The former journalist Ashish Khetan’s Undercover: My Journey into the Darkness of Hindutva, which covers his investigations into the 2002 Gujarat violence, was released on 11 January 2021. The book details Khetan’s multiple interviews with Babu Bajrangi from the Bajrang Dal, accused of leading the mob in Naroda Patiya—a Muslim-dominated locality—during the violence. Khetan had met him multiple times in 2007, as an undercover journalist with a spy camera. In the following extract, Bajrangi confesses to his role in the massacre, and also speaks to the complicity of the police and the chief minister at that time, Narendra Modi. It begins with Khetan’s second meeting with Bajrangi, dated 10 August 2007.
Khetan rose to prominence with the Gujarat violence investigations for the Tehelka magazine, conducted between 2004 and 2007. He was a member of the Aam Aadmi Party between 2014 and 2018. In 2015, media reports covering emails leaked from the Essar Group suggested that a story by Khetan in Tehelka was planted by the conglomerate. Khetan dismissed the allegation.
Again, he began our conversation with a self-congratulatory disquisition on the number of Hindu girls he had saved from the clutches of Muslim men. He told me he had “rescued” 956 women, which meant he had prevented the birth of around 5,000 Muslim children. It is commonplace among Hindutvawadis to imply that one Muslim man produces five children per wife (“hum paanch, hamare pachchees,” as Modi himself had said). He reiterated that, after returning from Godhra, he had openly declared that he would take revenge for the Hindus killed on the train, that he then collected guns to give rioters and told the police in Naroda Patiya to stand down and let what was happening happen.
I asked Bajrangi, “Narendrabhai, that day, did Narendrabhai extend support on the day Naroda Patiya happened?”
“Usne to sab Ram nam kar diya na yaar, nahi to kiski taqat thi, sab uska hi hath hai bhai, nahi to police ko instruction dewe to gad phad dewe police.” (It was his hand which was behind this, otherwise if he had instructed the police, the police would have torn the rioters apart.)
After the killing stopped, Bajrangi told me, he was asked by the police to leave the area, and even the state’s home minister told him to go into hiding. Bajrangi stayed underground for months while the police supposedly sought him out.