The story is all too familiar. Unrest, uprising, protests and violence. That’s what comes to mind when one thinks of Kashmir, the theatre of unresolved conflict. But these uneasy and often heart-wrenching developments can become stuff of a gripping tale in the hands of an expert writer.
Asim Mukhopadhyay weaves an interesting story piecing together the turbulent happenings and the plight of the locals caught in the crosshairs of the armed conflict between the militants and the security forces.
The just released novel, Dance On The Graves, set against the backdrop of the Kashmir imbroglio makes for an interesting read. It has all the drama, twists and turns of a thriller to hold the attention of readers. Those who have read the author’s debut novel, Half Man, a book on Naxal movement, will find his latest work of literary fiction even more engrossing. Mukhopadhyay has a wide experience as a teacher, journalist and social scientist. He bagged the Media India award in 1982 for the best human interest story of the year for the article “Evils of dowry”. He has also been a long time contributor to Economic and Political Weekly and has to his credit many non-fiction books.
Though a novel, The Dance On The Graves is based on the life of Atta Muhammed Khan, an honest farmer of Chahal Bimbyal in Barmulla district. The author happened to read a brief report on the miserable life of the farmer who ends up as a grave digger. “I just borrowed Atta’s flute but the tunes are mine”, says Mukhopadhyay.
As the title suggests, Dance On The Graves, revolves around the life of Hasanath Wani Ahmed, an old farmer from Malali village in Kupwara district. As ill luck would have it he is forced to bury young men killed by cops in undocumented encounters. His story depicts the dilemma and helplessness of farmers who become victims of circumstances and turn grave diggers in the valley and also on the other side of the LoC. Ultimately Hasanath becomes a schizophrenic case, throws up tantrums during nights, sings strange songs and dances on graves.
Mukhopadhyay, who is known for his versatility, turns the otherwise horrible happenings of Kashmir, into a gripping tale of anguish and pain of the locals. For most of them survival is up for grabs. Any day they may end up with a bullet from the militants or the security forces. There is no peace for being young in Kashmir as the insurgents are out to trap them. The book edited by Mosiur Rehman of Woven Words, explores the sinister designs of the separatists who supply drugs to youth to lure them on the path of militancy. It also throws light on the machinations of people who sell politics and drugs from the same basket. Mukhopadhyay lays bare over ambitious fence-sitters in the ruling party who love to fish in trouble waters for being denied a share in the power cake.
This sordid tale also has some romantic overtones. Surely love can blossom even under the most trying times. Cupid strikes Kismat-Namrata and Iqbal-Suhana, sons of the grave digger and the daughters of the high profile State Home Secretary and the cricket coach. Sadly the book doesn’t offer any solution to the Kashmiri tangle. But if you are looking for a nerve wracking novel, Dance On The Graves, is the book for you. It’s simply un-put-downable.
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