Ranjona Banerji: Gang-rape accused Ram Singh’s “mysterious” death up-ends TV news

12 Mar,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The death of one of the accused in the Delhi December 16 gang-rape case sent news channels into a frenzy. Ram Singh was found hanging in his cell on Monday morning and it is not yet clear whether it is murder or suicide. The concern of news channels for Ram Singh’s well-being in jail is both heartening from a presumption of innocence point of view and confusing from any remotely logical or sensible point of view. After the gang-rape, viewers may remember, most news channels seemed quite willing to bypass a trial altogether and set up a gallows in their TV studios. On Monday it seemed as if TV channels were feeling the pain of Singh’s weeping parents – shown to us again and again – as they outraged over the “mysterious” death of Singh.

 

Custodial deaths are indeed a shame and they happen all over India all the time. Often – as in the Khwaja Yunus case in Maharashtra – the police themselves are responsible. I suppose one must now feel grateful that TV journalists have discovered this shocking occurrence and perhaps all their self-appointed kangaroo courts will help make a difference to the criminal justice system in India. I have to agree with Hindustan Times journalist Madhavan Narayan here as he bemoaned this “public prosecutor” style of journalism on twitter.

 

Most newspapers led with the story but also gave readers perspective. However the little box on the front page of The Times of India was intriguing to say the least – it told us how the international media also led with this story on Monday. I could not tell whether the paper was rejoicing at how the world was paying attention to us (yaaay!!!) or feeling ashamed that this sort of story was getting international attention (boo hoo…).

 

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If indeed Times Now is responsible for getting rape convict Bitti Mohanty re-arrested after he jumped parole in 2006, well done to them. This is a story worthy of plenty of journalistic effort and seems like a movie script or an episode of a TV crime serial. Orissa (now Odisha) director general of police’s son convicted for raping a German friend is convicted by a Jaipur court and sentenced to seven years in prison. He gets permission to go home to meet his ailing mother and then vanishes. His family say they have no idea where he is. He turns up seven years later working in a bank in Kerala under an assumed name, after an anonymous phone call tipped off his employers and the authorities.

 

When you consider the fact the Mohanty’s father was an influential and powerful man at the time, it is not hard to imagine just how family and friends managed to hide and protect “Bitti”. Just another day in India where the system is easily manipulated by those who have access and know-how? If the coverage of the case by Times Now indeed helped to nab Mohanty again, nothing like it!

 

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Well done Mid-day for remembering that March 12 is the anniversary of the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993. For those of us who were there, it seems like yesterday and just for the record, the blasts followed the riots.

 

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The sacking of four Australian cricketers just before the third Test against India at Mohali was the subject of much hilarity in twitter. Here’s a compilation of all the tweets of the day by espncricinfo: http://www.espncricinfo.com/page2/content/story/624547.html

 

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