On the one hand, TV did as good a job as it could in its reporting on the twin verdicts on Wednesday – confirmation of terrorists Ajmal Kasab’s death sentence and 32 people, including a former minister and prominent Bajrang Dal leader, found guilty in the Naroda Patiya massacre during the Gujarat riots.
However, being TV, they are easily distracted. The continued focus on the CAG report and coal allocations is understandable as is the disruption of Parliament by the BJP. But was it necessary to focus quite so much on Asaram Bapu’s helicopter crash considering injuries were minor? For some reason, the acquittal by the Supreme Court of two suspects in the November 2008 terror case was overlooked by TV. Kasab’s guilt was self-evident – he was seen by millions on TV and captured on film by newspaper photographers. But the other two were caught later by the Mumbai police and have been acquitted by three courts for insufficient evidence. The first time they were acquitted, the inefficiency of the Mumbai police was pointed to by former IPS officer and now activist lawyer YP Singh to a young anchor on NDTV, she was quite upset. She asked shocked, “How can you say that? They work so hard?” It was Singh’s turn to be shocked as he was stunned into silence.
By Thursday, the news cycle for television had changed. Karan Thapar on The Last Word on CNN-IBN was worried about whether NAM was still relevant and Sagorika Ghose also on CNN-IBN was asking about education and sports after St Stephen’s College in Delhi did not allow India’s Under-19 cricket captain Unmukt Chand to sit for his exams.
But the widest search for a subject to save India from itself came from Arnab Goswami of Times Now. He wanted to know why some MLAs from the Karnataka Assembly were travelling abroad on study tours when Karnataka was in a drought situation. The first rule of responsible journalism: first report extensively and comprehensively on the drought situation. After that, look for sensational subjects to shore up your viewership.
Newspapers remained more circumspect and traditional and they reported on the two judgments, analysed them and wrote editorials. Most slammed the Modi government in Gujarat, all accepted that the Kasab verdict was inevitable and there was comprehensive explanation over death row procedures. Some debate over capital punishment ensued as well. Nothing untoward or unusual in the papers.
However it was unusual that television did not go to town on Narendra Modi’s comments that Gujarat’s malnutrition figures are high because beauty-conscious girls don’t eat enough. Now that would have been an exciting debate to watch on Times Now. Really, India wants to know.