Book Review – An Ordinary Man’s Guide to Radicalism

British ‘divide and rule’ policy created unending feud and distrust among different communities in India whereas partition of the country left huge gulf between Hindus and Muslims. Instead of bridging this gap, the othering of Muslims in society continued. In the recent past, the demolition of Babri Masjid and communal flare-up thereafter provided momentum to this phenomenon and gave birth to radicalism in India to a much larger scale.

Political parties played a sinister role and provided impetus to it. Election after election, vote bank politics damaged the social fabric. The marginalization and ghettoization of the Muslim community went on unchecked. The sense of communal identity took firm root and people started migrating to the place they perceived safer. This led to the creation of community-specific pockets.

Jamia Millia Islamia in South Delhi is surrounded by such pockets where Muslims from all over India migrate and cram the place. In 2008, in one such place called Jamia Nagar, two alleged terrorists were killed in a police encounter.  The infamous ‘Batla House encounter’ raised several questions and many found it hard to believe the genuineness of police version. An ordinary man’s guide to radicalism, a debut book by Neyaz Farooqee is mainly based on this incident.

‘An ordinary man’s guide to radicalism’ is a plain, vivid, and poignant memoir of journalist writer Neyaz Farooquee. His account is full of interesting anecdotes, laced with couplets from Urdu poetry, Dohas, and words of wisdom. It is, in fact story of every villager and others who migrate to cities for quality education.

This debut book written by young journalist covers; the pang of separation from family and village at a tender age, the struggle to survive at alien place, the vulnerability of a child living away from parents, experience of living in a ghetto, and above all living in the neighborhood where two suspected terrorists are killed.

“I was twenty-two when it happened, living alone, about 200 meters from where two men died. When I read the reports in the newspapers, I remember thinking that that they sounded like me” writes Neyaz in his book. The incident of Batla House encounter throws the writer in a whirlwind.

The similarity between the alleged terrorists and his own disturb him a lot. The writer suffers from emotional turmoil. He like many others finds it hard to believe that the encounter was genuine. His course of life totally changes. Neyaz decides to pursue journalism and joins prestigious AJK Mass Communication Research Center course at Jamia Millia Islamia. After graduation works with reputed English daily but the scars remain, the painful memory compels him to tell the story to the world. While reading ‘An ordinary man’s guide to radicalism’ those having lived in the ghetto will experience a sense of déjà vu.

The book is an insightful firsthand account of several pressing issues Muslims in India are facing today. The title of the book may appear confusing to some of the readers as the author has not explored the link between fear, insecurity, uncertainty, hopelessness and radicalization.

The impressive debut of Niyaz Farooqi is a timely and quite relevant book. It is a must-read for all those who care for justice, humanity and the country.

[ Imteyaz Alam is a writer and Civil Servant with Railway Ministry, Govt. of India]

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