Skip to main content

India's officials shadow journalist writing book on 2002 Gujarat riots? Scribe's claim in PEN International report

By Rajiv Shah
Revati Laul, an independent journalist who is writing a book about the 2002 Gujarat riots, has made it know how she is being meticulously shadowed for the last 18 months during her investigation into the massacre that took place 14 years ago through the eyes of three men who were part of a riotous mob. Laul is known to have been attacked by a 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre convict in January during her probe in Ahmedabad.
Writing in the just-released “Fearful Silence: the Chill on India’s Public Sphere”, a joint research project by the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto, and PEN International, a high-profile non-profit organization promoting freedom of expression across the globe, Laul says, though she has still not written a word, “Gujarat’s state intelligence bureau has been monitoring me.”
Giving details, she says, “One day, they asked someone I’d spoken with earlier how they knew me and what had I been inquiring about. Irritated, my contact replied, rather aptly, ‘Aren’t you from the intelligence bureau? Then find out what she was doing, why should I do your job?’”
“Another time”, she says, “I was consulting a lawyer in a sessions court when she noticed someone watching us. Our eavesdropper hid behind a green cloth facade and then he ran away. I’ve had phone calls from unknown numbers, with strange voices asking me to identify myself.”
Laul notes, “I’ve also learned that the government is checking up on me as I go about my work. This could be because my book focuses on crimes that have given our current politics much of its heft. Any mention of the mobs in Gujarat affronts the present administration, and it specializes in harassing people like me.”
Calling her proposed book “The Anatomy of Hate”, as “it sums up the project rather well”, Laul regrets, midway through her research, when she sought funding for the project, she encountered “fear and silence within Indian institutions, and also some abroad.” She adds, “I’ve also learned that the government is checking up on me as I go about my work.”
Pointing out how even NGOs withdrew, she says, “Between 2014 and 2015, an international NGO agreed to support me so that I could work on the book full-time. A year later it withheld further funding due to the fearful atmosphere created by the present administration.”
Laul underlines, “Like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, Gujarat’s violence cannot be named. Every institution I approached, both in India and abroad, politely declined to fund me. I won’t mention names because I can’t be certain why they rejected me. But off-the-record knowledgeable sources told me that my topic was considered too controversial.”
Much like Rana Ayyub’s book, “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover-Up”, which she self-published (click HERE) following failure to get any support for publishing it, Laul says, “I haven’t let this shadow boxing interfere with my work.”
Pointing out how even crowd funding has not been easy, Laul says, “After knocking on every door I knew, I decided to crowdfund.” Using an Indian website for the purpose, Wishberry, she says, “The results were astonishing. I raised 25 percent more than my target.”
Yet, she says, even Wishberry “was being trolled by a pro-government acolyte who had copied Modi and his deputy on their twitter handles and demanded to know why a site like Wishberry was backing a ‘liar’ like me.”
Things went so far that the site got a “call from a top industrialist, one of the site’s main supporters, asking why had they endorsed the campaign in the first place, and shouldn’t it be taken down.”
This led to “heated exchanges with Wishberry”, during which, Laul says, she pointed out that she “had warned them that trolls and threats might come their way; that this is de rigueur given the kind of book I was writing, and it would be completely unfair, and a violation of their processes, if they threatened to scuttle my campaign one third of the way through.”
Laul says, “They dropped the campaign from their Facebook and Twitter feeds but left the original funding page intact, adding however that if at some point they felt the campaign was ‘hurting the sentiments of thousands of people’ and they had to ‘choose between the nation and me’ they’d choose ‘the nation’.”
Reporting how “an army of troll-rats”, meanwhile, stalks her on Twitter and Facebook, calling her “sickular – a portmanteau word for sick and secular – and a ‘presstitute’ (a journalist for hire)”, Laul says, “These commonplace insults don’t bother me, but they can affect the attitudes of potential funders and supporters, and here they cause real damage.”

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

Innovative, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's movies often banked on excessive sentimentalism

By Harsh Thakor*  Late Hrishikesh Mukherjee more popularly known as Hrishi Da, whose birth centenary was celebrated recently, ranks amongst India’s most progressive and innovative film makers, exhibiting mastery in craft of making socially relevant themes. Mukherjee knitted plots together with great visualisation and sensitivity, be it in comedy, pathos, anger or romance, weaving every ingredient in proper proportion.  Melodrama was restrained and scripts dissected with surgical skill. Without over romanticisation, Mukherjee would do complete justice to the role of the character. He did not champion art films, but gave commercial films an artistic touch. Rarely have artists transcended the medium of cinema to project the real essence of their cultural values so or film directors who narrate a simple tale of regular families that have characters of unique shades, characters which are bound to touch human emotions universally. His characters frequently underwent life-changing journeys

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

There aren't any hard data to prove forced conversion, why move for a Central law?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Srinivasan Jain, the popular TV anchor with NDTV, has done a tremendous service to the Constitution of India and, thereby, to the people of India! In a hard-hitting exposé on his weekly segment ‘Truth vs Hype’, released on 19 November, Jain talks about the so-called ‘Forced Conversions’ with incontrovertible facts and the falsehoods and myths that are built around the issue!   A good part of his expose is an interview with Ashwin Kumar Upadhyay, the petitioner in the current case on ‘forced conversions’ in the Supreme Court. Jain directly takes on Upadhyay and the 65-page petition submitted by the latter to the Supreme Court. Jain emphatically states that not a single example cited by Upadhyay in the petition comes under the ambit of ‘forced conversion’.  In fact, Jain proves that one of the examples is completely fake! Upadhyay, however, continues with his rant without being able to authenticate or substantiate or furnish a single bit of evidence to prove his

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Diminishing returns: Hydro projects contribute less than 10% of India's power generation

Counterview Desk  Pointing out that India’s hydro generation remains around 10% for the last six years, the advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said that power generation from hydropower projects continues to show diminishing returns, as has been the story close to three decades now. Yet, says SANDRP in a note, the Government of India continues to push large hydro by announcing a slew of additional subsidies for hydropower projects, more for political economy reason. In fact, attempts are being made to flog unviable hydropower projects with various kind of manipulations, illegalities and violations, it adds. Text : In last six years, from 2016-17 to 2021-22, India’s large hydropower projects (projects above 25 MW installed capacity) have contributed just around 10% of the total power generation, going as low as 9.68% in 2017-18. In fact, in three of these six years, large hydro contributed less than 10% and recovering only marginally in the rest,

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.