Millennium Post

Look beyond the metros

The 23-year-old brave heart from the national Capital passed away at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore after fighting a dour battle. The 12-days that she remained alive fighting for her life at Safdarjung hospital is said to have awakened the country, some news channels would say nation, on crime against women. I beg to disagree. The nation had even been ‘awakened’ when Anna Hazare fasted at Ramlila Maidan 18 months back. Some editors chose even to pen a book on how 12 days shook the nation.

Whether the nation got shaken or not is matter of debate but it’s for certain that India Against Corruption has withered with Team Anna and Team Arvind having daggers drawn at each other. Television driven journalism has repeatedly created mirage about real issues and real solutions. The solutions certainly do not emanate from the end number of debates that we get to suffer on these channels.

Fact of the matter is that these debates are so ill informed and participants so ignorant that they do not interest viewers beyond the metropolitan India. A much celebrated columnist wrote a curious piece recently applauding the efforts of a particular news anchor for awakening the nation. He went on to say that this particular anchor’s foremost ‘contribution to the public discourse (at least the English language discourse which still sets the tone for others) is his unending search for what ‘the nation’ wants to know.’

Now what does the nation constitute for him – a particular section of the Indian middle class living in the metropolitan cities spending time grimacing over how the country could have been administered better if they were made in charge. For the admirers of the television debates let me make an assertion – the Indian Nation lives beyond metropolitan India. Let me make another assertion, the residents of non-metropolitan India have a better sense of our history and politics than those living in the big cities. Last week when channels in the national Capital went ‘mad’ over the death of the brave heart broadcasting inanities and stupidities, the regional channels maintained sobriety and did not really go ‘viral’ with their coverage. If the audience of the ‘national’ television was to set the tone, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi would have long back been sent to the state of oblivion.

The question is why these channels are unable to impress the nation beyond the drawing rooms of metropolitan India. Their failure lies in the fact that media is no more news driven. Failure to investigate and truly break news is substituted by forcing opinionated features and debates. Even these debates lack in substance as they hinge on shabby research and are perked up by hysterical participants. Though the case of the Delhi braveheart will not remain inconclusive and in all probability the perpetrators of the crime will be sentenced to death by the trial court but the credit for it cannot be usurped be media alone.

As it was mentioned in these columns last week, the case of the 23-year-old brave heart is not the first of its kind. Some decades back a young woman named Geeta Chopra had met the same fate. Children of an army officer Geeta and Sanjay Chopra went missing on 26 August 1978. Their bodies were discovered on 29 August 1978. Medical examination confirmed that Geeta was raped. The accused in the case Ranga Khus (Kuljeet Singh) and Billa (Jasbir Singh) were arrested, tried and hanged for the crime in 1982.

The accused in the Delhi brave heart gang rape have now been charged with murder. So were Billa and Ranga. They were hanged as they had murdered Geeta Chopra. The same precedence would be invoked in the present case to demand death sentence from the trial court for the accused.

The shrill noise being made over all the channels for the need to change the law is unnecessary and without the proper knowledge about the existing law and precedence (Geeta Chopra case). The demands being made at Jantar Mantar and also on some channels for instituting a bravery award to commemorate the memory of the brave heart is again out of ignorance. There already exists such award instituted in the name Geeta Chopra and which is given on every Republic Day.

The problem with our media is that we have never bothered to publicise the bravery story of the girls who have been given the Geeta Chopra award in the past 20 years, which included some rape victims. These award winners fought their tormentors tooth and nail to bring them to book. Giving due publicity to these stories would have been very inspirational for the Indian women and created enough awareness about crime against women and how it could be encountered. Referring to the style of Aam Admi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal, a veteran journalist had rightly called it politics of spit and scoot. Kejriwal too is product of heckle and hector journalism and if the present movement in support of the brave heart proved anything, it was that Kejriwal has lost all following amidst aam admi (common people). So would these metropolitan channels, who happily disguise themselves as national media, lose viewership. A true analysis on the influence of television media would show that it’s been highly ineffective in building long-term opinion and impression. To make the conclusion simple –the Indian television failed to save the Anna Hazare story, which they had build up, from ebbing in the less than 18-months of its creation.

Sidharth Mishra is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and consulting editor, Millennium Post
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