“We, at Tehelka, were convinced our story would result in a nation-wide uproar…. We thought the lies of the Modi administration on the Godhra train burning incident would be exposed. We thought that people would demand immediate action. Modi would be forced to resign. The killers would be put behind bars. And victims would get justice. How wrong we were!....” Thus complains Ashish Khetan (Tehelka, Sep 8), who staked his life for months together in 2007 to gather such vital information and make the killers, tormenters and hooligans confess their crimes of barbarism on camera. This story was presented on Tehelka online and print as well as Aaj Tak TV channel in October 2007. Statements of the killers were indeed heart-rending but these barbarians were relishing in narrating them, as if they had accomplished something great and brave.
Impact of this report on court verdict
Indeed the revelations were so stunning that they ought to have jolted the entire country. But silence prevailed upon the nation. Ashish Khetan and his colleagues experienced mental torture when some people cast doubt on this very intention. Among them were certain groups of human rights, and some Muslim leaders too. Those who were nurturing doubt were of the view that the sting operation was initiated by Narendra Modi himself so that the latter might get more popularity in the then upcoming Assembly elections. And that the Tehelka team, in return, received hefty amount from Modi. But many Muslim leaders and human rights activists including Teesta Setalvad had welcomed the Tehelka report heartily and on its basis moved the court cases against the killers further. Now, it is said, there is a great role of the Tehelka sting operation report in the verdict pronounced by a Special Court at Ahmedabad on August 29 against 32 accused of Naroda Patiya massacre; it is a matter of satisfaction for Ashish Khetan and his colleagues, notwithstanding the entire country’s indifferent attitude towards it.
Why were the doubts nurtured?
In fact there were also some causes of nurturing doubts on the Tehelka report. (1) The Modi administration was not seen worried of this sting operation. (2) In the Assembly elections held two months since the Tehelka revelations Modi’s party once again came to power. (3) Some concern over this report was found in most parts of the country but its effect in Gujarat was pretty little. (4) In the Tehelka report the reality behind Godhra train burning was also revealed and it was said that that incident was the first link in the great conspiracy, which was made an excuse for killing and destruction. Muslims were not responsible for the train burning. But Aaj Tak and Headlines Today did not focus this part of the Tehelka Report. Their total focus was on the looting, killing and barbarism of the killers which proved a source of satisfaction for those Gujaratis who had presumed that it was Muslims who had burnt the train. Now it is not known who were responsible for presenting the sting operation report in this light. - However the complain of Ashish is right in the sense that the rest of the country also did not take notice of his report as it should have. In our view also media and political circles did not give this report as much importance as they give to an ordinary drama of terrorism. And this disquieting situation is for journalists like Ashish Khetan to investigate and analyse.
19/ 09/12 khabar-O-Nazar by Parwaaz Rahmani, sehrozaDAWAT, translated by: Abu Yusuf