by Snowy Rahi
Today on 7th of September 2016, at 11:50 am the Aligarh Muslim University’s University Polytechnic Auditorium was packed with students , teachers and other people of mark. The occasion was a lecture by former Tehelka journalist Ms. Rana Ayyub on the topic “ Writing as a means of protest: Issues of freedom of expression and censorship” followed by a book reading session from her debut book “ GUJRAT FILES- anatomy of a cover up” organized by the University Debating and Literary Club (UDLC), AMU. The hustle-bustle of the auditorium came to a halt when the occupants realized the presence of Rana Ayyub among them.
There were two other speakers present at the event, Prof Siraj Ajmali, the President, UDLC who commenced the event with an introduction and paid emphasis on the fact that how it is getting more and more important to get educated. Then the program was carried forward by Dr. Mohibul Haq who is an assistant professor in department of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University. He took forth the argument of issues of freedom of expression and expressed his dismay with the current way in which our future generations are being molded. He said that the colleges and universities have been turned into industries and ‘if freedom, thought and expression are being censored than it is not a democracy in true sense.’ He put forth the point that media today has become a medium of deception there is a socially constructed truth being showcased. Giving the example of Rana Ayyub, he concluded by saying ‘career at the cost of conscience should not be the way of life. You must be a vigilant citizen to make this democracy a success.’
The time finally arrived for the one whose words everyone was eagerly waiting to hear. As Rana Ayyub took her place at the podium the anticipating crowed seemed to ease and turn restless simultaneously. The crowd clapped when she began by quoting the famous Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. She then proceeded by telling how she previously had managed to put Amit Shah behind the bars and how it pains her to see that he is among the people who rule our nation today. ‘Unfortunately we are a dead society’ were her words as she expressed disappointment towards the lack of political awareness in the country.
She expressed a need of political understanding and education without which we will never be able to attain the freedom we aim for. She talked about her book Gujarat Files and told her experiences and events that she had to undergo while working on this project under a false name. She went undercover with the name of ‘Maithili Tyagi’ and portrayed herself as a filmmaker from American film institute conservatory. She met bureaucrats and top cops of Gujarat who held a pivotal position in the state between 2001 and 2010. She portrayed her book as a sensational disclosure of the hierarchy of power and politics that has been laid bare for the readers to judge.
Towards the end of the session there was a interactive session between her and the audience in which the students appreciated her for her work alongside asking her questions on the lecture, her book and the current political scenario. When a question on the recent situation of Kashmir was put in front of her to which she replied, ‘I am a part of you (Kashmir) and you are a part of me. So how am I supposed to let go of my own self’ the event came to an end with a book signing session by Rana Ayyub.
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