Shock & Amusement

13 Oct,2011

Ranjona Banerji

It was a very amusing day yesterday in TV land. First, LK Advani’s luxury bus got stuck under a bridge. By the way it takes a great stretch of imagination to call a luxury bus a “rath”; if they want to evoke Mahabharat-type chariots of fire images they should at least have some accompanying horses (not horsepower) and some of those metallic swan wings you see in Indian small towns on carts that are all-in-one marriage bands.

But the drama of the day was provided by poor Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court lawyer, core group member of Team Anna and all-purpose activist. As he was about to give an interview to Times Now, a group of men walked into his chambers at the Supreme Court and proceeded to beat him up, with the cameras rolling.

The images are shocking and whoever saw it was very distressed. Times Now shared its footage with everyone else so there was universal shock and horror at this sort of uncivilised hooliganism. There was some confusion over who these goons actually were – Bhushan said that one told him he was from the Sri Ram Sena, and then the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena took “credit” for beating him up. Bhushan’s “crime” was to suggest that the army should leave Jammu & Kashmir, the Armed Forces Special Protection Act should be scrapped and if no other solution can be found to the Kashmir question, a plebiscite should be held. These views, according to all these Senas, are distinctly anti-national, thus justifying the attack.

Different TV channels took different approaches. NDTV decided not to speak to the perpetrators so as not to encourage them, CNNIBN took a similar stand, Headlines Today and NewsX immediately went out and found them and Times Now at first did not make it clear that all these Senas were connected to the Sangh Parivar but pussyfooted around. Then as the night progressed and Arnab Goswami got more into it, he revealed that some of the attackers were former members of the BJP youth wing.

The subject dominated TV debates and the BJP and RSS spokespersons sputtered their way through the debates. The most amusing of all was Bhim Singh of the Panthers, who had a peculiar faux Brit-solid Punjabi accent who talked to himself through the programme. The upshot was that Bhushan’s views on Kashmir were anathema to them but they were forced – on account of the public outrage – to condemn the violence. It’s a fine line and they were called out on it several times.

This largely meant that Advani and his bus were given cursory attention.

The other issue was the very clear links between the RSS and Anna Hazare’s movement with an intriguing debate on why both the RSS and Team Anna were on the defensive about it.

 

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By comparison, it must be admitted, the morning newspapers were decidedly dull. In Mumbai, a huge thunderstorm took the front page. One main accused being acquitted by the Delhi high court in the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar added another twist to a very strange case.

Even the Bhushan story got short shrift (perhaps there was nothing left to say after TV had milked it). Of course, newspapers did carry editorials bemoaning our uncivilised response to unpleasant opinions. Well, what else can they say?

 

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Vijay Mallya’s sale of a chunk of his Force 1 shares to Subroto Roy and Sahara was the other big story everywhere. After the smiling pictures of all have run their course, perhaps we need to see some stories on why Mallya is selling so much?

 

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Shah Rukh Khan dominated most TV channels after 10 pm – publicity for something or the other – including a long interview with Barkha Dutt. Goswami continued with saving the nation and did not get down to such frippery stuff – doubt if he ever does. He did however end his prime time show with a demand that Anna Hazare come clean on his links if any with the RSS. Interesting.

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