Rendezvous with Rebels: Journey to meet India’s Most Wanted Men is a travelogue of a prominent Indian journalist, Rajeev Bhattacharyya, who undertook a journey to the unknown and hidden lands of Eastern Nagaland. Only with a sole purpose, to understand the lives of the rebels who have been giving light to the domestic rebellion in North East India. A journey that is life threatening, and meeting with most wanted and dangerous men and their teams who do not believe in mercy, this book will keep you on your chair’s edge. And I must say, what an insightful read it has been.
Rendezvous with Rebels begins with Rajeev Bhattacharyya’s request to visit and interview Chief of Staff of ULFA, Paresh Baruah. His request is declined at times, but after following up on it persistently, his chance comes one day when Paresh Baruah agrees to meet him at ULFA’s camp in Eastern Nagaland. A land where until now, no Indian journalist has managed to reach, far from covering it.
Rajeev walks for about 800 kilometers for three months and twenty days and the terrain leaves them scared for life. A hostile terrain, where one wrong step can land you up in ditches with broken bones and other critical injuries. And not just the terrain, the mosquitoes and other insects and reptiles who are on a constant search for human blood made this journey even more tougher for Rajeev and his friend, Pradip. During this journey, he comes across various rebels camps and tries to understands how rebel camps work. What kind of social structure did they follow, what are the rules? How comrades are trained and what purpose do they want to serve with ULFA? Rendezvous with Rebels provides a deep insight into the current situation of ULFA and other sisters concerns who are fighting for their land, which is unique and intriguing in its own special way.
The breakthrough comes in Rendezvous with Rebels when Rajeev meets ULFA Chief of Staff, Paresh Baruah. Initially a little hesitant in sharing his story, after some days of warm conversations he opens up to Rajeev, sharing his vision and mission for Assam and other sister states. Rajeev discusses some really vital questions with Baruah like after a brief downfall of ULFA, what all measures are being taken by Baruah to bring back ULFA to its former glory? How they are planning to deal with Government of India and other outfits? Certain issues raised by ULFA also come to light, the biggest one being exploitation of Assam like mismatched royalty calculation of crude oil, illegal immigrations from Bangladesh, flood and erosion which occurs annually depleting land for the people of Assam.
If we pick up today’s newspaper, hardly we see anything come across us from the seven sister states. The only thing I get to read is the annual flood that takes a heavy toll in Assam, that’s all. When I saw this book and read it, I realized that how much I do not know about an entire part of India. We bank on its tourist spots and try and cozy them up as equivalent to any other state, but when I read Rendezvous with Rebels, my ideology got modified to a certain extent. Don’t know about others, but I for one came face to face with the fact that we are not aware of the brimming internal struggle of these states. We do not understand the pain which led to the creation of one of the most rebellious outfits of all times, ULFA and others like it, NDFB, UPPK, and PLA.
One of the most special thing about Rendezvous with Rebels is that Rajeev has not left out anything. From sharing the stance of Indian Government to sharing the stance of Baruah, Rajeev has covered everything most extensively. From his treacherous journey towards the unknown land to getting to know comrades and their vision, Rajeev has done a great job with Rendezvous with Rebels. Though I would have loved to see a better end to Rendezvous with Rebels since the climax was a bit abrupt. Also, the editing could have done wonders for the book. But apart from I couldn’t find anything wrong with Rendezvous with Rebels.
Rendezvous with Rebels comes from a genre that many of us don’t read, but it is something that needs to be read to understand a deeper issue that prevails in our country. All in all, Rendezvous with Rebels makes up for an incredible journey, a story of which needs to read and shared more.