ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ordinary Humans, Extraordinary Inhumanity

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Violence: Naxalites and Hindu Extremists in India by Chitralekha (London, New York, New Delhi: Routledge, Taylor and Francis), 2013; pp xxi + 326, Rs 795.

This book attempts a comparative study between two kinds of violence, that of Naxalites and the Hindu extremists in two different contexts, Jharkhand and Gujarat. It is not a study of their ideologies, but of the motivational and support structures that make “ordinary people”, everyday persons like you and me, perpetrators of such “extraordinary violence”. What makes them feel justified in killing innocent persons, often their own neighbours, often people they never knew or had any contact with? Yet, such inhumanly horrific behaviour, full of blood and gore, seems to leave no regret or trace on their conscience. They return to their “ordinary” lives unscathed by what they have done to their victims, even as the devastated survivors of the horrors visited on them struggle to get their lives back together and cope with the trauma whose memories haunt them still.

The book sets out to address two critical questions among others: “Is there a certain core context to foster (any) extremist ideology? What are the conditions in which extremism is formulated and practiced?” (p 4). Far beyond its place of origin in Naxalbari, Naxalism or Maoism has spread through the tribal belt in central India paralysing local governance. Elsewhere, the Hindu extremists have strengthened their support base and expanded their network. Each retributive attack targeting Muslims has reaped rich returns for their sponsors and handlers.

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