“Before there can be an agricultural revolution or any of those other revolutions, I feel there has to be a social revolution. So, all the religions and communities and castes that come in the way of unity among people are ground to dust. Communists had raised this hope once upon a time during the Tebhaga movement. The Hindu, the Muslim, the Hanri, the Much, the Dom, the Lodh, the Koirborto; everyone ate together, lived together and fought shoulder to shoulder. But when the battle ended, the fox went back into its hole. Look at the farce- the powerful communist leader declares in his speech to the masses that no one is superior or inferior, and then goes home to organize his son’s Upanayan ceremony. Drapes a thread around his son’s body and neck. What is this thread? An advertisement. Look, the thread says, “I’m high caste”. Until this caste business ends and people become one, no revolution can succeed.

Don’t let this demon haunt you, Ashu. Study hard. I’ll sell my land if needs be, to make sure you can go on studying. If you become a doctor, people of all castes will come to you. You can help them. People listen to those who help them. You can explain things to them then. Yes, this is a long-drawn-out affair, it takes time to get results. It’s like eggs. They have all the ingredients for creating a full life, but nothing can be rushed, and the mother hen knows this. She incubates the egg patiently for a long time. And her work doesn’t end with the chick being hatched. She protects it, makes sure the hawk doesn’t snatch it away. This is the way of nature. Nothing can change it. If you defy this and take the contrarian route, the outcome will be contrary too.”

The excerpt above is taken from a novel by a Bengali writer Manoranjan Byapari titled “There’s Gunpowder in the Air”. A father, Abhiram Mandol, who was a communist once, tired of the political scenario and all the bullying around, has settled for living a farmer’s life and is suggesting his son Ashu Mandol to continue his study and settle to become a doctor. But Ashu Mandol denied the path his father wanted him to follow and instead joined the Naxalite Movement. He slit the throat of a landlord, and aristocrat, and got jailed according to Section 302. Now he’s in a jail in Calcutta waiting for his trial. But the chances are, as Ashu Mandol himself expects, he’ll be hanged.

Mr. Byapari, being an active member of the Naxalite Movement in West Bengal in his youth, has presented a harrowing yet a realistic depiction of the sheer willpower and the burden of humanity youngsters carry with them. The prison system as put in the book is a metaphorical representation, startling reality of human society in the Indian Sub-continent. Whereas the Naxal lads in the prison cells, both literally and metaphorically, represent the brave hearts who are willing to sacrifice their lives

This very theme takes us back to our own Communist Movement which started during 2030s BS and continued till 2063, which was inspired from the very Naxalite Movement that was sweeping West Bengal and Bihar during those days. And later in Nepal where the armed revolution, in later days, swept the whole country only with the sheer willingness, and very few armaments, to bring-forth the much-deserved change.

We here in Nepal have had not one but 3 different political revolutions in which ordinary men and women took part in and many of them sacrificed their youth or even lives. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives to become sacrificial lives, which as deemed by revolutionary leaders deemed was necessary, as the catalyst to speed and empower the revolution. But the situation we now live couldn’t be any further from the dream of communist utopia envisioned by the leaders of the then-revolutionary guerrilla forces. But now, here we are, still fighting for the fundamental rights and begging to the state for our right to speech.

Youths with their boiling rage against all the societal differences and all the atrocities committed by the establishment take part in a revolution, a fight against the inequality, class dominance and caste dominance that has existed for multiple millennia in this subcontinent. Only with their sheer willpower and strategies and without any prominent arms, they conduct several little armed strikes, always ready to sacrifice their future, hence their lives. Youths are always on the forefront of this mass struggle, but in the end some pesky old politician without basic human decency who call themselves communist leaders get to power and undo all the progress that have been acquired by the blood and sweat during the process.

Youths who fought with their lives at risk barely get to be the part of decision-making nor do they get to rip the benefits- fruits of the revolution and in the end these very youths are compelled to settle for a petty job or go abroad to earn a living. Whilst youths struggle for their livelihood, these same pesky old politicians walk hand-in-hand with crony capitalists, practicing heightened nepotism, unilaterally sign the MoUs and treaties with foreign nations/corporations for the benefit of the very establishment, bourgeoisie and the posh aristocracy, from within the country or abroad, which they allegedly fought against during the revolution. Whilst, every day youths who lost their lives or became disabled during the process are cheated the entire public is compelled to feel the burden of the lack of decency, integrity and healthy/morale judgement that was supposed to be made by the self-proclaimed communist leaders.

On his proposition to fundamental psychoanalysis Lacan writes about the role of the chorus in classical tragedy in this way “We, the spectators, came to the theatre worried, full of everyday problems, unable to adjust without reserve to the problems of the play, that is to feel the required fears and compassions – but no problem, there is the Chorus, who feels the sorrow and the compassion instead of us – or, more precisely, we feel the required emotions through the medium of the Chorus: ‘You are then relieved of all worries, even if you do not feel anything, the Chorus will do so in your place’.

Commenting on this very subject Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, during his interviews, continuously comments “Same is the case with modern entertainment. You come home from work, tired, and turn on the TV, where there are usually sitcom shows which are supposed to make you feel light off the burden of everyday life. But you don’t have to do anything to be so. The TV itself laughs for you.”

The same is the condition of ideologues and demagogues alike- who get on power. They present you with both the problem and the solution to the societal struggles. Typically, of revolutionaries, its mostly armed revolution. But once they get to power, they start tweaking the power apparatus and start using the system for their own benefit. As a result, in order to flourish the sense of good vibes about the achievements they have successfully acquired the state media, and sometimes the whole media apparatus, is used as the sublime propaganda machine, mostly focusing on what they think they have achieved and always neglecting the fact that there still are hundreds of thousands of people who are struggling to put food on their tables. And still, millions who are deprived of healthy/quality lifestyle. When the backlashes against the state surface, they tend to use the same tools to divert the mass attention to some other issues/subjects. Example can be of nationality. A classic fascist/authoritarian move. No wonder we have such a short attention span on any particular issue.

Coming back to the book, as the 5 imprisoned Naxalaite youths plan for their escape but everything goes wrong. All of them get killed during the armed confrontation during the execution of their escape plan. But Mr. Byapari has addressed the moral void that the death of the young selfless lads, in the prison during the attempt to jailbreak, willing to fight for the betterment of whole humanity by an equally humane perspective of a middle-aged prison guard, Bhojon Biswas, who himself is suffering from all the tumultuous pain in life, whose son also has gone missing. Bhojon Biswas cannot take the atrocities committed by the state apparatus, especially the ones inside the prison, against the innocent people and he decides to write Tagore poems on the walls. In the end he doesn’t care about his job as a prison guard, how he’ll be penalized for writing graffities (Tagore poems) on the prison wall or if he’s going to lose his god-damned job. He, in the end, condemns the whole corrupt system which feeds on pain of people who are already suffering.

In conclusion, “There’s Gunpowder in the Air” is a call for revolution against all the atrocities committed against people with fewer resources available at their disposal. It’s a call for a fight against all forms of inequalities. Yet, it’s also, equally, a message of caution against the innocent lives being taken and also against the corrupt system which is churning thousands of people and ripping them off their lives in the name of Market Economy and vote-bank democracy. Like Pablo Neruda puts it:

“Your blood asks,

How were the wealthy and the law interwoven?

With what sulfurous iron fabric?

How did the poor keep falling into the tribunals?”