Ranjona Banerji: Cagey media and the curious case of the Aston Martin accident

17 Dec,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


The curious case of the Aston Martin accident in Mumbai continues to interest social media even as newspapers and news channels are tiptoeing around it. The reason for this discretion in an otherwise hysterical media is simple: the car belongs to Reliance. Even more, er, terrifying, is the fact that there are allegations that it was being driven by Mukesh Ambani’s son.


Here’s the story so far, according to the cagey media – barring very brave all out coverage by Mumbai Mirror: At 1.30 am on Sunday morning, December 8, a speeding Aston Martin hit two cars on Peddar Road. Both cars suffered damage, the first moving across the divider to hit a bus on the other side. What is curious is that the Aston Martin was apparently followed by two other cars which bundled the driver out and away. There were, according to newspaper reports, no casualties: minor injuries all around. The car, said the police, was registered to Reliance Ports and Infrastructure.


On December 9, a driver presented himself to the police and claimed responsibility. The problem started when the witnesses and victims claimed that the driver they saw was a young man not a portly middle-aged man with a moustache. The company claimed that the car had not been used so was being taken on a customary spin. The “rescue” of the driver by two cars following the Aston Martin was downplayed.


Soon after this, mention of Reliance vanished from the papers and the story vanished too. Television, which makes epics out of gossip, just about blanked the story out. But social media has another more sinister version: various blogs and Twitter accounts claim that two people were killed that night and the deaths are being covered up because the man driving the car was Mukesh Ambani’s son.


There you have it: a classic cover-up, “mistaken” identity or just an ordinary hit and run?


There is no proof so far that anyone was killed. But there is ample proof that the media has not played up the story and there is ample suspicion that the facts don’t match the stories. This is from a Mumbai Mirror story of December 10: “One of the most vital questions that the police are seeking an answer to is that why were two Honda CRVs, with a large security detail, tailing a car driven by a chauffeur and not carrying any Ambani family member. They also want to know why the security personnel whisked the chauffeur away in one of their cars and did not report the matter to cops immediately.


Foram Ruparel, 25, who was driving the Audi that was first hit by the Aston Martin, said she had a good view of the man driving that car. “I could see in the rear-view mirror the car was moving at a high speed, weaving left and right. And then, in a flash, it hit my car. I had a decent look at driver’s face. He was a young man,” she said.


Foram said the driver of the Aston Martin tried to flee, but the car stalled a little distance ahead. “In seconds, there was a swarm of security men around the car and they bundled the driver into one of the SUVs and sped off,” she said.”


There are also allegations that some newspapers have taken critical stories off their websites. There are some who claim that the same Aston Martin Rapide, which apparently costs Rs 4 crore, was seen at the party held by the Ambanis for Sachin Tendulkar. The fact is, Reliance has not denied owning the car. The questions being raised have to do with the driver.


So far, this much is certain: the deaths have not been corroborated even by the witnesses who have been quite belligerent. And the media has definitely not been as diligent as it needs to have been. Has pressure been put on the media here to downplay the story? The evidence points that way… The enormous influence of the Ambanis and Reliance notwithstanding, some independent thought and action here would be most welcome. And all kudos to Mumbai Mirror for sticking to its guns.


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Cagey media and the curious case of the Aston Martin accident”

  1. Guest says:

    Perhaps the young man ought to have assigned a higher value to his own life at least.

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