Ranjona Banerji: Trading charges on Rajdeep Sardesai @ Madison Square

30 Sep,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


What exactly happened in New York between Rajdeep Sardesai, TV journalist and former editor-founder of CNN-IBN, and people standing outside Madison Square Gardens? According to initial reports on social media, Sardesai was slapped by the crowd, which was made up of supporters of Narendra Modi who didn’t like Sardesai’s questions.


Then the story changed and it turned out that Sardesai asked some provocative questions, called someone an “asshole”, the man returned the compliment, the crowd booed and Sardesai walked away. This part of the incident was recorded and is all over youtube.


Doesn’t end there though. A Times Now reporter put up his version of the story where he said that Sardesai was being heckled and appeared to be in danger from the crowds. He rushed there to help and rescue Sardesai. This version firmly puts Sardesai in the role of victim and portrays the crowd as a mob.


A report on rediff.com now says that industrialist Gautam Adani called Sardesai and apologised to him on Modi’s behalf. This report also says that before Sardesai was hit in the back, he was told that he, his wife and children should settle in Pakistan and Sardesai protested when his children were brought into the conversation.


A tweet from Bhupendra Chaubey  of CNN-IBN says that the man who called Sardesai an “asshole too” later apologised.


Leaving aside the hysteria on social media, which is a sparring match between those who feel that Sardesai was provoked and those who think Sardesai’s behaviour was unacceptable, what do we have here?


We either have a journalist with plenty of experience being unable to deal with an angry or difficult crowd of people and hitting. Or we have a journalist trying to defend himself from personal attacks. It is impossible to make anything of the video evidence because it is incomplete. It is easy to say Sardesai should not have reacted the way he did or if he could not help it, “asshole” was perhaps not the most appropriate response.


It also true though that Sardesai was doing his job, even if he was asking uncomfortable questions from a group of people who may not have been well-disposed to him. I have plenty of comments – not from journalists though – that Sardesai’s questions were needless and he should not have walked into a crowd of Modi supporters. This is a stupid and specious argument. At an extreme, journalists also enter war zones and get killed because that is their job. Having a Twitter account does not make you an expert on what journalism entails. In our own ways, many of us have been in uncomfortable situations with people who resented us. That is part of the job.


So what’s the verdict? I would go as far as to say Sardesai could have been more circumspect with his language but I do not believe that he walked up to someone out of the blue and abused him. The video footage available does not tell us what happened before the incident but anecdotal evidence suggests that Sardesai was heckled and more.


Since this is a forum to comment on the media, I am not saying anything about the behaviour of the crowd. But hardly a fine moment.


Rediff says: http://www.rediff.com/news/report/modi-in-us-upset-with-fans-over-attack-on-rajdeep-sardesai/20140930.htm

The video shows this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF-hXNojV1w

The Editors’ Guild has condemned the assault on Sardesai: http://www.firstpost.com/living/attack-on-rajdeep-sardesai-editors-guild-condemns-assault-1735903.html




What can one say about the Indian television media in New York which has behaved like Narendra Modi’s cheerleading squad? Bhupendra Chaubey may have started it with his asking random New Yorkers foolish questions but Barkha Dutt of NDTV wins first prize as the prime minister’s chief publicist.


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Trading charges on Rajdeep Sardesai @ Madison Square”

  1. Muthuraman N says:

    Ha! “the man returned the compliment, the crowd booed and Sardesai walked away” – arent u missing something crucial in-between? That Sardesai held the saffron clad guy by his collar and tried to punch him? the FIRST AND ONLY physical attack was by Rajdeep! And here u have a full column written without mentioning this crucial piece of evidence!! More than the behaviour of Rajdeep (which could be a spur of the moment reaction when his profession or his children is brought into the verbal scuffle), the action by people like you who deliberately obfuscate facts which brings greater disrepute to the media!! Shame on you!

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