During my time away, a story that fascinated me — in a train-wreck kind of way, and as a cautionary tale of the danger of the media disseminating half-baked news — relates to the murder of one Paresh Mesta. The India Today channel and its consulting editor Shiv Aroor played a lead role in propagating the story; social media backlash then prompted Aroor to write an extended defense of his actions. Here it is, and it is worth reading in full as an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the media in general, and TV news in particular.
The first four paras are an extended ‘woe is me’ pity-party aiming to paint himself as the victim, and an attempt to stake out the high moral ground. Skip lightly over those, and consider the real story, which begins with paragraph five and the tweet that started it all:
May 25, 2014: The then Delhi BJP chief Harsh Vardhan says that the first issue he will take up with the prime minister, if his party won the Lok Sabha polls, was the cause of granting full statehood to the capital city. The move, he said, would solve the problem of multiple authorities; he said the NDA had earlier tabled a relevant bill in Parliament but the successor UPA government had not followed up.
Harsh Vardhan’s predecessor Madan Lal Khurana had made a similar demand in 2003, coincidentally, again, just ahead of assembly elections. “The BJP leadership at the Centre says it is drafting a new Delhi Statehood Bill,” the article points out. “This is something it had done in 1998 as well, a few months before the assembly elections in November that year.”
#1. It takes just one news story to meet, and exceed, the weekend’s whatthefuckery quotient:
Over two years after Mohammed Akhlaq was beaten to death on suspicion of consuming beef, the accused in the case, all of whom are out on bail, may soon secure jobs.
Moreover, the family of Ravin Sisodia, one of the murder accused who had died in jail of multiple organ failure, is soon likely to get Rs 8 lakh compensation.
#1. Here is a news story:
On 12 October, Zulaikha Khatoon, the wife of the only eyewitness in the case of the lynching of Alimuddin Ansari, died in an alleged road accident barely a kilometer away from a Ramgarh district court. Zulaikha was on her way to fetch a photo identification card that would allow her husband, Jaleel Ansari, to appear before the court that day. He was ultimately unable to depose.
Alimuddin was lynched on 29 June. Jaleel was the first person to alert the residents of Manua village, where he and Alimuddin lived, of the murder. According to the Jharkhand police, Alimuddin died after being beaten by the members of the Gau Raksha Dal—a local cow-protection group—and the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The members of the extremist Hindu groups had attacked Alimuddin in the middle of Bazar Tand, a market in the Ramgarh district of Jharkhand, on the suspicion that he was carrying beef in his tempo.
And thus witnesses in cases involving the RSS, the BJP and its feeder groups keep dying. All purely coincidental.
#1. In a four-day span starting October 7, 69 children have died in BRD Hospital, Gorakhpur — the scene of the headline-making tragedy of last month. Adityanath’s political hubris is what immediately springs to mind but frankly, that is not where the focus should be. The hospital was a disaster zone a month ago. Sometimes things fall through the cracks; disasters happen. The question is, does no one learn? Surely, when you are confronted with tragedy on such a scale, your priority would be to work flat out to ensure against an encore? If it was caused by a systemic breakdown (bills not cleared in time, oxygen supplies therefore interrupted), that is easily fixed by streamlining processes and by prioritizing. If encephalitis is rampant and the existing staff are unable to check it, surely a sensitive, empathetic government would bring in experts from AIIMS and elsewhere to review existing procedures, train the doctors in a proper response? Surely that is what governance is all about — attending to the details?
#1. Unlike Gajendra Chauhan, you cannot question Anupam Kher’s curriculum vitae and fitness to chair the FTII — which, you will remember, is where the sequence of universities in turmoil began. Whether Kher’s overt support for the ruling dispensation, as was the case with the likes of Sambit Patra, Shazia Ilmi and others, played a hand in his landing the role is a matter of conjecture. Related, a student looks back at Chauhan’s reign of error.
#1. In Agra, members of the VHP and the RSS, armed with guns, pistols and swords fired in the air near a temple in the Agra Fort region to “celebrate Dussehra”. The police have registered a case. The weapons, the firing, the communal slogans, all add up to calculated intimidation. And all the while, the RSS claims that it is the victim, not the perpetrator, of violence against its members.