Gosh, have you ever seen so many people on the streets making the headlines? From the thousands who bid ‘Alvida Maharani’ (ABP News) to Britain’s Queen Elisabeth II before her final journey—one ‘fit for the television queen’, said an Al Jazeera reporter—to public protests in England because ‘Hindus Under Attack’ (India TV) after clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims. From Iran’s ‘Anti-Hijab Revolution’ (Republic TV) to Chandigarh University students’ protests against the ‘MMS scandal’ (Mirror Now), there were people just about everywhere.
We also saw student protests at Allahabad University in Prayagraj because of a fee hike (NDTV India) and at Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar after a student, reportedly, died by suicide.
And why don’t television viewers rise up in unison against the barrage of ‘Sadda Kam Bolda’ TV commercials singing (literally) praises of the Bhagwant Singh Mann government in Punjab and which appear more often on the news than the news?
We are heartily sick of them—they are a nuisance and go down very badly when rumours that Punjab’s ‘drunk’ chief minister was ‘deplaned’ on a flight from Frankfurt fill the airwaves. What could be more incongruous than to see happy, smiling faces in the promos straight after watching students’ outraged protests over alleged video leaks of a female student at Mohali’s Chandigarh University being widely circulated?
Set aside the question of money spent on these long-running TV campaigns, across all news channels, mind you: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) advertisements do the party more harm than good.
TV channel calls Chandigarh incident ‘MMS kand’
Likewise, the ‘hostel washroom video scandal’ (Mirror Now) is doing nobody any good, including news channels that focused their attention on the ‘massive protests’ by students on Sunday and Monday. The scenes we were shown of the university premises looked pretty chaotic: Hundreds of indignant students alleging all manner of indignities to reporters—crude WhatsApp messages, obscene photos, videos of female students in various stages of undress and even allegations of attempted suicide (later debunked) and negligence by university authorities.
Faithfully, news channels recorded the allegations and anger, but mercifully, we saw none of the alleged offending videos. What did we see? A warden scolding the student who apparently shared the videos, another clip of a warden-student face-off over whom to blame for the entire sorry episode, and interviews with students and the police. The latter said they had found no evidence, thus far, of videos that outraged anyone’s modesty.
In the absence of any clear picture, the news channels looked at the ‘dirty picture’ (Zee News): One report claimed the girl had admitted shooting ‘objectionable videos’ (Mirror Now); NDTV India showed us washrooms where students were reportedly ‘compromised’; TV9 Bharatvarsh asked who was the ‘mastermind’ behind the ‘MMS kand’; students told Times Now Navbharat that the girl has videos of many other girls – if she had shot videos of only herself, as she and the police claimed, why was she being arrested, asked one student? Why indeed.
Times Now Navbharat was one of the first news channels to suggest there was ‘Mumbai se Mohali connection’, while TV9 spoke darkly of an ‘international racket’ as well as blackmail behind the videos. Zee News said the international connection was in Canada.
Channels claimed there were videos of 60 girls – ‘Are your daughters safe?’, demanded India TV. It spoke of devious plots by the university and the police to cover up the incident. Oooh, this has all the makings of a juicy conspiracy….
Alas, none of the channels offered any proof of their claims or allegations.
But didn’t the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur just say something about, “Real journalism is about facing the facts, presenting the truth….’’?
Plot shifts quickly to ‘Hijab Hungama’
The ‘MMS’ controversy is not the only one with a foreign link. In continuing coverage of ‘Hijab Hungama’ (CNN News18) with the Supreme Court hearing a batch of petitions against the ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions of Karnataka, Republic TV led in news channels connecting the dots – in this case, to the anti–hijab protests in Iran.
First, there were regular updates on the arguments presented in the SC by the various sides in the ‘Hijab row’, the more sensational the better: ‘Hijab adds dignity to women – Dave’ (India Today), ‘Hijab showdown: Karnataka Govt accuses PFI of controversy’ (Times Now).
Then, channels showed video clips of women on the streets in Iran raising slogans after Mahsa Amini died following her detention in Tehran by the morality police for not wearing a hijab. There were videos of Iranian women chopping off their hair and burning head scarves. Heady stuff.
Times Now called this a ‘strong message from Iran’ to Indian Muslims, while CNN News18 said, ‘Hijab row explodes, fury at morality police’. TV9 Bharatvarsh asked, ‘Will what happened in Iran, happen in India?’ There were learned discussions on the subject, too: ‘In Iran it’s no to hijab, in India it’s in classrooms’ was debated on India TV.
A new president
Back home in India, there’s much speculation over who will be the next president of the Congress party as the deadline for filing nominations draws close (latest by 30 September).
The best headline on this comes from India Today: ‘Kaun Banega King Cong’—loved it.
Views are personal.