‘Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up’ gives a succinct account of the Machiavellian ways of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in the words of top IPS and IAS officers who were at the helm of affairs during the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. Amit Shah, as Minister of State for Home, comes out as more of a bully. The 204-page book is authored by Rana Ayyub, then with Tehelka magazine but now working independently.
These officers spoke more or less candidly about the riots and fake encounters as they were under the impression that they were not talking to a journalist but to a young lady who was making a film on Gujarat for some American company. Rana had donned the identity of a film maker from America in 2010 with the help of a former colleague who had joined the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles. She spent some time studying the work of the Conservatory, changed her persona to the extent possible and assumed the name of Maithili Tyagi from Kanpur, and equipped herself with spy cameras — one fitted in her watch, another in her notebook and a third one in one of her kurtas. With the approval of her editors in Tehelka, she was now ready to descend on the unsuspecting bureaucrats in Gujarat.
Some of these officers willingly did what Chief Minister Modi expected them to do – eliminate those pointed out by Modi and Shah and/or turn a blind eye to the mayhem of Muslims by VHP activists. They were duly rewarded. Those who had suffered pangs of conscience and displayed reservations about carrying out the wishes of Modi and Shah had to suffer one way or the other.
Rana says Narendra Modi and Pravin Togadia were once synonymous with the growth of Hindutva in Gujarat. They used to attend RSS shakhas together in the same state. Togadia was a cancer surgeon who joined the VHP in 1983 and Modi, a full time Pracharak, was inducted into the BJP in 1984. When Keshubhai Patel was Chief Minister, both were in the core committee which took important decisions for the government.
From 1995 to 2001 when Modi was almost exiled from the state, he would spend most of his time in the VHP office as opposed to the BJP office where he was no longer welcome. Rana quotes reports to say that it was Lal Krishna Advani who convinced Togadia to bring Modi to Gujarat as Chief Minister in October 2001. Togadia agreed to the change and got his right-hand man Gordhan Zadaphia inducted as Minister of State for Home. Togadia had substantial say in postings of officers, many of whom played a dubious role in the post-Godhra riots in February-march 2002 when the VHP and Bajrang Dal cadres unleashed a wave of terror in the state. Modi later freed himself from the Togadia stranglehold. He brought Amit Shah in place of Gordhan Zadaphia as Minister of State for Home.
Modi would ensure that he was not directly connected with any criminal activity. As Ashok Narayan, who was Home Secretary at the time of the riots, told Rana, Modi would never say ‘go slow’ on controlling the riots. He would also never write anything on paper. He had his people and through them the VHP and then through them it would trickle down through informal channels to the lower rung police inspectors.
Amit Shah, for that matter, was less circumspect. That could be the reason that he got arrested for ordering fake encounters.
In the eight months that it took Rana Ayyub to complete her task, something had changed in Tehelka and it refused to publish her story. Hence this book.
Lalu Prasad Yadav was an egregiously bad Railway Minister, from the passengers’ point of view. But a dozen Lalu Prasad Yadavs combined cannot equal the most pernicious mind of present Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in thinking new ways by the day to inconvenience and persecute the passengers. As soon as the Modi Government took office at the Centre, then Railway Minister Devaragunda Venkappa Sadananda Gowda abruptly raised the railway fares by about 15 per cent, the highest in a single go. Modi, whose all actions have been directed at further enriching his rich friends in the industry at the cost of middle and lower classes, perhaps did not find Gowda outrageous enough. So he replaced him with Prabhu, who so far has stood true to his master’s expectations.
The Railways in India is the only means of transport for the people and had been, rightly, treated as a public utility service. Prabhu has been taking steps to turn it into a grocery shop run by a bumpkin. His sole aim seems to be to make more money, by whatever means. The travel is much more costly today than it was on the day he took charge of the Ministry. He has introduced schemes of virtually auctioning the rail tickets, like vegetables are auctioned in a Sabzi Mandi. According to former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Air India’s fare is less than Second AC of Railways.
Regrettably, the services in the Railways have been deteriorating directly in proportion to the extortion by Suresh Prabhu. I travelled in a Third AC coach of Durg Express from Satna (leaving around 8 in the morning) to Varanasi and at least six coaches were without water and the passengers had to wait even for washing their hands till the train reached Allahabad in the afternoon. Travellers have found coaches leaking during rains and cockroaches in Second AC coaches. Apathy of the attendants in coaches is a common complaint.
Now Prabhu has come up with an ingenious idea to loot the travelling public. He wants to charge money for the use of waiting rooms at railways stations. The task is being entrusted to IRCTC. Waiting rooms are meant to provide a place to commuters to rest while waiting for the arrival of the train. Passengers use waiting rooms mainly in three conditions:
- Suppose you have reservation in a Chennai-bound train from Bhopal station for you and your family and you are living some 80 Kms from Bhopal. As you will not like to take chances, you will try to reach Bhopal station much ahead of arrival of the train. Waiting room is the only place where you can, with your luggage and family, wait for the train.
When you have to change the train at some junction and there is a gap of a few hours between the two trains, the only place you can rest in is the waiting room.
You reach the railway station on time and find the train is late. Where do you wait except in the waiting room?
Now Prabhu wants you to pay for these ‘luxuries’.
She disappeared from her home on the day I left the city in connection with a project that I was involved with. Her distraught mother ran into a Nepali friend of mine called Madhwari who told her that he had seen both of us going to the railway station together. I was done. Almost.
Let’s call her Miss X. She and her mother were tenants in the house of an acquaintance of mine. It was in the early 1960s. I was a university student then. Occasionally I used to visit my acquaintance. There I got acquainted with Miss X and her mother.
Miss X was a class eighth student. During the exam season, her mother requested me to help her daughter with her school work. Soon I found that Miss X was interested in everything except studies. She was a swimming champion in her school and had won awards in cycling, dancing, acting and various other extracurricular activities. Her obsession was the film world. I tried for a month or so to create in her mind some interest in studies but I can’t say I succeeded.
Then came the summer vacation and my leaving the city and her disappearance on the same day. After getting her ‘enlightenment’ from my Nepali friend, the mother was going to the police station to get my name included in the FIR but she was dissuaded by my acquaintance with some difficulty.
After I returned to the city a week later, I found that every friend and acquaintance of mine firmly believed that Miss X was with me and that I was hiding her somewhere. A Professor in my university, an Arya Samaji, summoned me to his house and told me in all serenity that he had talked to the manager of the local Arya Samaj Mandir and that we should get quietly married to avoid legal complications as the girl was a minor.
I had a sigh of relief only three days later when the local newspapers reported that the police had recovered Miss X and her abductor from a suburban house.
After some time, Miss X got a good break in a regional film which was shooting in the area. Her next jump was to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) where she got the chance to work with big names like Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachan Dharmendra and Jeetendra. She also featured in a popular TV serial produced by Ramanand Sagar. Meanwhile, she married a film personality.
Now I learn she is settled abroad with her children (her husband is no more) and running a dancing academy.
When I had returned to the city from my project assignment and came to know of the source of the mischief, I confronted Madhwari and asked him why he had done so. With a roguish grin on his face, he replied quietly: ‘Don’t you see how much fun we are having’. The scoundrel later got a teaching job in the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu.