Ranjona Banerji: The facts of the Sheena Bora case are incredible enough to justify focused media coverage

28 Aug,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


Not surprisingly, the news has been filled with the Sheena Bora murder case. The accusations, allegations and investigation details as they have emerged have been weird, bizarre, unbelievable and diabolical. They also involve influential people and that gives the story extra oomph.


But it is in cases like this that the media often gets the most flak. The Aarushi Talwar-Hemraj murder case was a watershed moment for the media. While there were congratulations for the re-focus on the Jessica Lal murder, the media went to town with implied motives in the Aarushi-Hemraj double murder, encouraged by police and later CBI speculation about sexual orgies, incest and several other sexual relationships. The sanctity of forensic evidence also went for a toss as TV cameras showed the whole world and its uncle clambering over the crime scene.


Have we learnt anything since then? Apparently, yes. The police for one thing have been more circumspect about releasing both information and crackpot theories. Rakesh Maria, Mumbai’s media-savvy and well-seasoned police commissioner is personally handling the case. And most of the wacky unbelievable stuff being has been coming from the family itself.


Let us also not forget that Peter Mukerjea, the current husband of the murder accused Indrani Mukerjea, was once the head of Star India and perceived to be very close to Rupert Murdoch. He was at the time one of the most powerful men in India. He and Indrani were also very high profile. When they started 9X together, it was a massive media event. Pradeep Guha, ex-Bennett Coleman, ex-Zee, was also going to be part of it. The news channel NewsX was to be headed by a star team led by Vir Sanghvi. The subsequent collapse of 9X was equally controversial and caused tremors through the media. All the more reason for the media to focus on the case.


But the facts alone are enough. So far we have a woman accused of murdering a sister who is actually her daughter. Her current husband denies all knowledge of everything. The couple’s driver said his boss and one of her former husbands (not the father of the victim) were co-conspirators in Sheena’s murder. The “lady accused”, as Maria calls her, also had a son who she presented to the world as a brother. He makes all manner of accusations against his mother including that they were abandoned by her. The victim and her stepfather/brother-in-law’s son from an earlier marriage were in a relationship. Her sister/mother disapproved. This caused all manner of friction. The father of the abandoned brother and sister has not yet spoken out. This one paragraph ought to be enough to explain just how compelling and incredible the story is.


The media from that perspective has no option but to follow this story. As usual some newspapers will be better and some will be worse than others. Some news channels will go into overdrive. But so far, most channels have had the same news. There has been some speculative reporting but how can there not be? However as usual, the panel discussions or debates or tamashas have been most questionable mainly because this is where gossip and uninformed judgment masquerade as profundity. The funniest of all was on Barkha Dutt’s show on NDTV when various high profile women and has-beens sat in judgment over Indrani Mukerjea with nary a thought of their own pasts. So be it. The story is juicy enough.


On another “discussion”, a guest pointed out that the media had to cover the story because how else will people know? Indeed. A stellar thought that one wishes media critics would ponder on!


There will be the usual carping about how the media did not carry this or that. However, it is also true that if the media did not cover this story there would as many counter allegations.


As it happened, I also read about and saw on TV, in the same evil biased media, stories on the Patel rally in Gujarat, the subsequent violence, the army being called out. Also on the data of growth by religious community in India. Narendra Modi’s anodyne comments on violence. On the status of the One Rank One Pension protests. Rahul Gandhi wandering about here and there. The launch of the GSAT-6. Usain Bolt’s remarkable 200m dash to gold at the World Championships in Beijing. Should I bore you with any more news that has been available to us aside from the Sheena Bora murder?


As usual, the same people who complain about what the media did not cover use links from media sources to prove their point.


Please turn the page with an exasperated huff or change the channel if it annoys you that much. But I for one am going to keep watching this unbelievable murder case unfold: my vicarious self has beaten my self-righteous, sanctimonious, incessantly grumbling high moral horsie self in this case!


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: The facts of the Sheena Bora case are incredible enough to justify focused media coverage”

  1. ashok759 says:

    If Nina Pillai is one of the has beens the columnist is referring to, saw her after a decade.

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