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Book Review: An Ordinary Man’s Guide to Radicalism

Book Review: An Ordinary Man’s Guide to Radicalism
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Bani Umar

Book Title: An ordinary man’s guide to radicalism

Author: Neyaz Farooquee

Price: Rs 365

Sardonic and wise, Farooquee scrapes out the unvarnished truth about identity and stereotypes, about life in a ghetto, and the small and big disappointments that make up an ordinary life. A necessary book for our troubled times, writes Bani Umar


Batla House in Okhla vicinity of the India’s capital city hardly ever had caught eye of any visitor to Delhi. The old lanes and by lanes filled with dust, child labour on dhabas, suffocating proximity with predominantly Muslim population became famous since 2008. Encounter at Batla House took palace on 19 September 2008 in Jamia Nagar area of Delhi and reportedly two suspected ‘terrorists’ Atif Amin and Sajad Mohamad were killed.

Mohammad Saif and Zeeshan were arrested while one of the accused managed to escape. Mohan Chand Sharma who led the operation was also killed in this encounter.

After the incident, accusations were raised against the Delhi Police by various politicians, media and civil society outfits of carrying out a fake encounter. Upon the plea filed by an NGO, “Act Now for Harmony and Democracy”, the Delhi High Court on 21 May 2009 asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to enquire into the police version of the encounter. However, in August 2009, the Delhi High Court accepted the findings of NHRC and declined to institute a judicial probe.

Many of intellectuals, legal experts and political actors spoke and wrote after the incident at Batla House. From the same category the book “An Ordinary Man’s Guide to Radicalism” by Neyaz Farooquee deals with the Batla House encounter. Neyaz as a writer has contributed to Hindustan Times, New York Times, Al Jazeera, Caravan and Tehelka. Neyaz was also a fellow at The New Indian Foundation and non-fiction fellow at Sarai-CSDS. This book has been written in simple and lucid language. As author himself acknowledges that the book is not in the English language, it’s in Hindustani, the language that we speak naturally. In the prologue Farooquee writes, ‘How do you respond when something like a police encounter happens in your locality, and a few doors down, two men are killed, two of your neighbors, who have been labeled terrorists. Imagine for a moment, that this happened not in Imphal or Srinagar, where such occurrences are not unheard of, but in your safe cozy neighborhood.’

An Ordinary Man’s Guide to Radicalism can be viewed as his personal experience. Growing up as a student in those times when the Batla House encounter was a defending moment for the residents of the area and for the Jamia Millia Students, Neyaz tries to be the representative of those students who were facing same emotional and mental turmoil.

Although the title of the book may confuse many but at the end it makes sense and as I understood from this book, it can act as guide to the youth towards radicalism because of atrocities that the minorities go through. Through writing of Neyaz we can easily interpret what the incident meant for the young Muslims in Batla House.

While reading the book the reader not only laughs but sometimes moves the reader to tears. To quote the author, ‘the Batla house lady told me to be careful and avoid stepping out unless it was really important.’ She has a good reason to fear, ‘it is because the most educated person in her maternal family, her cousin has been killed by the police in Mumbai riots following the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.’

In chapter 14 titled, ‘You are as patriotic as anyone else’ author has exposed both left and right political fronts in India. It is because after Batla House encounter not a single person showed courage to come in Jamia locality and say a word in favour of the oppressed. But as author says while exposing the false claims of leaders that, “The left often claimed to represent minorities, muslims included, but there was no voice of political leaders worth recalling, at least not in the beginning, when we were scared even to speak aloud.’

Every chapter of this book is interesting. I think every Indian should read this book. It is quite interesting to understand the fear psychosis that the Muslims of India in particular and other minorities in general undergo. Sardonic and wise, Farooquee scrapes out the unvarnished truth about identity and stereotypes, about life in a ghetto, and the small and big disappointments that make up an ordinary life. It is a necessary book for our troubled times.

Bani Umar is a postgraduate student at university of Kashmir and can be mailed at

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.


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