- While the fearlessness I feel while writing is to a much lesser degree, I know it is because of her. She did not fear, so I won’t. She continued to write for those who could not be heard, so I will strive to do the same.
As I open my laptop, I am greeted with the familiar comfort of clacking noise coming from my keyboard as I press each key with simultaneous haste and precision. It sets the tone for the next few hours, during which my desk will become my new residence, and writing will become my sole purpose. My pace only increases as more ideas flow from my mind all the way to my hands, through which they are executed through a series of meticulous clicks. As I witness my literary ambitions being pursued right in front of me, I receive a rush of adrenaline that cannot be recreated elsewhere; a sense of gratification that I know only from writing, a feeling that is incomparable, something that I will always crave.
It may sound cliche, but when I write, I fear nothing. I do not care how my words are interpreted, because I know I conveyed them the way I wanted to. I did not engineer my sentences with words to cushion the impact of my ideas. I can only credit my acquisition of this unwavering confidence to Rana Ayyub, a Muslim journalist from India, and one of my biggest role models.
Ayyub’s unwavering courage is evidently something that she has carried with her since the budding days of her career as an investigative journalist. One of her most remarkable accomplishments is her coverage of the 2002 Gujarat Riots, during which she exposed unjust coverups fabricated by politicians and government officials. Ayyub took it upon herself to commit to a considerably long sting operation, understanding all of the risks and imminent danger she would be putting herself in if she went through with it. Over ten months, she went undercover as a filmmaker and befriended various people in positions of power. She extracted the corrupt ideas and plans behind the riot cover-ups from many bureaucrats and police officers.
These coverups weren’t only shallow political schemes, they were the embodiment of the justice stolen from those who lost their lives in these riots, they were the closure taken away from mourning families, friends, and communities. In a beyond selfless act of journalism, Ayyub shone light on these schemes, and in turn, shined light on the victims of the riots. Her writing became the performance of last rites for the riot victims who could not receive them.
The amount of hardship that Ayyub endured during these long ten months almost amounted to nothing when the political news magazine that she worked for claimed that the story she compiled using the information she acquired was incomplete and consequently dropped her as an employee. Yet, Ayyub persisted.
She went on to compile the information she had obtained into an exposé and a book titled “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up.” This book proved to be instrumental in depicting just how much politicians downplayed the severity of the riots and the government’s failure to bring justice to those lost to the violence of these attacks. Ayyub witnessed how little state intervention went into resolving these attacks. When the government failed India, her journalism brought the country the justice it was lacking through bravely worded sentences and skillfully written passages.
The difficulty did not end after she finished the Gujarat Files. It endured for much longer. Ayyub has received a plethora of death and rape threats from various groups and has gotten her personal details leaked to the public in an effort to retaliate against her journalism. Yet, she continues to write about issues that endanger India’s social justice, such as the rampant islamophobia that continues to plague the country. Her resilient journalism has won her several awards as well as recognition from organizations around the world.
Ayyub writes in the name of justice, and for the people that did not receive it when they needed it most. I do not know if she takes pleasure in the same clacking noise of the keys while she types as I do, but I do know that she writes with a purpose. Her writing has made a lasting impact on the lives of countless people and will no doubt continue to do so for years to come.
When journalist and social justice activist Rana Ayyub opens her laptop, she writes without fear. And, while the fearlessness I feel while writing is to a much lesser degree, I know it is because of her. She did not fear, so I won’t. She continued to write for those who could not be heard, so I will strive to do the same.
This essay won second place in the high school category at the 2023 Essay and Art Contest on Civil and Human Rights organized by Dalit Solidarity Forum in the USA and Hindus for Human Rights. The theme for this year’s contest was: Which South Asian Social Justice Activist Do You Admire and Why?
Saraah Zaheer is originally from Chennai, India. She has had a passion for writing for as long as she can remember, and it is her favorite hobby. She plans to pursue veterinary medicine in the future and hopes to intertwine both her love for writing and animals through her career.