There are war dances and then there is Shazia Nisar.
Republic Bharat’s reporter in Ukraine has been leading us a merry dance for the last few months as she waltzes across the ravaged country. We have seen television news reporters before and after her in Ukraine, but not one can match her performance.
Single-handedly, she has turned the theatre of war into the theatre of the absurd as she prances about like someone possessed. Frankly speaking? She’s more a dancing dervish than a war correspondent.
In Kyiv, Irpin, the Black Sea, and other places where the Ukrainian and Russian forces have faced off ‘aamne saamne’, she is so giddy in her ‘reporting’, we feel faint just watching her.
Alright, but what is it she does, exactly, you ask. Difficult to say, exactly.
There’s morning PT in the way she flings herself about — her arms go one way, her head another and her legs develop a will of their own, often at the same time; there’s some power yoga in her sudden squats; there are tandav poses when she leaps up and down and around, her long hair flying this way and that; and is there a bit of Bharatnatyam-cum-Kathakali in her jhatak-mataks? What about when she rocks from side to side, or walks backwards in circles?
Defies description — you have to see it to believe it — but it’s all happening, all at once, during a single ‘report’.
What’s more, her tongue is in locomotion too – is it any wonder, then, that her ‘exclusives’ from ‘ground zero’ are usually breathless too? See her, in protective military gear, monkey dance on the banks of the Black Sea (‘Yeh dekhiye… see-see the most powerful Russian warship has been sunk by the Ukrainians…a huge setback for Russia’), clamber atop rubble and ruins in Lviv (‘the fighting is so intense – jas ka tas ja raha hai’), striding down the empty streets (‘The Russians claim there are foreign troops in Mariopal… the Russians have placed a ban on Boris Johnson…’), bestriding a demolished tank in the snowfall or discovering a burnt out car in Khirgiv (‘chakna choor kar diya – sab kuch khatam’)…
On social media, Nisar has been called a stand-up comedian or a rapper reporter – and there are many memes put to Bollywood songs. All we know is that Shazia Nisar’s body and mouth are in constant motion, and nothing, not the Russians, not the Ukrainian missiles are going to stop her.
In complete contrast is the dapper Vishnu Som (NDTV 24×7) who spent five minutes on war tourism of a building in Mykolav where 36 people had died in a Russian attack — ‘Let’s just take a walk…’; ‘Shall we carry on and see a little bit more…’ and then profusely thanked his military guide after shaking his hand – ‘Well, thank you so much…’
Nisar appears to have inspired other television news reporters, in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri. You ought to have seen them on Wednesday morning, as ‘Bulldozer Attack (News18 India) ‘Yogi Style’ (Zee Hindustan) hit the district. They were out of breath trying to keep up with ‘JCB Justice’ (News X) when the demolition drive of alleged illegal encroachments rumbled down the streets. ‘Yeh dekhiye…’ they kept panting. ‘See-see Bulldozer No. 1 moving forward…’ hissed the News 24 correspondent, ‘after the violence, the MCD has woken up to these encroachments… better late than never.’
‘Yeh dekhiye, bulldozer can be seen coming towards us…’ gasped the Zee Hindustan reporter; ‘from ground zero, these are live, exclusive pictures.’
They were always in the thick of the ‘action’, as they repeatedly called it. With Aaj Tak’s Anjana Om Kashyap standing in the middle of a crowd that surrounded a bulldozer trying to advance towards its target, the channel said, ‘Action will begin in a short while.’ As if we were on the sets of a Mad Max film. ‘Watch the bulldozer in action,’ added the CNN News 18 reporter, rather awestruck by the mean machine ramming into a structure.
But nothing to beat NewsNation, which made a complete mockery of the seriousness of the situation with banner promos proclaiming, ‘Jahan action wahan NewsNation’.
While the reporters did not wave their arms and legs in all directions, a least one of them, from Zee Hindustan, succeeded in climbing on to one of the bulldozers. Aaj Tak’s Kashyap got as close as she could to the demolitions and kept ordering people to get out of the camera’s view.
Others rushed here and there speaking to the police, the mayor of North Delhi and local residents. Even after the Supreme Court had stayed the ‘Bulldozer entry’ (NDTV 24×7), the reporters were as indefatigable as Nisar, showing us the ruins of the day left behind by ‘9 bulldozers’ ‘30 demolitions’ (Times Now) and playing ‘Bulldozer politics’ by pitting Congress, AAP and BJP representatives against each other. ‘Message for pelterjeevis? BJP lauds riots nyay’ Congress attacks ‘manmani’ (CNN News 18).
Visually, the demolition looked bad: to see buildings being razed while the residents stood, helplessly, looking on was not a pretty sight. And the reporters were conflicted: on the one hand, most of them, disingenuously, did all they could to justify the sudden action — this drive takes place every six months, said the Times Now reporter, it is a ‘usual’ drive by MCD. The CNN News 18 correspondent said the local people were ‘thankful’ to the authorities for alerting them about the drive so they could pack up their belongings and move them elsewhere — seriously? Zee News said this was regular action against ‘illegal encroachments’.
But what none of them asked themselves was – should the drive have been conducted in a situation which Kashyap said was ‘volatile’, four days after the violence during the Shoba yatra? Also, if it was just business as usual, why were the news channels out there in full force boasting of ‘24 cameras’ (Zee Hindustan) and the largest team of reporters (Times Now Navbharat)?
On the other hand, reporters from all news channels were scrupulous in pointing out that the demolition continued well after the Supreme Court’s stay order — and showing us the continuing ‘action’; they were equally careful to focus on the residents, most of whom were very, very angry. Times Now spoke to those who claimed they had ‘papers’ to prove the building legally belonged to them. Aaj Tak caught up with a woman who said no notice had been given and was crying out her eyes—there were many more such stories by reporters who seemed genuinely shocked by the events they had witnessed.
Lastly, if Shazia Nisar had been at Jahangirpuri, what would she had done? Just asking…
Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)