Friday, 3 June 2016

Gujarat Files - Anantomy of a coverup

Finished reading GUJARAT FILES ANATOMY OF A COVERUP by @RanaAyyub.

Its a slim volume of about 150 pages and written with a fast narrative. I liked the book overall and should have finished it much earlier, actually.

Before I go into why I Iiked the effort, let me make some plainspeak. The writing style is based on a reporter's viewpoint. In purely lierary value it falls short of the expectations if compared with the compositions of Tarun Tejpal, MJ Akbar, Vir Sanghvi, Sankarshan Thakur , Tavleen Singh etc who definitely write much better prose in terms of reading pleasure . Also it is difficult to imagine that the contents of the book will make a radical impact on the present state of affairs . The statements made in the book can not be said to be evidence either for and against anybody , even if they may be fully true and backed by recordings. .

But whatever has been written in the book needed to be penned down and also needs to be read . The reconstruction of events through the eyes of the people who held responsibility , abdicated responsibility, betrayed trust and let the carnage happen makes a gripping account of how the administration wilts under political pressure. A major part of the narrative is made in the interview style with question and answers. That actually brings out the essence of the book in a stark and clear manner. At some point of times the reader can even identify with the reporter and feel the helplessness of the individual against the system . The deadly cocktail of power, politics, religion, caste served through the willing and unwilling perpetrators. None of them are uneducated , none of them are powerless , none of them can say that they don't understand the import of their culpability. Still they have been a part of the whole coverup . That is really tragic.

This book will not cause a revolution. It will not be the reason to overthrow a government . It may not also even be a starting point for any case to be lodged against anybody . But this will remain a document to refer to whenever there is a need to understand how helpless the society is , against the powerful people , the system , the administration and how easy it is to subvert the law and order in the pretext of maintaining it . How much of personal prejudices, likes, dislikes, political affiliations, religious beliefs , misplaced honour and lastly blind nationalist feelings permeate the administration . As it is the greed for fame, money , power and postings by the administrators are used by the politicians to bend them and manipulate the whole system That is nothing new . Probably we all know it. The book just makes it seem happening , right now , right there .

While evaluating the book , one must always keep in mind the risks undertaken by the writer and the dangers that she must have faced in masquerading as a filmmaker to get the interviews . A young , female Muslim journalist with a very distinct hair style transforming herself into a NRI filmamker with a Hindu name accompanied by a 19 year old male , foreign media-intern as her assistant . Wearing clothes which are wired with hidden microphones , watches with sensors . Very thrilling and adventurous , it may seem to be, now in retrospect . But doing all this with senior officers and other people in a state , where the Home Minister is murdered due to political fall out is no doubt dangerous.

But then , on the flip side , another thought which will constantly bother the reader , while reading this book is how ineffective is the intelligence system or how arrogantly complacent people shoot their mouths with a slight nudge . As if they know nothing can happen to them . Or may be that is the real power of bureaucracy which makes them feel so smug . Coming to the intelligence part , Rana Ayyub had already been in Gujarat as a reporter before deciding on using an alias . Her reports had already been published in Tehelka. But most took the name to be of a male . How funnier can it be ? If a 26 year old female journalist aided by a 19 year old foreign chap can get all these people to speak out without any coercion , then one can well imagine what is in store if such people face blackmail or lured with other temptations.

On the final count I think I can say this as a summary - Not an earth shattering account but surely shatters your conscience . The book and the writer deserves encouragement and support. I also pray that the writer continues to stay healthy and unharmed with a long life . I am serious about it . Because she has stirred a hornet's nest . The apparently calm reaction and the strategy to ignore her book without much ado is an ominous sign .

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