2014: Pakistan has transitioned into a full-fledged democracy and is reconciling with India. However, there are forces working against this fragile peace. A Pakistani jihadi leader, Yaseer Basheer, travels to the Red Corridor and enlists the support of an Indian Naxalite commander, Agyaat. Their plan: to unleash Pralay, Indias experimental intercontinental ballistic missile, on the subcontinent. As the missile changes course en route, it hits Pakistan and causes collateral damage. In response, Pakistan unleashes war on India.
The battle for South Asia turns murkier as an Indo-Pak war threatens to embroil many other countries in the endgame. Have India and Pakistan sparked off the mother of all wars?
We reproduce here select exerpts from the book with permission of the author.
Spin Boldak, Durand Line, Aghanistan
Local time: 1030 hours
Date: 21 February 2014
Rehan Stanikzai sneezed.
His hands flew to his nose and tried to cover it in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the bang, a rather futile gesture as the sound was already away. The thunderclap bounced off the bare walls and came back even louder. Rehan realized a split-second later that it was the echo of the tubeshaped, paper-wrapped parcel he had impulsively dropped.
He quickly bent to pick it up. It felt warm, almost alive, in his hands. He cautiously peered behind him and gently tiptoed out of the two-storeyed, red-brick house. With clammy hands, he shut the dilapidated, creaking door behind him. Do not let her wake up, a voice at the back of his head screamed. He acknowledged it with a curt nod and then forced his mind to calculate the chances of his escape. She was asleep on the first floor. If she had been woken up by his sneezes and heard the creaking of the door, it would take her about ten seconds to get up, another ten to orient herself and realize what was happening, five to wear her chappals, and fifteen seconds to climb down to his current location. Forty seconds that separated freedom from captivity.
All of a sudden, his left cheek started to sting. Mathematical calculations evoked in him a sensation of his cheeks being hit so often, that it had made the linkage between the stimuli (mental calculation) and the response (pain) almost immediate by now.
He muttered a short prayer for her not to have woken up. After all, mothers were the same all over the world, especially those who had a son with an examination the next day.
Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Local time: 1200 hours
Date: 25 April 2014
The eight-year-old Sophia sat in a low ceilinged, two-storeyed makeshift bunker, which passed as the village schools classroom. The thick mud splattered walls did little to stop the steady tat-tat of a not-so-distant firing; nor the shouts of playing children coming from the schools playground outside. Sophia shook her head, trying to clear the disturbing noise from her mind.
It was then that she heard it.
A groan, a wail that soon became ear-splitting. She ran to the window to see silver birds streaking past and dropping black eggs on them. As they touched the ground, there was a loud bang and the earth started to shake. The Night Arrows of the Pakistan Air Force had unleashed their lethal bombs.
Sophia screamed. She felt dizzy. She tried to steady herself by getting hold of the small desk in front of her and gave the teacher a quizzical look. The teacher was standing dumbstruck in the middle of the classroom, with a look of utter amazement on her face. The walls of the classroom started shaking on their own accord, as if occupied by evil djinns. There was a sudden roar in the distance, louder than even the artillery shells that sometimes used to bombard her village. The teacher shouted at everyone to get outside.
Sophia did not need to be told twice. She stood up and proceeded towards the door. Unfortunately, it was becoming difficult to walk with the ground shaking so vehemently and the door seemed farther with each passing second. She looked up to see her teacher who was urging Sophia to hurry. Sophia nodded to reply in affirmative, panic starting to clutch at her heart. She was still nodding when, with a crash, she saw something fall on the exact spot where her teacher stood. A second later, there was a blood-splattered arm sticking out from under the rubble. Sophia suddenly stopped, shell-shocked.
She again heard a noise overhead. She looked up to see something right on top of her head, approaching her with great speed. Then, everything went black.
Meanwhile, the predatory birds of the Pakistan air force kept pounding the earth until the Indian air force scrambled the newly acquired Dassault Rafale multirole fighters from Srinagar Air Force Station that intercepted the F-16s, forcing them to retreat. PAF had found and exploited a window in the Indian air defences. Angered at the intrusion, the Rafale pilots swore that the Pakistanis would pay for their aggression, and followed them over into the Pakistani airspace laden with deadly GBU-12 Paveway-II laser-guided bombs.
Outer Perimeter, National Missile Research Centre (NMRC)
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
Local time: 1100 hours
Date: 23 April 2014
Droplets of kerosene glistened in the sun and slipped down the smooth naked body, hitting the ground with an inaudible plop. The parched grass absorbed them instantly. A tall, thin man, wearing nothing but a colourful loincloth, his head shaven the way rituals demanded, stood in the middle, screeching. His body shone with the fiery liquid all over it.
He screamedwild eyed, his breath coming in desperate gaspsin a voice that was a rasp of forced courage. With a heave, he hoisted the kerosene bucket and drenched every inch of himself in one quick, final act of defiance. Others around him prayed; their heads bowed, their eyes scared. They looked on as their chief muttered an incantation, lit a dry shrub and walked towards the man. Cameras started to click and whirr as two German linguists, currently in the Andamans to study a local language, jostled for perfect shots.
Someone shouted in ecstasy.
A golden flame had subsumed the man.
Red Jihad: Battle for South Asia
Genre : Fiction, Thriller
ISBN : 978-81-291-1987-2
Publisher : Rupa Publications
About the Author
Sami Ahmad Khan read Literature at Hindu College and Rajdhani College, University of Delhi. He then completed his masters in English Literature at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is a PhD Scholar at JNU, where he is working on Science Fiction and Techno-culture Studies. Currently, Sami is on a Fulbright Fellowship at The University of Iowa, USA. He has engaged in film production, teaching, theatre and writing. His short stories, plays and articles have been published in magazines and academic journals. This is his first novel.
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