What must they think of Delhi?
Those who don’t live in India’s capital but have watched the news on television in the last five days will have seen the following:
Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate shrouded in dirty, grey glue.
India-Bangladesh cricket match seen through a smokescreen.
Politicians break the law.
Lawyers and police clobber each other — all because of a parking problem.
Lawyers clobber everyone in sight.
Lawyers shut down courts.
Police block streets.
“Unprecedented,” declared all TV news channels in unison.
“The same pictures” with “screaming headlines” are being seen across India, bemoaned BJP’s Tom Vadakkan (NewsX).
“It’s a terrible situation in the national capital,” declared journalist Vishnu Som, NDTV 24×7.
“Who wants such scenes broadcast?” asked a CNN News18 anchor.
Good times, bad times
All weekend, as the Air Quality Index (AQI) plummeted to give Delhi the sad distinction of being the world’s most polluted city, TV news reporters and anchors, like NDTV’s Sanket Upadhyay, bravely stepped out into the ‘gas chamber’ — without masks — to describe the atmospherics.
“FarmFiresChokeDelhi” gasped Times Now; do we have the “right to breathe?” asked CNN News18. This is the “Death of Delhi”, mourned NewsX.
“This is the best time to be in India,” screamed headlines all the way from Bangkok, quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a speech to business leaders. India may be, Delhi definitely not.
Ask the Indian and Bangladeshi cricketers who had to play their first T20 match at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Ground (now renamed Arun Jaitley Stadium) in a haze (Star Sports). This was no advertisement for the game, that’s for sure.
Lawless lawyers, justice-seeking police
Then, just as the pall appeared to lift and the AQI was only ‘very poor’ in TV news headlines, the air reverberated with agitated cries: “We want justice, we want justice, we want justice.” Delhi Police officers and their families held a dharna outside the police headquarters, Tuesday, to protest attacks on their colleagues by lawyers over the weekend and Monday — video clips of both incidents were repeatedly shown by news channels.
While it was an angry yet peaceful demonstration, TV was grim with alarm.
“Police Revolt’’ (Times Now) in “Capital Clash” (India Today); “Black coats versus khakhi uniform” (ABP News); the “biggest” protests since “Nirbhaya” (CNN News18); “Never seen before protests,” added Republic TV as lawyers continued protests into Wednesday. “This is not coming to an end very soon,” said India Today’s reporter as we watched a lawyer try to immolate himself.
In this “Law v/s Order” battle (Zee News), TV news was very clearly taking sides: “#CopsFightBack,” said Republic TV. “Our protectors took to the streets demanding justice,” added Mirror Now; “First time the police are agitating for justice for themselves,” said NDTV 24×7, noting the irony.
“Police say ‘hum ghulam hain’,” reported India TV. Times Now captured their ‘hurt’ in a series of photographs from the protests where placards expressed the pain of police officers.
Reporters spent the entire Tuesday among the aggrieved Delhi Police officers, who, rather surprisingly for the ones in uniform, were very willing to be candid on camera and speak candidly speak about their grievances.
It ended late in the evening with a candlelight vigil — by far the most pleasing sight we had seen from Delhi in the last week.
The ‘odd’ BJP leader
It was far more edifying than the sight of Delhi BJP leader Vijay Goel, a former union minister, deliberately breaking the law. Goel flouted the Arvind Kejriwal government’s odd-even rule for private vehicles in Delhi, Monday.
He didn’t care that as a senior politician, he was sending the wrong message to everyone watching him on television.
His sole objective was to gain publicity, and in that, he succeeded admirably: from mid-morning until the prime time debates at 9 pm, he was in the headlines: “Vijay Goel defies odd-even” (Republic TV).
Everyone from Navika Kumar (Times Now) to Rahul Kanwal (India Today) interviewed him, which is precisely what he wanted – when was the last time they had spoken to him, let alone given him a starring role?
Of course, the anchors recognised his Machiavellian designs! “You are playing politics,” Kanwal said accusingly; Vijay Goel wants to be the next chief minister, Navika Kumar told Goel.
Exclusively for India, from the world
In search of cleaner climes, news channels travelled far and wide. But none went further than WION, which had a “World Exclusive” on Monday — never mind that India Today claimed the same “World Exclusive” on Wednesday.
WION travelled to Israel to spy on the NSO Group, the company behind the Pegasus WhatsApp breach. Its reporter Daniele Pagani came up with several revelations: the company’s nameplate had been removed from its premises, the offices were empty, all senior personnel were missing, telephone numbers had been removed, and the website was down.
That suggests you won’t be seeing ‘World Exclusive’ interviews with the NSO Group any time soon.
Let’s end on a happier note with an unusual advertisement: at a jewellery shop, the wife wants to buy a necklace. When the cost is more than what she can afford, her husband offers to pay for it but she insists that she must purchase it with her own money. The wily shopkeeper suggests she use Google Pay and the matter is settled. As she explains, she wanted to buy the piece with money from her first salary. She then puts the gold chain around her husband’s neck.
How’s that for a gender-bender?