Excerpt from Gujarat Files: When Rana Ayyub met Narendra Modi

In The Gujarat Files, Rana Ayyub reveals for the first time all the information she collected while she was undercover for eight months, investigating the state machinery in Modi's state.

WrittenBy:NL Team
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In 2010, journalist Rana Ayyub was 26, struggling to come to terms with a dear colleague’s death and working with Tehelka magazine. It was one of the lowest points in her life, and she found her way out of this rabbit hole because of a story. Ayyub began investigating the Gujarat riots of 2002 and the way the state machinery worked in Gujarat under the aegis of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. To do this, she went undercover and posed as a filmmaker from America, named Maithili Tyagi, who wanted to make a film on Modi and had a ‘gora’ assistant named Mike. The identity worked. She got a meeting with Modi, who was then chief minister of Gujarat. Here’s how it went.

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Mike and I had reached Modi’s Gandhinagar residence an hour early. So we asked our driver to park our car close by while we waited for the clock to tick faster. I was nervous while Mike kept smiling. My concern was that if the camera in my watch caught the attention of the security check and the metal barriers, we were done for. Half an hour later when we walked into the CM’s residence I breathed easy when I walked through security without being caught.

Modi’s OSD Sanjay Bhavsar met us. We were finally escorted to the CM’s room. He stood up to greet us. Mike exclaimed that he had seen his posters in the autos in Ahmedabad and was very impressed with his popularity. On the table were two books on Barack Obama. “So will you be the next PM sir?” I asked immediately. He blushed and started to speak about Barack Obama who was his inspiration and the virtues of Swami Vivekananda. After a 30-minute chat, the CM called Bhavsar to his room and asked him to show us the material that had been written about him. Bhavsar took us to his cabin. On his table were printouts of stories published by Tehelka and The Hindu on the CM. I enquired about them to which Bhavsar replied that the CM had too many enemies. I think I almost heard Mike chuckle. Later we were shown the various books the CM had authored and made to listen to recordings of his speeches in India and around the world.

Bhavsar asked me to get a copy of all of them as it would help in my film making. I said I would do so on my next visit. We went back home and Mike packed his bags, he had a flight to catch to Delhi. I hugged him as I called him a cab to the airport. Minutes later Mike called to tell me that he could not locate a single rupee in his pocket when he reached the airport and the taxi driver did not just waive the fare but also gave him Rs 200 for his journey. Mike said this was what he wanted to take away from Gujarat. I agreed wholeheartedly. That was the last time I saw Mike and I am sure wherever he is, he will remember Maithili, his older sister and comrade-in-arms.

I called up Shoma and gave her the details right after. She asked me if I had questioned the CM about the riots. “Come on Shoma, that’s the last thing I would do on my first visit,” I retorted. Later in the evening I got a call from Shoma saying, “Come back to Delhi, Rana’. I had just about started to protest when she said she would explain once I was back.

The next morning I reached Delhi and went straight to the Tehelka office. I had transferred the footage of the Modi recording to my laptop. Tarun was in his cabin. Shoma joined him. I showed them the footage and they laughed looking at the books by Obama.

“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 said, “Look Rana, after the Tehelka sting on Bangaru Laxman they shut our office. Modi is all set to be the most powerful man, the PM. If we touch him we will be finished.”

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.

The same evening Sanjay Bhavsar called me. I let the phone ring. He called three times and then left a text that the CM would love to see me the following Sunday. I went to a local PCO and called Bhavsar to tell him that I was in Delhi and that a relative had passed away and I was required in the city. I assured him however that I would get back to him in a week’s time. Two days later I removed the 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 the investigation would not be published.

I have remained silent since.

Till now.

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