Kavya & Reshma
BENGALURU: Rana Ayyub who formerly worked at NDTV and Tehelka, now works as a freelance journalist after resigning from her post in Tehelka has been in the limelight since the release of her book ‘Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a cover up’. She carried out an undercover investigation on the bureaucrats and police officers who were allegedly involved in 2002 Gujarat riots. Some have regarded the book as highly controversial while some call it a brave step.
In a recent interview given to Communique at Mediacon 2016, Rana Ayyub opens up about the aftermath of releasing her book and more
1) What made you write Gujarat files?
I thought I never wanted to write a book for 10-15 years. I thought I was too raw to get myself involved in this. But this was something like a book that was never meant to be a book. I have gone to every possible news channel under the sun and every possible newspaper.
They refused saying that Narendra Modi is coming to power and they couldn’t afford to support my book in public. The only thing left for me was to either publish it on a blog, which didn’t make much sense or put it all out together in a very cohesive manner and to put it out in the public domain.Which is why, the book. There was no other way I could put it out, so it had to be a book.
2) How did your life change once the book was released?
Earlier when people used to look at me at the airport they would say, ” Hi, Rana from NDTV.” And they would come to ask me for selfies. Now, when people look at me they say, “Gujarat files”. I mean my name was changed.
Otherwise, there are a good number of colleges in the country who want me to speak to the students. People are reaching out to me, asking tough questions. Life has changed also not for the better because I’ve lost a lot of friends in the media. I used to do a lot of television presentations and write articles. That is not happening anymore because they’re really scared of me writing anything about my book. The other day I went to India Today, a BJP spokes person, for the first time acknowledged my work and said that Rana Ayyub has written a book, which is a bunch of lies.
I’m glad because that for the first time BJP acknowledged the existence of my book. People have clearly identified me as an enemy, a paraya, who’s not supposed to be touched. But there’re also good things that have happened. People, who are tired with the kind of journalism they are seeing, see a light of hope in this book. They’re actually asking questions that need to be asked. I think it’s really encouraging.
3) Was the timing of the book release just a mere coincidence?
See, I was trying to release it earlier this year but then it was said to me that Bihar elections were around the corner and you can’t do it. Before that they said, it was Lok Sabha election time in 2014, and then Maharashtra election and you cannot.
Every year, at some point of time, there was just something or the other going on. So, I released this book after the states had gone to polls and people had put their votes. Three days later I released my book. I didn’t want to give any political contention. Congress and AAP approached me in 2014 asking me to take a press conference and do it.
I said the moment I do it through a press conference; the purpose of the book would be lost. This book is not for Congress or AAP.
4) What pointers will you give aspiring journalists about investigative journalism?
Follow your instinct, that’s all. Nothing comes anywhere close to instincts. And also please don’t read up on the subject on which you wish to instigate because you’re already clouding your mind with a perspective.
I have never done a Google search on a subject that I’m going to report because I’m already building a perspective at that place. I go from the scratch; I build up from a fresh page and always trust my instincts. I think it’s the best weapon in investigative journalism.
5) What are your political views as to what a government should do for its citizens and how it should govern?
I’m anti congress, BJP, AAP and all the parties. For a simple reason that a journalist can’t have a political ideology. I’ve my own socialistic ideologies as I come from a family that believes in socialism. But that’s again my personal view and journalists generally don’t have an ideology that they’re aligned to and clearly you can see the divide in these days. We clearly have a right wing and a left wing. I neither belong to left wing nor right.
But I’m certainly pro social justice. Unfortunately, having said that, in these days we have journalists who take political sides and I’m glad they’re doing that. At least they didn’t give the pretense of being neutral. Having said that, that’s not what journalism was meant to be.
Journalism wasn’t about taking sides. Today people ask me why are you playing with BJP with this book? I say, don’t you see that even the congress isn’t taking up the book? It’s such a big book but the congress isn’t talking about it because the book also writes about congress and all the misdeeds of congress. So, you have to understand the book isn’t anti BJP.
It’s anti those people who’ve opposed justice and which also includes congress. But corruption and AAP has to be called out and that’s how journalism should be and that’s how political journalism should be.These days journalism is only about access.