About a week back, Indians switching on to watch the news were treated to a barrage of looped video recordings of a young girl being brutally molested by no less than 50 men on the streets of one of our state capitals, Guwahati. In plain view of passersby, for over 30 minutes, the men repeatedly felt her up, pulled at and tore her clothes, slapped her and continued mistreating the poor girl despite being filmed by a journalist. Some of them even looked brazenly at the camera. A number of people stood by and watched but no one intervened. Some men even joined the molesters to get their bit.
It was an atrocity that shocked me, not only because of what happened but by the sheer shamelessness of it all. The news story was picked up by pretty much every channel and ran continuously. Anchor after anchor blubbered in anger at this travesty, this “national outrage”, “India’s shame”. Everyone from the police commissioner to the journo who had filmed the attack to the chairwoman of the National Commission of Women was brought on air and grilled endlessly on this event. Newscaster after newscaster vent his/her anger at this “moral outrage” and angrily demanded that the police take immediate steps to arrest the people responsible. Some channels took it up as some kind of crusade and ran the story for days giving minute by minute updates on the hunt for the accused. Then, Rajesh Khanna died.
Almost immediately, the Guwahati tragedy was forgotten as channel after channel rushed to lease out scenes from his films and presented hastily made up documentaries about his life and so on. The death of arguably Indian cinema’s first Superstar took over every minute of every news channel’s telecast.
Now, I’m no belittling Khanna’s contribution to Indian cinema (never been a fan of his, but that’s beside the point) or in any way deriding the outpouring of grief that followed his demise. He was a great star and I’m sure deserved a befitting farewell.
The only thing I noticed (with concern) was how quickly our “morally outraged” anchors and their channels forgot the poor girl in Guwahati. Her tragedy, her ordeal was forgotten so fast! Where was the “crusade” to catch the accused now? Had the matter been resolved satisfactorily?
No, it hadn’t. But it was no longer newsworthy. A star’s death was bigger news than an attack on a nobody’s modesty. And that tells a very sorry tale about our news media. The hypocrisy of its platitude spouting defenders of justice is amazing in its breadth. The speed of onset of their amnesia tells the true tale about their sympathy and their own morals. It tells us more about how our media is run and how it seeks to both manipulate and follow popular sentiment as it goes about its way to making ever bigger piles of money.
I wouldn’t mind them making their money if they’d only take off this veneer of respectable, honest, conscientious, and socially responsible journalism and admit to what they are, money grubbers, just like the rest of the business world.