We all know what happened to Anjali, a young woman, driving home on her two-wheeler with her friend Nidhi in the early hours of 1 January. She died in a car drive-around. The five occupants of the car were arrested.
“It was an accident,” said the Delhi Police to the media on Monday morning. “(All the forensic reports) making this clear – it was accident,” reiterated a Republic TV reporter, Wednesday morning.
And yet, in the four-hour period between these two statements, what did the television news channels do? Did they immediately plaster photographs of the five accused young men who, according to reports, admitted they were ‘drunk’ while they circled around in their car, dragging Anjali with them, for over 13 km? At least that’s what Zee News claimed Wednesday.
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The ‘speculative journalism’
Did they identify the culprits, visit their homes, try to speak to their family, friends? Did they retrace their movements before and after the incident? Did they paint them as villains? Well, that’s what they did in the Shraddha and Tunisha death cases, so it’s reasonable to assume they went hammer and tongs after the alleged offenders, particularly after they made comments like, ‘Accident nahin, murder hai’ (ABP News) and ask ‘Another Nirbhaya?’ (India TV). Did they do any of this?
No. Instead, they squarely blamed Delhi Police for its ‘laparvahi’.
Even more puzzling was their focus, on Tuesday and Wednesday, in tracing events before the incident and Nidhi’s behaviour besides alleged police negligence. The post mortem findings were reported but news channels were looking for something more sensational.
So they obsessed over unrelated CCTV clips and tried to ram them together in their jigsaw puzzle – of course it made no sense.
Curiouser and curiouser, the identity and activities of the accused didn’t interest TV reporters at all — photographs of the accused appeared only Tuesday afternoon on channels like News 18 India. Instead, throughout Monday, we were shown ‘chilling’ (NDTV 24×7) footage of the Baleno making a U-turn, with Anjali being pulled along.
Most of Tuesday was divided between inquiries at the Oyo hotel — where according to hotel staff, the two women “party karne aaye the” with boys (TV9 Bharatvarsh) – and the CCTV footage that revealed the victim was with her friend. The CCTV footage appeared to have captured an altercation between the duo. That was enough for TV to ready its questionnaire: Who was Nidhi? What happened? And why did she run away?
By early evening, the first interviews with Nidhi emerged – saw one on Aaj Tak. She made several claims about the accident, the party which included Anjali’s supposed ‘boyfriend’ and an argument between them.
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Feasting on fresh info
Wednesday was all about Nidhi’s comments. She spoke of Anjali consuming alcohol and the timing of the accident—both at variance with the post mortem report and eyewitness accounts.
Outraged news channels latched on to these and suddenly, the story became all about Nidhi.
Headlines read: ‘Whisper campaign begins against Anjali?’ (India Today); ‘Does Nidhi’s version really add up?’ (Republic TV)’ ‘(Anjali’s) Family questions Nidhi’ (CNN New 18 India); ‘Is Nidhi lying?’ (New 18 India).
TV reporters tracked down the victim’s neighbor, a shop assistant who helped charge her phone. Isn’t it odd that Nidhi should receive such attention while the alleged culprits are ignored?
The Delhi Police came in for some serious flak and stern questioning over its tardy response and security measures: ‘The police were sleeping’, said Times Now Navbharat; ‘How did the PCR take so long to answer? Why didn’t anyone try to stop the Baleno?’ asked India Today. ‘Loopholes in police investigation’, ‘Police are trying to play down the case’, asserted Zee News.
Woman reporters retraced the Baleno’s journey and fanned out across the capital’s outskirts, Tuesday– they found no police patrols, no police kiosks, no police barricades. This, after the police had claimed 18,000 police personnel would be on duty 31 December night. ‘Why is Delhi Police running away from questions?’ demanded Republic TV.
Well, we have a few questions for news channels: What’s this garbled guftagoo (conversation) you’ve been concocting over the last three days? What are you trying to tell us? That Delhi police is to blame? That Nidhi has a role? That the ‘party’ at Hotel Oyo had something to do with the accident? Who wants all the gory details in blurred CCTV footage, anyway?
And, lastly, why are you so insensitive? You ask Anjali’s bereaved mother ‘Did Anjali go to parties, drink?’ and emblazon headlines saying, ‘Anjali’s brain matter missing’ (CNN News 18 India).
What’s wrong with you?
Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)