Anil Thakraney | Guru execution: Media frenzy may do damage

11 Feb,2013

By Anil Thakraney


To be honest, I am not quite sure on how the media should have dealt with the Afzal Guru hanging. Yes, it’s a big, big story (after all, how often does this softie nation hang criminals?), and the man was behind an outrageous attack on Parliament, no less. So his execution had to be covered, no option, really.


And yet, I saw no point of all the TV discussions and the detailed newspaper reports. What was the use of re-visiting the terror attack in graphic detail, of re-living the doubts expressed by some on the fairness of Guru’s trial, of debating the timing of the execution, of playing out angry comments from Kashmiri separatists, etc? Now that the man is dead and gone, what purpose does this really serve? All these issues/controversies should have been debated while the convict was still alive, that would have made sense, perhaps it would have impacted Guru’s destiny. To my mind, a story on the execution itself, on how they went about it, would have been more than sufficient.


In fact, all these heated discussions, post-mortem of the man’s trial, and worse of all, controversies over the disposal of the body and chest-thumping by some TV anchors will only help in fanning anger in the valley. Make no mistake about this: Despite the calm we have witnessed in Kashmir in recent times, there’s simmering rage amongst many locals who don’t like the idea of being a part of India. My worry therefore is this: Did the media, with its over-the-top coverage, unintentionally provide a handle to the disgruntled elements? I strongly suspect this might be the case, and I really hope we don’t suffer as a nation in the coming years. Hope that we don’t have to deal with more Afzal Gurus.


Yes, the terrorist had to die, it was always only about when. Yes, it’s a big story, and yes, the media had to do its job. But I continue to get haunted by one thought: Perhaps editors and content heads could have handled this one differently. Because, in the end, national interest must come above all else.


And yet, this is a gray zone, there is no ready black-and-white answer, I concede that. Let’s just hope we didn’t screw this one up.




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