisoners will tell you how each came to become a Naxalite. The best part is every story is told without disrupting the flow. Manoranjan Byapari shows us how isolation and deprivation can affect human idealism. The fact that the author himself was once a prisoner and spoke from experience is what makes this book even more compelling; he unravels what goes inside the world of convicted felons – inhumane treatment, the social classism, the power of tyrant officers, and how hunger can rob one of all love and affection.
The book is altogether a different treat and deserves every bit of attention it has been getting. The author paints familiar worlds in imaginative ways using truth as his palette and the translation done by Arunava Sinha does justice to it. Pick up this book because it’s unlike any reading experience you have had, and it will help you gain more knowledge about Indian history.