From publishers asking censorship to those reviewing without reading — Who is afraid of Rana Ayyub’s Gujarat Files?

Rana Ayyub says, the book is not just about Gujarat riots and fake encounters but also about Haren Pandya murder.

It is a fact well known that not all drafts gets published and turn into books, and how publishers choose what they will print and what they won't. Most of the times their decisions are legit and have something to do with literary value of the draft at hand but not all the time. Stories may have been already said, might be similar to what is already published, readers don't find this interesting anymore, so on and so forth. But that is for fiction, what about non-fiction? Non-fiction is not about spilling your imaginative beans but telling a compelling story about what has occurred in fact, it is about what you have seen or heard, essentially it is about retelling a story or predicting the future on the basis of past events. Now, why would that be devoid of its right to get printed? Again, there are scores of reasons from the quality of content to importance of the subject and from its relevance to hold your breath, the guts a publisher has. When I say the guts, I don't mean the kind a publisher has to take while giving his nod to a fiction where risk is how will readers receive the book, will they find it compelling enough and all that but how will the reaction be of those who are in power, will it dampen the rapport of publisher with ruling class and all that! Senior journalist Rana Ayyub whose investigation into Gujarat fake encounters led to the arrest of Amit Shah who was second in command to then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi faced such a situation when she decided to get her investigation documents published which are also listed by Outlook magazine as one of the twenty greatest magazine stories of all time across the world.

Rana Ayyub when approached leading publishers was asked to make cuts to her tale here and there, censor things that could possibly discomfort ruling class or people in power. Any writer would know what censorship means, how it pulls the flesh out of storyline and leaves it nothing but skeleton for readers. The fierce lady that she is, Rana resisted, denied them their share of cuts and what does she do to escape the gallows of censorship? What does she do when big publishing houses kneel down to the powerful? She took charge and resorted to what is otherwise rare, self-publish. Till late night, Rana Ayyub herself was putting cover onto the hardcopy of her life's work, writes Ravish Kumar in his blog. To say I can imagine the things she went through all this while would be irony of all for I can't. To say the least, I fear to even imagine myself at her place. Sometimes I go to her time-line on twitter and try to read the replies to her tweets and it freaks me. The sheer scale of abuse would put me to bed out of fever or something. I still remember the time when I used to receive 'advices and suggestions' from 'well-wishers' over a RTI I had filed asking for details about funds used in construction of a local road. Things always get messy when you question the authority and actions of those in power. Mine were only local panchayat officials but Ayyub has put her hands onto the most powerful in India today. Her investigations have led to arrest of many IPS officers of that time. But somehow those stories are worthless for our publishers. If you remember how our publishers one by one published accounts critical of last regime the moment power changed at centre then you would know what they are 'fearless' about. Not that those books were not worthy of publication but why not when those regimes were in power? That doesn't mean Congress was any welcome host to Rana either.

For years now Rana is holding those documents and running but did Congress approach her once? I fear not. For ten years they were in power. Did they act against people alleged of fake encounters, did they let investigation reach conclusion? Nah! They used it politically to haunt their opposition and see where we have reached now. The investigating agencies like men in power have suddenly started to change their own opinions. Rana Ayyub for that matter needs to be applauded for not being fallen prey to power circles. She has stood her ground and how.

I have seen many people tweeting to Rana Ayyub their praises, applauding her for her courage and all big things. She deserves them all and lots more. But don't stop yourself there. She would truly be triumphant when you purchase her book. Show her your love and support not just in tweets but by reading that fine print. You will then learn about the things she had gone through to find the truth, to nail the culprits. This is as much a story of an investigative journalist as much it is about those in power who misused agencies to score their goals. Increasingly we are seeing decline in the number of brave journalists who dare to speak the hard truths which are uncomfortable at times, well, most of the times. 'Star' journalists who shout from air-conditioned studios have least knowledge about what happens on ground. They are today 'experts' on matters of which they have no first-hand knowledge and those who have are made to live a life in fear. Our support could change all that. So however small your efforts are, they are important. When most people have kneeled down, a small step of courage goes a long way. And reading this book is one such.

Thanks Rana for your raw courage. I have already ordered my copy and waiting to receive it in my hands now. I wish I was in Delhi to attend the book launch and Caravan Conversations. But to those in Delhi, make sure you are present. Remember, these small gestures go a long way. They are your way of saying you support journalism of courage, that you support those who stand tall amidst all odds, that you stand for truth in the midst of raging storms. Good luck to you who are planning to attend the event. May you find your courage in her and likes of her. You are not alone though. Thanks to all those who are speaking about Rana's book. Be it Rajdeep Sardesai, Manoj Mitta, Indira Jaising, Hartosh Singh Bal who will be part of Caravan Conversations or likes of Ravish Kumar, Scroll, The Wire and Caravan who are writing about it.

To those who had reviewed and gave one star to Rana’s book on Amazon and Flipkart before it even released, I don’t say you should hold back your opinion but at least read first and then comment. Have the courtesy and strength to face the truth, don’t act like cowards.

Satyamev Jayate!

Update: As of 27th May, Friday afternoon, I have received my copy of Gujarat Files. Off to reading now. Had updated the image of book above from previous one which was an Internet image.

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