Saturday, November 5, 2016

Gujarat Files

Book Review
Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up
By Rana Ayyub
Published by Rana Ayyub, New Delhi 112016
 Communalism and the ‘Political Underworld’ in India
Ish Mishra
            In the aftermath of Allahabad High Court judgement that nullified her election as a MP from Rae Bareli and in the midst of on growing students’ unrest, Mrs Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India imposed emergency on 25th June 1975. Fundamental rights were suspended; political opponents and dissenting intellectuals were jailed, press censored[1]. The pervasive sense of fear; apprehension and the threat to fundamental rights including right to life in Gujrat under Narendra Modi’s regime, as ‘uncovered’ in the book under review, was far higher. Modi is trying to implement Gujrat model in the whole country, after coming to power in 2014. A perusal of Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up by Rana Ayyub makes it clear that oppression of rights by extra constitutional forces of various RSS[2] (Rashtriya Swayam Sevak) affiliates; and extra constitutional use of constitutional state apparatuses, sense of fascist fear in Gujrat was more intense than that during the declared emergency. The student wing of RSS, ABVP (Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad) is acting like Nazi storm troopers (SA) in disrupting the programs of other organization; attacking minorities and Dalits; and indulging in hate campaign against minorities and left[3].
The undeclared emergency under the Modi regime in Gujrat and now in India has been more frightening and scarier. What Indira Gandhi could do through constitutional amendments, Modi government is doing much more than that without it. As during the emergency (1975-77), Modi government in Gujrat had ‘obedient’ and complying and politically loyal bureaucracy and police. Indira Gandhi resorted to supersession of Supreme Court judges for a ‘committed’ judiciary. Present dispensation seeks to subvert judiciary by manipulations, for which the government was recently, badly rebuked by the Supreme Court of India[4]. The comparative study Indian fascisms, constitutional and extra constitutional, are beyond the scope of this review. While Indira Gandhi used the constitutional provision of emergency to supress the fundamental rights, particularly rights of freedom to expression and dissent, the Modi government is using the extra-constitutional RSS brigades like ABVP; sold out or scared media and arbitrary misuse of draconian colonial sedition laws to silence the dissent[5]. For the suppression of dissent, Indira Gandhi had only state’s coercive apparatuses on her disposal, in addition to that Modi in Gujrat during his chief ministership and now in the India, has the additional forces of various RSS affiliates. After coming to power at the Centre, the series of attacks on the democratic institutions and right of expression are nothing but extension of the fascist terror of Gujarat variety to the entire country.  
Emboldened by the arrest of Amit Shah, following her expose in Tehelka[6], the daring young journalist Rana Ayyub decided to achieve the impossible, to explore the truth of Gujrat genocide in 2002; the subsequent communal build-up by the RSS fronts in complicity with the state apparatuses and the cover up. And she proved that the impossibility is just a theoretical concept. The complicity of the government in post-Godhra[7] Gujarat holocaust in 2002 and subsequent fake encounters for chauvinistic electoral polarisation is a common knowledge. But as the author admits at the very outset, it could not be proved because of lack of solid evidence. “There was an indication that over the last decade there had been subversion of the judicial process. Those who were supposed to safeguard the lives of people had been bought over.  From the riots to encounters to political assassinations, many an inconvenient truth was waiting to come out” (Page 9).
With the encouragement from the editors of Tehelka, she ventured out to uncover the ‘covered up’ truth of the Gujrat’s political ‘underworld’ as an undercover journalist. She disguised as Maithili Tyagi, a student of a US based Film institute. She luckily met a 19 year old French boy, a foreign exchange program student, who agreed to act as her assistant. With full preparation and precautions, notwithstanding the great risk involved, she began her sting operation lasting for eight months with substantial success.
At almost the last leg of her investigation, while waiting a call from Narendra Modi’s office for her second meeting with him, she was asked to halt the investigation and called back by the editors. Echoes of fascist ambience pervading Gujrat had reached Delhi. They ‘politely’ turned down her request to carry the ‘story’ citing Modi’s increasing aura and ability to harm the publication. As Rana recalls her arguments with the editor in her first job over ethics and morality in journalism during her initial days of job, “He gave me a patient ear and then said something which stayed with me: ‘A good journalist should learn the art of detaching herself from a story and be pragmatic. Till this day I regret being unable to master this art, particularly because, very often, it is used as an excuse to kill a story at the behest of corporate and political powers” (p 8). She removed the undercover and decided to make her findings public, notwithstanding several adversities. The result is, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover up, an incisive documentation of the rare narratives about premeditated and protracted 2002 program, subsequent continuity at places and unceasing hate campaigns.
While going through the book, a reader, not well acquainted with the recent political history of India and Gujarat, might take it as an interesting detective novel with unfolding of mysteries one after the other.  The underworld in it is political and the characters are real and live. The extent and intensity of diffidence, insecurity and pervasive fear under a ruthless and corrupt government can be gauged by the fact that not only the spineless officials, complicit in political crimes of the political bosses but even those known to be honest also remained tight-lipped against injustice, citing helplessness. Rana Ayyub makes these tight-lips to talk. In the disguise of a non-resident Indian filmmaker, she captures their conversations through spy cameras hidden inside her kurta, diary and watch.
Gujarat Files is an account of an undercover investigative journalist’s daring sting operation for eight months into 2002 pogrom and subsequent fake encounters. ‘Maithili’, stings those administrative and police officials who were on important positions in Gujarat during the years 2001 and 2010. The narratives captured by spy cameras contain clear evidences of the complicity of the government and the RSS affiliates in one of the most heinous crimes against humanity.  But the Gujarat High Court, which could not see any conspiracy in Gulbarga Society killings in which 69 people including former Congress MP, Ehsan Jafri[8],  is unlikely to take suo-moto cognizance of these evidences.
The book also records the confessions of some of some of Modi’s staunch supporters that chauvinistic political mobilization by communal polarization created by communal violence paved the way to the political ascendance of Narendra Modi. As PP Pandey, the Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad during the pogrom, believed to be close to Modi, implicitly confessed about his role in the riots and explicitly confessed about those riots being the basis of Modi’s political ascendency. On the question, “Modi was made Modi by riots?” his answer is, “Yes, before that who knew him? Who was Modi?”(P146). A former minister in Modi’s government and convicted in the gruesome Naroda Patia massacre, Maya Kodnani[9] feels being used and thrown. (Pp 168-73) This book reveals universally known ‘covered-up’ truths by the narratives of some of the highly placed bureaucrats and the Police officials who knew the truth but had chosen to keep mum before the probe commissions.

The Machiavellianism
The acquisition, consolidation and expansion of power by chauvinistic political mobilization through the communal violence, hate campaign and misinformation by various RSS groups and fake encounters by Police in Narendra Modi’s regime, as documented in this book, reminds the Renaissance political philosopher, Machiavelli. It gives the feeling of reading a neo-liberal, Indian edition of a political novel of regarding European Renaissance period. For Machiavelli, success in politics, i.e. in acquisition; retention and extension of power, holds the same place as virtue in ethics. A prudent Prince follows political code of conduct, which he calls ‘the reason of the state’ and not the ethical or religious, while leaving no stone unturned in pretending to be the highest priest of morality and religiosity. Religion for Machiavelli is an effective political instrument. He advises the king that he should not only not disturb the religious doctrines and practices and belief in miracles, which he knows are false, but also ensure their observance, as it keeps people “well conducted and united.” Moreover fear of God may transcend into the fear of the Prince[10]. RSS and BJP have been thriving on the chauvinistic political mobilization around religious appeals.  
All the writings are reflection upon the existing state of affairs, but the great writings become classics with universal contemporariness. Machiavelli’s Prince written in the forced solitude in 1513, is a classic whose depiction of the political authority has remained relevant in subsequent times in changed forms in the changed circumstances of time-space. In action of rulers, “the end justifies the means. Let the Prince therefore aim at conquering and maintaining the state, the means will always be judged honourable and praised by everyone.”[11] The end in the politics is power. All the means including treachery, hollow promises, deceit and demagoguery to attain, maintain and extend power are justified. Intellectuals do not create justices-injustices; virtues-vices. They only react to and reflect upon conditions prevalent in the society. The idealist camouflage the unpleasant realities into abstract philosophical jargons and a realist presents is naked, as it is.   Machiavelli did not invent political murders, palace coups, treacheries. They were ubiquitous in renaissance monstrous monarchies. He just advised the prudent princes to do it magnificently. The political graph of India’s present PM, Narendra Modi is a living testimony of the contemporary relevance of Machiavellian maxims. 
Prince is in the form of advices to the prudent Princes to attain, maintain and expend power, without any consideration to the sanctity of means. Rana Ayyub’s sting operation resulting into Gujrat Files is a vivid exposure of Machiavellian “means” to attain and retain power in Gujrat and extend it to the centre, through communal polarization of society without any consideration to ethics and social harmony. Discussion on Machiavellian attributes of Modi or RSS is beyond the scope here and is matter of a separate discussion; the reference is just to allude at the neoliberal relevance of Machiavelli’s theory of state craft.
Machiavellian Prince is neither a medieval king ruling with divine mandate nor a dynastic crown Prince. He is condottieri (a mercenary leader) risen from a humble background like Hitler or Modi, who founds a new state (principality) through conquest, consolidates it and extends. Machiavelli advises the prudent Prince to choose and follow suitable model out of the examples of existing or historical successful princes. He presents one contemporary imitable example with one from the classical times.

He fools everybody and people get fooled

Agathocles was a potter’s son from Sicily, who had migrated to Syracuse in the 4th century BC. Not finding interest in the family occupation, he joined army. “Born as a potter, this man lived wickedly at every stage of life. Yet his wickedness was accompanied by so much of vigor of mind and body, that having taken up a military career, he was able to rise in ranks and become the commanding officer. Once established in this position, he decided to be Lord of Syracuse and hold it by violence, without any obligation to others. …. One morning he assembled the people and senate of Syracuse, as if he had to discuss with them things relating to the Republic, and at a given signal the soldiers killed all the senators and the richest of the people; these dead, he seized and held the princedom of that city without any civil commotion.”[12]
Machiavelli’s contemporary model Rodrigues Borgias was a cardinal in the Roman Church. He had his own prison, hangman and poisoner. Latter, in particular, was constantly busy. His victims included several cardinals. He manipulated his way to become Pope as Alexander VI. About whom Machiavelli writes, “Alexander VI did nothing else but deceived men; he thought of nothing else and found occasion for it; no man was ever more able to give assurances or affirmed the things with stronger oaths and no man observed them less; however he always succeeded in his deception, as he well knew this aspect of things.”[13]

Machiavelli’s admiration for Alexander VI finds echo in the lamentation of  Rajan Priyadarshi, the DG of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in 2007, “he fools everybody and people get fooled”, (p.57) in response to the  question regarding Modi’s popularity in Gujrat. Though Machiavelli’s political axioms and maxims hold true for most of the present ‘prudent’ rulers, reading about communal violence and hate campaign by RSS affiliates permanently denting country’s composite culture for power, one wonders, if Machiavelli was to write “Prince” for a neoliberal Third World country, he would find many close contenders for his neoliberal models but Modi would leave all of them behind. Machiavelli advises the prudent Prince to make haughty promises but never to keep them as it might be detrimental to self-interest. In nutshell he should promise the sky and plunder the earth.[14] Had Modi kept his election promise on black money from foreign banks, every Indian would be richer by Rs.150, 0000. Machiavelli’s another maxim is dissemble affability, mask yourself while unmasking others.

Orders but not on Paper

Gujarat Home Secretary at the time of 2002 riots Ashok Narayan tells about Modi, “He would never write anything on paper. He had his people and through them the VHP[15] and then through them (it would) trickle down through informal channels to the lower rung police inspectors.” (p.86)….. “And they are so smart they will make conversations so smartly on the phone –they will call up the officers and say, ’take care of that area.’ Now a common meaning for a layman would be ‘take care riots don’t take place in that area’ but the real meaning would be take care that riots take place in that area.’ They don’t do things themselves. There are agents and agents and agents.”(p. 88). When a high level official like Home Secretary is so helpless, the helplessness of a common man in daring to dissent can be imagined.
Ashok Narayan tells ‘Maithili’: “When I was the Home Secretary I had given orders that nothing will happen unless written orders are given. So when the bandh was call was given,(27 February 2002)  the Chief Secretary called me and said one leader from VHP, Pravin Togadia wants to take out a rally so what do you think? I said sir no such permission should be given because then things will go out of hand. The CM came to know of this. He said how you can say this. We have to give them permission. I said OK, then give me the written orders, he (Modi) just stared at me.” (Pp 88-89)

The Truth behind ‘Encounters’
An apparently conscientious police officer, who remained tight-lipped before the inquiry commissions, was quite vocal in front of the ‘NRI film maker’. Rajan Priyadarshi was ATS (Anti Terrorist Squade) Chief when CID was probing fake encounters in 2007. He was IG of Rajkot during 2002 riots. “The Entire country is talking of that encounter. They bumped off that Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati at the behest of the minister. This minister Amit Shah, he never used to believe in human rights. He used to tell us that he does not believe in these human rights commissions. And now look at this, the courts have given him bail too.” On the question of his experiences of working under Amit Shah, he said “I did (work under him), when I was ATS chief… I am a person who believes in human rights. So this Shah calls me to his bungalow. … So when I reached, he says, ‘You have arrested a man recently, kill him’. I did not react. And then he said, ‘Kill him such people have no right to live’.”
“I immediately came to my office and called a meeting of my juniors. I feared Amit Shah could give them direct orders and get him killed.” (Pp 58-59) On the issue of Police-politician nexus, he recounts his experience as the IGP Rajkot around July 2002, “There were communal riots near Junagadh. I wrote FIRs against some people. The Home Minister called me up and said, ‘Rajanji where are you?’ I said, ‘Sir I am at Junagarh.’ So he said, ‘write down three names, and arrest all these three.’ I said, ‘Sir these three are sitting with me and let me tell you that they are all Muslims and because of them normalcy has been restored. These are the people who have brought Hindus and Muslim together with their efforts and brought riots to an end. He said, ‘Look it is CM’s order’ and then this guy was the CM, Narendra Modi. …, ‘Sir, I can’t do it even if it is CM’s orders because these are innocent.” This is a government that seeks to protect the perpetrators of violence and punish the peace makers, a typical characteristic Machiavellian ‘Prince’.  
To the question, “The person, who Amit Shah had asked you to bump off, was he a Muslim?” he replied, “No, he wanted him to go because there was some pressure from the business lobby.”
On Ishrat Jahan encounter, he shares another in formation, “…, at one time these people…..means Vanjara[16] and gang had arrested five Sardars(Skhs) and one of them was a constable. So Banjara said that their encounter should be done because they were terrorists. Luckily Pandian was the SP then and he refused, so those five (innocents) were saved.” When asked about the up-righteous officers in the state, his answer is, “There are very few of them. This man, Narendra Modi has been responsible for killing the Muslims across [the state]. According to him, though the officers may not be anti-Muslim themselves but “politicians make him do this.  If you are upright, they would never let you be in a posting.”
About the government, he opines, “This government is corrupt and communal. Like this Amit Shah would come and boast to me about what he did to instigate riots in 1985”. Talking about Amit Shah’s boasting and fondness of calling the officers at his place, He revealed that “He would confide in me. In fact he was the one, who told me about the Ishrat case. He said he had kept Ishrat in custody before they were killed and all five were killed and there was no encounter. He would tell me she was no terrorist.” (Pp.57-63)
The Machiavellian Fear
Machiavelli thinks that it is better to extract loyalty of the ruled by love but love not always reliable factor. But fear is always reliable that never fails. “Catch them by balls, their mind and heart will follow.” He quotes the monster emperor, Caligula, “Let them hate me as long as they fear me”. To instil fear, some killing is necessary but killing must stop at some point. His maxim is “kill quickly and reward gradually” and “kill the killer”. Justice has been done by hanging the hangman. As has been very well documented in the book, the lamenting confessions of implicated officers in fake encounters, most of them Dalits and Maya Kodnani convicted in Naroda Patia massacre that Modi follows the policy of ‘use and throw’. (Pp 169-73)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
The sense of fear created by Modi in Gujrat was so intense and pervasive, leave aside the bureaucrats and policemen in Gujarat, even editors of the magazine, known for daring investigative journalism too got badly scared. When Rana Ayyub phoned the editor of Tehelka for next step of sting, she was called back to the Delhi office. In her words: “The next morning I reached Delhi and went straight to Tehelka office.  I had transferred the footage of the Modi recording to my laptop. ... I showed them the footage….. ‘So why was I called back’ I asked, ‘His office will call me in a few days and I am supposed to meet him again.’` Tarun (Editor of Tehlka) said, ‘Look Rana, after the Tehelka sting on Bangaru Laxman[17], they shut our office. Modi is all set to be the most powerful man, the PM. If we touch him we will be finished.’”  (Pp 203-04)
“I was not convinced. Was the entire sting operation not a big risk in itself? But I was given a sharp No to every argument.” (Page 203) When the torch bearers of the investigative journalism turned out to be so scared, the state of the captive media can be well imagined. “Two days later I removed Uninor Sim card from my phone, crushed it and threw it in the dustbin. I did the same with the phone. Maithili made an exit forever that day. The editors took a call that investigation would not be published.” (p 203-04)  And when she decided to print it as a book, she failed to get a single publisher. When she got it published on her own, she did not get a single distributor. What else will be the terror of fascism?
When the economy of the country is in doldrums and subservient to imperialist global capital to deviate the attention from the economic issues, the Brahmanical forces under the tutelage of RSS and the Government are trying to polarise the society by orchestrating chauvinistic Hndutva nationalism, misinformation, rumours and hate campaigns against Muslims with the Uttar Pradesh election in 2017 in mind, this book is an important document that nails down the fascist designs of RSS. This is full of evidences that the Supreme Court must prima facie take cognizance and initiate proceedings against culprits. This document also makes an emphatic statement that all the riots are political and premeditated. This also proves that a riot stretches for longer duration only with the backing of the Government. In the words of Ashok Narayan, “Encounters are less on religious lines than political. Look at the Sohrabuddin encounter. He was killed at the behest of the politicians. Amit Shah is behind bars because of that[18].”
            The question is why people increasingly fall victim to the electoral trap of the religious fanaticism?  The nationalist journalist, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi wrote in his editorial titled “In the Guise of Religion” in his newspaper Pratap on 21 October 1924, “In the guise of religion, few men misuse the power of crores of people for their vested interests. .…  As long as people do not get rid of bigotry, religious superstitions and prejudices, some clever people will keep on making fool of them for their own political gains.”
Ish Mishra
Associate Professor in Political Science
Hindu College, University of Delhi
Delhi – 110 007 (India)
Phone: +9811146846

[1] Mrs. Indira Gandhi, by 1971 had concentrated and centralized the political power into her hands. Students of Patna University in Bihar began a small agitation against corruption in a hostel mess that soon transformed into a movement against corruption in general and pervaded most of the campuses in north India. 
      [2] RSS is a right wing Hindu organization formed in 1925 to unite male Hindus to take the country to the heights of some unspecified glory of some unspecified past. The Constitution of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Dina Nath Mishra (ed.), RSS: Myth and Reality, Vikash Publishing House, New Delhi 1980.
[3]Ish Mishra, The Idea of JNU and RSS Jingoism,, 4 May 2016
[4] Hindustan Times, New Delhi,  Oct 28, 2016
[5] Students of JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi), critically opposed to Governmental policies and ‘Hindutva’ nationalism are charged with sedition. See Ish Mishra (op cit.) 
[6] Amit Shah, the then Home Minister of Gujrat and present president of the ruling party BJP was arrested in July 2010 and the case of fake encounters of Sohrabuddin, his wife and an eyewitness, Tusli Prajapati on the basis of her report in Tehlka, a journal published from New Delhi.
[7] On 27 February a coach of a train carrying RSS supporter who had gone for karseva for a Ram temple at the sight of the demolished historic Babri, caught fire and 65 people including women and children died. From the next day began the communal pogrom. From all the evidences, the fire appears to be stage managed. See KS Subramanium, Truth behind the Fire in Sabarmati Express, Mainstream Weekly, New Delhi, Vol.XLIX, April 19, 2011; Dionne Bunsha, The Facts from Godhra  Front Line, Calcutta, Volume 19 - Issue 15, July 20 - August 02, 2002

[8] Gulbarg Society is a housing society (Uninhabited now) in a Hindu majority neighborhood. Majority of inhabitants were Muslims and other minorities. During the communal mayhem in Gujrat, the society was surrounded by thousands of Hundutva goons for 3 hours under RSS leaders’ supervision and in Police presence.  69 people including a former MP were dragged, brutalized and burnt alive. › India   
[9] On 28 February one of the most gruesome massacres occurred at Naroda Patia in Ahmedabad, the rioters were led by Maya Kodnani, then a minister a Modi Government. She has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a court and was on parole, when disguised Rana met her. 
[10] Niccolo Machiavelli Discourses upon the First Ten Books of Titus Levy. Bantam Dell, New York, 2003. Book-1; D-12.
[11] Quoted in William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: Plato to Present, oxford and IBH Publishing Co., New Delhi, 1960, P 280
[12] Niccolo Machiavelli, Prince, Bantam Dell, New York 2003, Pp 39-40
[13] Quoted in William Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present, Oxford & IBH Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1960, P 282
[14] Machiavelli, op. cit. Pp 68-70
[15] Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the RSS’s international wing formed for international propagation of ‘Hindutva’ and leads the riots and hate campaign in India. 
[16]Vanjara is an IPS, convicted and sentenced along with few other Police Officer headed  the Police team that kidnapped and killed Sohrabuddin in fake encounters on May 26, 2005. 
[17] Bangaru Laxman was BJP President was caught on camera accepting bribes from Tahelka reporters disguised as arms dealers in January 2001 when there was BJP led government at the Centre under the Prime Ministership of AB Vajpayee. He was convicted by a court in 2012.  
[18] Amit Shah was arrested by CBI in July 2010 charged with murder, later got released on bail by Gujrat High Court. He was made BJP President after Modi became the PM of India. 

No comments:

Post a Comment