Mapping the terror trail
Madhushree Chatterjee

Mukul Deva: Soldier-turned-writer
Mukul Deva: Soldier-turned-writer

A boy from Lucknow is lured into Pakistan as a jehadi by a terrorist group. Months later, on the eve of Diwali and Eid, a series of bomb blasts unleash death on the streets of Delhi...Itís time to call in the ultra-secret Force 22 of the Indian Army.

The plot of ex-soldier-turned-writer Mukul Devaís new novel Lashkar: Into the Heart of Terror is gripping. It explores the battle between terrorists from Pakistan and the Indian military through the eyes of a soldier.

"Do you know the etymology of the word Lashkar" ? Deva asks. "It is Al-askar or the army in Persian. I named my book Lashkar to grab eyeballs. This book is about both the Lashkarsm, the jehadis, the Indian Army on one side and the Islamic terrorists on the other," said the Delhi-based author.

"My endeavour was to strip away the glamour from the war, expose the seamy underbelly of terror which is deeply grounded in reality. Terror has nothing to do with religion, it is about power, money and narco-terrorism." Deva himself has spent 16 years in the frontline battling jehadis in some of the most hostile terrains across the subcontinent. And sure enough, his book is racy and visually captivating, giving the reader a feel of the heat on Ground Zero.

The 363-page paperback novel begins with drama ó a blast in New Delhiís Sarojini Nagar Market on the evening of October 29, 2005. From there, it cuts to a terrorist camp in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, minutes after the blast in Sarojini Nagar, where Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Brigadier Salim check out the damage in Delhi.

Satisfied, the duo turns its attention to two new recruits from India. They home in on Iqbal, the boy from Lucknow, whose face shows revulsion at the images of horror in his country. The action takes off from there to cities across northern India, their porous borders and obscure railheads from where explosives are smuggled into the country. Devaís trail touches base at the offices of Pakistanís intelligence service in Islamabad, the BBC office in London and the South Block in New Delhi before entering the counter-offensive base of the Indian Armyís fictitious Force 22 at Kasauli Hills. On the subject of narco-terrorism, he said: "The amount of narcotics that flows out from Afghanistan every year is more than 10 times the annual budget of India. It needs a way to reach the buyers and India is a strategic transit," Deva explains.

So terrorism, in the authorí words, is a proxy war the Pakistan government is waging on the Indian state to wrest control of a sensitive area, which could boost its clandestine narco-trade with Asia and give it direct access to the booming economies of Asiaís eastern board.

"You see, jehad has nothing to do with the people of Pakistan, who yearn for peace. A few mad generals, hell-bent on unleashing a nuclear assault, have created the war. The only solution is to bring the warring generals to the table and the Indian military might is a means to drag them to talk peace. Dialogue is integral to solution," Deva says.

The book is being made into a movie. "I have received a couple of offers from major Bollywood producers. Talks are under way. It will be a no-frills movie, completely unlike the routine crop of Bollywood spice on terrorism, which is so unreal. I want to have full control over the script," Deva said.

The author will be signing up by mid-April. "But right now I will not divulge the names. Let us sign on the dotted line first." Deva, who started writing since his days at the National Defence Academy, Pune, is now working on a sequel to Lashkar, Salim Must Die. He has already written four books. "I am also writing a crime thriller on the dark side of human nature. Itís called Shades of Black," he said. Another thriller, When Death Came Calling, awaits release in 2010. ó IANS