Former Tehelka editors has rejected author Rana Ayyub’s charge that the magazine did not carry her story on the 2002 Gujarat communal riots and a series of fake encounters in the state because of “political pressure”.
Ayyub, while working with Tehelka magazine in 2010, spent about eight months under an assumed name talking to bureaucrats, senior police officials and then chief minister Narendra Modi as a part of her investigations.
Her book, ‘Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up’ which was launched recently, looks at the complex landscape of Gujarat post riots and the rise of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
At the launch of the book, Ayyub said the magazine refused to publish her book citing “political pressure” especially after receiving a great deal of backlash after the Bangaru Laxman sting operation .
She also said that one of the editors of Tehelka said that the transcripts of the book are coffee table conversations. “I felt like a “guinea pig” who was was sent out as an undercover reporter at the age of 26,” the writer added.
Tarun Tejpal, the then editor -in-chief of Tehelka Tuesday said he was pained to be maligned by Ayyub and wondered what had he done to deserve this disrespect. “She did her best journalism in Tehelka, neither before or after, and goes on to blame us for something we never did. Her story was full of holes, we told her to fill in the gaps. It did not happen.”
Tejpal said he never dropped the copy out of fear. “This is graceless, we did not carry the story because it was simply incomplete. It did not say anything. And in 2010-11, Modi was not even a PM candidate. So what are we talking here?”
The former chief editor also said that some of India’s finest investigations happened in Tehelka, reporters travelled wide and deep into the countryside to probe, to question the wrongs. Rana was offered the moon, she had all the facilities.
“What pains me is that she continued to stay with Tehelka even after the story was not carried. It was not a big issue for her, nor for us,” said Tejpal.
“Shorabuddin and Ishrat Jahan happened after this. How come? We never worked under pressure, never. We lost investors because of our investigations. I simply do not understand why she has done this,” added Tejpal.
Former managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury also said Ayyub’s sting was rejected because it did not meet the editorial standards of Tehelka.
1/2 Rana Ayyub’s a courageous reporter but her story wasn’t published in Tehelka coz it didn’t meet ed standards not ‘political pressure’
— Shoma Chaudhury (@ShomaChaudhury) May 29, 2016
Chaudhury also added that Ayyub continued to work at Tehelka and the magazine had published several hard hitting stories on Gujarat.
2/2 Rana continued working at Tehelka after 2010 & Tehelka continued publishing hard stories on Gujarat. Simple check of archive shows that
— Shoma Chaudhury (@ShomaChaudhury) May 29, 2016
She also said the story had loopholes and the magazine had serious concerns about the procedure that was followed.
“I will leave Tarun Tejpal to refute the specific allegation Rana makes against him, but as the managing editor of Tehelka at the time, I find her assertions about Tehelka buckling under ‘political pressure’ extremely baffling, to say the least. The many hard-hitting exposes done by Tehelka on Gujarat hardly seems the track record of a magazine that was afraid to ‘touch’ Mr Modi because it had once been shut down…There is a simple reason why Rana’s sting on Gujarat was not carried in Tehelka: it did not meet the necessary editorial standards. While parts of the story were good, there were a lot of loopholes and serious concerns about the procedure that had been followed. Her assertion that she was treated as a ‘guinea pig’ and her story was withheld out of ‘political pressure’ seems a serious departure from the truth,” Chaudhury said in a statement.
Former Tehelka investigations editor and current Aam Aadmi Party leader Aashish Khetan who also came out in with support of Tejpal and expressed shock on Ayyub’s charge.
Ayyub, who resigned from Tehelka in 2013, said she stands by what she wrote in the book. “This was my biggest moment, the copy could have turned many things upside down. But it kept on going back and forth, eventually, I got tired and left it.
Yes, I stayed back and did other investigations. Tehelka was a platform I needed. But I would always remember the story which got dropped. It was not an isolated sting, it was a combination of months of hard work. So lets not see it as an isolated piece of work. The sting, combined with my other work, could have been a great piece of investigation and nailed many lies that continue to exist even today. And I must say I am not the only one to complain about dropped stories in Tehelka, the list is fairly big,” Ayyub was quoted as saying by First Post.
After Tehelka refused to publish the story, Ayyub approached several other publications, but there were no takers.
Ayyub said it was then she decided to publish the book herself.