On the night of 17-18 December 1995, an aging Russian Antonov-26 plane dropped three weapons-laden wooden pallets over Purulia, a backward, nondescript district in West Bengal. Four days later, the same plane was force-landed at Mumbai’s Santa Cruz airport, from where the mastermind of the operation, Kim Davy aka Niels Christian Nielsen, managed a daring escape.
Who were the end-users of the weapons? Why were they airdropped over that particular region? Were they, as claimed later, meant for the shady cult, the Ananda Marga? Was it an effort to topple the CPI (M)-ruled state government of West Bengal? Or was it a conspiracy of international proportions, spanning continents and masterminded by a global superpower?
~ Synopsis from goodreads
When I accepted this book for review, I knew it had the potential to be a corker. I mean this is probably one of the most exciting real-life international conspiracies to have happened during my life time. I still remember that day in December when I woke up and saw the most fantastic headlines splashed across all the newspapers and getting totally excited by the whole thing.
Of course, within a couple of weeks, the excitement died down and the newspapers moved on to the next hot topic of the day, and gradually I also forgot the aftermath of the incident.
So, it’s great to read this book and revisit that conspiracy and actually find all the details of the case laid out in meticulous detail in one book than over a bunch of magazines and newspapers.
The only thing that could have spoilt my enjoyment of the book is shoddy writing, and when I read the first chapter, I started having doubts whether the author would be able to do justice to the story. The writing was bombastic, full of stuff like I broke this story, I investigated this, I did that, which as you can imagine was very annoying. In addition, the first chapter was just a brain dump of everything he had found out, without any concept of setting the scene or timelines or anything.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Getting through that first chapter was a real hard slog.
Thankfully, Nandy hits his stride from the second chapter onwards, and from there, he stays out of the way, and the book pretty much writes itself. Easy effortless reading, it felt like I was reading one of those thrillers from Frederick Forsythe or Robert Ludlum.
So, yes, the book reads like a thriller, but the research seems to have been quite detailed. I say seems because Nandy is not free to actually name his sources in many places. He mentions it upfront that it would cause problems for certain people in RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), and of course Nandy has to protect his sources.
I put aside any niggling questions I had about the veracity of some of the information, because once Nandy starts detailing the plot and how everything went down, I was just sucked right into the story. The details of the plot were just mind-boggling. There was so much information about the protagonists, the various meetings to decide how to plan their operation, the kind of financials involved. Good lord! I was astonished at the money that was involved in what (looking back) seems like the most hare-brained plot. These terrorists/international criminals (I don’t know what to call them frankly) actually bought the plane the arms were carried in. Can you believe that?
Just seeing the amount of money involved, I knew that these were no ordinary criminals, and that there must have been some sort of master plan, and some really big profits expected. Unfortunately, their scheme goes awry, and a few key people are caught. However at the end of the book, the main mastermind is still at large, the investigation is never able to unearth the reasons for the huge cache of arms being dropped at such a random place, and basically we are left with tons of unanswered questions.
But that’s non-fiction for you right? You can’t expect a neat ending when you take into consideration that the case was never closed. In spite of the lack of closure, this book was still entertaining and informative, and I highly recommend it if you are interested in reading about international conspiracies.
Huge thanks to Rupa Publications for sending me this book for review consideration.
You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon