“The very fact that this book had to be self-published tells its own story.”
~Rajdeep Sardesai, on the book ‘Gujarat Files’
16th May, 2014. The political atmosphere of the country was tense. Although obvious, and every other BJP member on tenterhooks for the final results of Lok Sabha election to come out, a fair section of the population was extremely apprehensive of the Saffron Brigade coming to power who would be there to rule the country for another five years. The UPA Government reeling and dwindling under scams, severely bad governance and lack of rule of law had lost all hope of victory against the swooping speeches of the likes of Modi, Shah and others talking about ‘development’, ‘secularism’, our country on the verge of being a superpower and so on. Thus, they won!
20th May, 2016. The self-published book ‘Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a cover up’ by journalist Rana Ayyub was released. The book had its fifth launch in Kolkata on July 10th at the Oxford Bookstore, Park Street. The event was chaired by the Rana Ayyub and writer cum film maker, Ruchir Joshi. The book comprises a series of startling revelations about the 2002 Gujarat riots in the form of interviews of top seasoned officers who were involved in the massacre and the complicity of the entire Modi dispensation in the riots that continued for three long months. In the words of Ayyub, ‘My colleage at work, Ashish Khetan, had made chilling revelations in his exposé in which he had stung the likes of Babu Bajrangi and other local BJP and VHP leaders as they mouthed a cold-blooded narrative of the riots in 2002. But I was not up against the rioters who would speak of their bravado at the slightest ego boost. I was dealing with seasoned, senior IPS officers many of whom had had successful stints with RAW and I&B.’
Rana Ayyub pushed further to probe deeper into the incidents of the last thirteen years in Gujarat; changing her identity to Maithili Tyagi, a film maker belonging to the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles, America. Tyagi (Ayyub) had gone to Gujarat to make ‘some sort of film…depending on the kind of reception I received from the characters I would meet in the story which had no script.’ The book traces the trajectory of the rise of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah beginning from 2002 till date and the use of seasoned cops and diplomats in the process, albeit connected loosely through the interviews. While the Supreme Court and CBI gave clean chits to Modi and Shah respectively, the officers and diplomats stung by Ayyub speak of the common knowledge of the complicity of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for which he was condemned world-wide at one point of time. An important point to be noted is: If all the accounts posed by Ayyub are true, does not this point at the mockery of the Law and its guardians (Supreme Court et al) who are there to safeguard the ‘common man’ from the realms of injustice?
The book also deals with the series of encounters that took place in the country in the last thirteen years, mainly dealing with the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case and Ishrat Jahan encounter case. While many new facts get dug inside courtrooms every other day about the latter case, a mind-boggling statement made by G.L. Singha, the then in-charge of Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), Gujarat, was, ‘You know certain cases are difficult and you have to tackle them differently. Look at what America did post 9/11.’ The analogy he draws is of the torture that reigned in Guantanamo Bay in America after the destruction of the twin towers. Which implies that such people like Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin are but mathematical errors in the probability of saving the nation from the clutches of ‘terrorism’. An important but unfortunate point raised by the book is how the BJP government used and abandoned police and IAS officers belonging to lower castes for such encounters and later they were put behind bars (Vanzara). The officers stung by Ayyub mourned about the caste issue, and some of them were even repenting the series of false encounters of which they were a part, and vehemently at that. The sting operations also reveal that those officers who opposed the easy flow of communal fire and tried to prevent the riots were transferred to other areas making them tigers without claws. Competent officers like Rahul Sharma and Ashok Narayan were transferred to other less important positions for their immensely important roles in curbing the fury of the riots in the areas under their jurisdiction.
Ayyub read a section of the sting operation done on Rajan Priyadarshi, the ex-ATS chief. The excerpts of the sting are as follows:
‘Question: Your CM Narendra Modi is very popular here, in Gujarat?
Answer: Yes, he fools everybody and people get fooled.’
‘Question: Lawlessness is rampant here no? Hardly any officers who are upright?
Answer: There are very few of them, This man Narendra Modi has been responsible for the killing of Muslims across [the state].’
Priyadarshi talks of an instance where he was called by Amit Shah at his residence and ordered: ‘Achcha aapne ek bande ko arrest kiya haina, jo abhi aaya hain ATS mein, usko maar daalneka hai.'(Well, the person whom you arrested, who is in an ATS cell right now, he needs to be assassinated.)
The long conversations with the top cops and diplomats bring forth an important speculation for the readers. Where does the then CM, Narendra Modi come into play and when? Notwithstanding the fact that there is no direct evidence linking him with the rioters, after reading the book one might feel that he is the invisible omnipresent hand behind this thirteen year long journey of power, ideology, injustice, rape, murder and the polarization of population.
One of the pertinent points that this book raises is the bare minimum reason required to encounter minorities in our country. A person can be deemed anti-nationalist/Pakistani agent at the slightest chance, and therefore viewed as ‘kill-able’. It is from this cold-blooded machinery of killing that statements such as ‘Ishrat may or may not have been a terrorist’ stems. Ayyub mentioned the hard hitting tale of Sohrabuddin’s wife, one who was allegedly kept in the custody of Amit Shah and who was later found dead, her body burnt. Ayyub’s disillusionment with the feminists didn’t go unmentioned.The ammunition for the case is there.
Here is the hyperlink to the Kauser-bi case.
To know a story completely, you have to know the other side of the story as well. Here is what BJP had to say against the aligation of tutoring key witness of Ishrat Jahan missing files case. So research everything BJP had to say against the allegations that you find in this book and form your own opinion.
The dead aren’t coming back to demand justice. The dead are dead. Their bodies cold, rotten, decomposed. The 2002 Gujarat shows us riots, a gigantic population killed and many more injured (mentally and physically) for life, false encounters before, while and after, then the elections and the big bosses coming to power. And 2013 Uttar Pradesh, particularly Muzaffarnagar, witnesses the exact paradigm of repression of minorities before the elections in the same riot-raged constituency. Here is an alluring chance to join the dots. Where does it lead to? Does all of this culminate to the fact that in the past thirteen years Gujarat got transformed into a laboratory where every social experiment (economical, political, and cultural) is tried, tested, stamped and sealed for export to other states?
One might also note that in gross violation of the order of Supreme Court (the highest authority of law in India), which said that, terrorist or not, a person cannot be fired upon .i.e. there can be no case of extra-judicial killing by the State machinery, even if the person is proved to be a terrorist. But how do you justify the killing of so many people? Are they all terrorists? Are they threats to the ‘motherland’? You cannot justify so many deaths. You normalize it. Affidavits and counter-affidavits, twists and turns of the law inside which the clock strikes twelve and the common man realizes that justice is too far-fetched a word, it is a fable that was taught to him and a lie he should preach forever.
Here it shall end with an irony. While we might chance upon all the facts one day, and truth and justice shall prevail, it is important to note that the very reason due to which Narendra Modi was despised (his complicity in Gujarat riots) throughout the world, turns out from the recent events of the past two years that it is the very reason for which his admirers admire him, albeit behind closed doors! Food for thought?
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