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Operation Liquidus – Born to Be Killed

M.C. Raj’s latest novel: Operation Liquidus – born to be killed, is an interesting experiment in novel writing. Moving away from the traditional emphasis on plot and characterization, Raj’s novel assembles together a host of historical figures thinly veiled by fictionalized names and places them in a series of events and situation over a long period of human history spread over different parts of the world. This gives the writer an enormous freedom to re-view significant moments in human history related to faith, governance, politics, culture and social formation and offer his own readings. His perspectives reflect a valorization of Marxist, feminist discourse, a commitment towards empowerment of Dalits and “indigenous peoples”.

Such an ambitious and all encompassing vision requires an astute design that is grounded in an ideological matrix that is lucid, rationalist and well-nuanced in history and scholarly research. M.C. Raj, however, chooses a different format – a series of conversations amongst the characters. A post-modern take-off on the epistolary form and the quest narratives, operation liquidus uses long conversations amongst characters whose names faintly echo or recall Christ, Karl Marx, M.K. Gandhi, Ambedkar, Martin Luther to name a few!

While the conversational mode of narrative is engaging initially, the narrator / writer’s ejaculatory, exclamatory, judgmental comments are not only exasperating, they are often superfluous and break the trajectory of the conversation/ confrontation mode of the novel. Further, confrontation between opposing perspectives is never allowed to crystallize in an ideological clarity. Instead, it enters the space of dreams and hallucinations and thereby scuttles history and chronology of events.

While the survival of Jesus contemporaries on the one hand and post war Germany’s celebration of Karl (Marx) on the other are wrapped in fantasia, the spiteful duping of Ambedkar over the Poona Pact by Gandhi is peppered by gossip over his strained relations with Kasturba. While the novel highlights caste biases and discrimination against Dalits and depicts Gandhi (Karmachand in the novel) most uncharitably, it strangely fails to represent Ambedkar (Bhim Raj in this novel) as a dignified intellectual, an activist with an earnest spiritual pursuit. He is shown to be rather hysterical and morose, a heavy drinker who regrets his decision to embrace Buddhism!

While the writer can evade the charge of provocation or distortion of history by fictionalizing of names and personalities, the fact is he cannot really attempt to have the cake and eat it too! If Dan Brown showed Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus (and today’s newspapers have reported the finding of a papyrus that confirms the same), M.C. Raj goes further and allows two wives to his Kris, later pronounced as Jesus in the novel. The two wives happen to be sisters and Muslims to boot!

The materiality and sexual life of Kris could be read as a brilliant re-casting of a deified and sanitized Christ. The novel also lays bare an elaborate conspiracy by Christ’s followers who put together the ‘resurrection’ of Christ. While the novel sets out to undo age-old myth-making (pertaining to Ram, Krishna, Sita, Gandhiji and Christ), it falters in its execution by taking recourse to platitudes. While it celebrates the feminine principle and advocates that women should take over the world’s governance it represents women only as vivacious care-givers!

The novel would have made a powerful intervention if it remained focused, say, on the issue of untouchability or the concern over the financial / moral corruption at the Vatican. Instead, it takes up a spectrum of personalities and issues which remain a Kaleidoscopic, disparate vision that blurs into an abrupt plea for reclaiming the rights and ushering in the rule over earth of the “indigenous peoples” of all the continent of the world! To this mass of “indigenous peoples”, Dalits, who too stand homogenized in the novel, are clubbed to form a monolithic group. This plea seriously fails to reckon with the by-now well-nuanced self- assertion of Dalits who are conscious of diversities, variations and heterogeneity of culture among the Dalits in the pan-Indian panorama.

New Delhi