Book Review of
Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a cover up
Author: Rana Ayyub
Gujarat post 2002 evokes different responses. There are voices which are extremely critical of Gujarat particularly the riots and some voices which completely justify the act. The critics point that it was dark a phase in the name of secularism in India, it is critiqued for its practice of politics of communal polarization, minority subjugation, mass murders and rapes in the name of religious subjugation and human rights violations by state supported communal violence. The extreme right which justifies the act (sometimes openly or in privacy) state that this was an act of ‘Hindu revenge’, ‘a reaction against an action’, ‘muslims deserving this’. While the secular and democratic voices critic the events, the fanatic right justify it on the grounds of establishing supremacy of majority religion over minority.
But within these two broad extremes, there are people who are less informed and provide benefit of doubt to the leaders of state government at those times for what happened in Gujarat. They believe that while what happened in Gujarat is condemnable, the state by itself cannot be blamed for the same. They also believe that similar communal incidents were anyhow brought under control after 2002. Moreover, Gujarat made rapid economic progress after this period and set up a model of development for others to follow. And hence past events should be forgotten. This view which appears apolitical can only lead to an acceptance of what ever happens whether it is just or right. This is because it does not question.
It is in this background, the book of Rana Ayub titled “Gujarat files: Anatomy of a cover up” becomes extremely relevant. This is based on a sting operation carried out by a bold and ideal female journalist during the period 2010-11 in Gujarat. Hiding her immediate religious identity, she posed herself as Mythili Tyagi, a student from film institute in US and daughter of an RSS pracharak. She depicts herself as someone out there to make a film on Vibrant Gujarat.
What she does as a result is startling. She meets the leading elite in Gujarat who had some connection with Gujarat 2002 or the encounter incidents that happened. She brings out a lot of data and facts related to the events in Gujarat post 2002. The book has a list of interviews carried out by her with the intelligence officials, top officials of police department, and officials of the anti terrorist squad. A lot of information that gets revealed as a result does only show that intelligence and police department acted as per the whims of the political elite. Both the political and administrative elite carried an anti muslim attitudewhich only made them to do what they did. They carried an attitude that there should be a revenge carried out by letting things happen. This was equally cultivated among people with involvement of RSS / VHP. Even if a section of the people believes, this was just an accident and one of those rare incidents; it will only show it is not the case. The revelations made in the interviews prove the same.
Similarly the interviews show that the police officials agree that incidents related to Ishrat Jehan and others were fake encounters. They had no connections with the terrorist groups as was being made out to be. The present BJP president and earlier Gujarat home minister was responsible for instructing the police officials to act. Hence fake encounters had tacit agreement of political elite and were directed by them.
It also shows that the voices which were opposed to the developments were suppressed. There were such voices who tried to carry an internal struggle. But they were either transferred into positions as punishment posts or cases were brought against them.
The book also shows how the top dalit administrators and police officials get discriminated in the police administration. How they still face discrimination within their villages, within their department. How the tasks of killing / encountering get transferred to Dalits within the department, whereas others keep themselves free from such tasks.
This book is an essential reading for those who believe that critic of Gujarat is not fair and done by those who are opposed to Modi, RSS or BJP. It is also for those who believe that 2002 was just an aberration in which state had little control. It only convinces you that this was state sponsored act.
Rana Ayub requires a high appreciation for bringing the book to the public domain. With an idealism to bring out the truth of Gujarat, the courage shown is highly appreciable. This is particularly more in an environment where publishing houses backed out from publishing the book and she had to do self-publishing.
The author of the book review is T Navin who works with Institute for Livelihood Research and Trainingas Faculty and reflects on social issues. He had his earlier education at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The opinions expressed are purely individual.