‘Gujarat Files’ is a finest example of investigative journalism

By Mohammad Rafay Qadri for TwoCircles.net,

Inspired by the character of Manisha Koirala in the Bollywood film Lajja, Rana Ayub decided to transform into Maithili. Surname Tyagi was also added to give an insight of perplexing Brahmin identity. It was to hide various caste-based statuses among Hindu religion and to do dubious proof investigation.

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For this reason, Maithili Tyagi was born who was unaware that one day she will become the nightmare of Modi-Shah regime in power.

Gujarat Files takes into account the entire scenario of 2002 riots and post riot cases, focusing on encounter deaths. There were several high-profile encounter deaths in Gujarat between 2003 and 2006. Those who were killed for law or against the law included Samir Khan Pathan, Sadiq Jamal, Ishrat Jahan, Javed alias Parnesh Pillai, Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsi Ram Prajapati.

Gujarat Files is among the finest examples of investigative journalism. This book gives readers a clean and misty understanding of complex situations, provided by the lens of a spy camera and spy microphone both of which were freely used in a long drawn sting operation. Rana Ayub disguised as Maithili, a purported US-based filmmaker, was able to interview officials one-by- one. Acting as a catalyst is help of Mike (name changed), a foreigner, whom Rana Ayub managed to put as an assistant. Various high ranked IAS and IPS officers were carefully questioned by Maithili. Not only senior officials including G.L. Singhal and Rajan Priyadarshi, who headed the state’s anti-terrorism unit, P.C. Pande, commissioner of police of Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots, but also senior bureaucrat Ashok Narayan, then additional chief secretary (home), as well as former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani, who is now in jail for the riot charges.

The brave investigation of Ayub proves the fact that how the systems of governance as tough as of police are used as tool by the people in power. Readers are also shown the glimpse of caste-based politics as proved by Rajan Priyadarshi who was the Gujarat ATS Director-General in 2007. This man has admitted that a Dalit officer can be asked to commit cold-blooded murder because he has no self-respect, no ideals. He further stated despite holding the position of IG, Border Range of Gujarat, how he was refused for the hair cut by village barber due to his caste.

Apart from corrupt and power-thirsty officials Ayub has carefully mixed the taste of real life heroes into the book. Rahul Sharma, Rajnish Rai, Satish Verma and Kuldeep Sharma were few officials who were adept to show eyes in front of power stricken people like Modi and Shah. These officers were heroes but not frankly for the junior and senior officers of the police department. Rahul Sharma was then SP and had responded vigorously to control the violence and was able to save 400 madrassa students. These were officers who had tried to keep up the flag of justice at a time when justice was at its lowest ebb in Gujarat. Ayub also revealed how Kuldeep Sharma, the man who was to be DG of Gujarat, was denied his promotion simply because he started an investigation against the then Home Minister Amit Shah. Later, he was transferred to Sheep and Wool department.

Ayub had kept the humour alive with her delicious tastes for dishes she used to enjoy with Mike at Gujarati Restaurants. Mike was a tall and young French lad brave enough to catch the crucial points of investigation. She also displays how they both managed to get hostel at Nehru Foundation, enjoyed parties, lunch and dinners on invitations from the families of officials. Mike also went away in the last with a note reading “Pyari Maithili Apna Khayal Rakhna’’.

Luck was also equally important in Ayub’s daredevil investigation. At some points in the book, it gives us severe stomach ache and a scary feeling. Like, once Maithili was saved when a constable standing close to the checking point escorted her from the other entrance. Otherwise, the metal detector could have caught her hidden camera. It was during a visit to cinema hall with Usha Rada, Gujarat’s famous woman cop.

Similar to it Ayub (Maithili) was saved by luck at P.C Pande’s bungalow when an official who knew Maithili as Rana Ayub was stepping out of his bungalow just three houses away. Later, Ayub washed her sweat all over the face for being lucky.

Apart from it we cannot deny Ayub’s fair role for investigating in Haren Pandaya’s murder. Wife of this minister was shocked as Maithili told her about a Muslim identity in Ramdan and refused tea. Later, both of them became friends and are enjoying their friendship till date.

It cannot be said for sure the book will be able to correct the prejudiced opinions. Hence, we cannot also deny the truth hidden behind the pot full interviews of so many high ranked officials. There is a great message for youth warning them about the violation of rules and regulations by the IAS and IPS officers on behest of powerful leaders. They follow orders because not doing so would seriously jeopardize their careers.

It is stupefying how easily Ayub was able to meet officials wearing a hidden camera in her clothing. We cannot ignore her courage. Gujarat Files is an open account of discussion between Rana Ayub’s Maithili Avatar and officials leaving on the readers the decision to justify the truth. The truth which has not been revealed till date.

(Author is a freelancer who is also pursuing Economics Honors at Department of Economics, Aligarh Muslim University. He tweets @RafayQadri )