Evil, good, guilt and redemption form the crux of K R Meera’s The Gospel of Yudas. The book is set in the backdrop of the Naxalite movement in Kerala during the Emergency era which tears into the idea of justice and democracy. It illustrates the fine line between love, violence, power and the price one pays for idealism.
Fifteen-year-old Prema identifies violence and power with her father Parameswaran, a former policeman. In her quest for freedom from the tyranny of her father, she feels drawn towards Yudas, a 30-year-old former Naxalite, who now retrieves corpses from rivers and other water bodies for a living.
Like the protagonist in the Hangwoman, Prema in The Gospel of Yudas loves the man who inadvertently gives her pain. Prema is drawn towards the Naxal ideology and believes it will emancipate her. She finds solace in the slogan, ‘Long live the revolution! Naxalbari Zindabad!’. She soon relates this to Yudas and freedom. But Yudas, haunted by terrible memories of his past, is never able to reciprocate Prema’s feelings. He identifies himself with Judas Iscariot, the Biblical traitor, and is bogged down by guilt.
The knowledge that her father played a major role in hurting Yudas acts as a trigger to draw even closer to him. Prema finds the death of her brother, supposedly at the police station, and the other tragedies that befell her family, the by-product of her father’s cruelty towards Yudas and his comrades.
In her relentless quest to be close to Yudas, Prema takes a journey into his past. Yudas’ past, however, brings her more pain. She becomes acquainted with the sister of Yudas’ true love Sunanda. The realisation that he will never ever truly love her breaks her heart. Yudas, on the other hand, flees from one place to another, but is never able to outrun the guilt of outing his comrades. He thinks that he can pay his penance by doing the lowliest of the jobs, fishing out cadavers.
Prema, however, finds him enigmatic and even tries her hand in revolution when she joins Sunanda’s niece in an agitation to save their farmlands. Prema realises the revolutionary only towards the end of the novel. Her love for Yudas evolves and she fantasises about their union after death.
The novel, which delves into the depths of the emotional conflicts taking place in the human mind, is a thought-provoking read. It explains the complexities of the love and also the violence woven intricately with political ideologies.
The author is an award-winning writer and journalist. Her novel Hangwoman was hailed as a contemporary classic.