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HomeOpinionTele-scopeTV news relived 'Sushant, one year later’. But Galwan anniversary coverage disappointing

TV news relived ‘Sushant, one year later’. But Galwan anniversary coverage disappointing

TV news revisiting SSR’s death a year later shows their inability to look into the mirror and recognise themselves as key players in the case.

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Writing this column has an eerie sensation to it: as if a lizard just crawled down the spine. Almost a year ago — 18 June 2020 to be precise — Tele-scope dwelt on the television news coverage of the death by suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput and the Galwan valley clash between India and China, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed in action.

Twelve months later, we are back where we were then: on Monday, news channels chased the imagined ‘truth’ and equally elusive ‘Justice for Sushant’ (Republic TV); on Tuesday, they were saluting ‘Galwan Gallantry’ (Times Now) – almost exactly as they had done about a year ago.

But there are some subtle differences: the Galwan anniversary was almost an afterthought on most of the news channels. Oddly, channels found developments like the ‘chacha-bhatija’ family drama in the Lok Janshakti Party, the kissa of an elderly Muslim man assaulted in Ghaziabad, an Akali Dal protest rally in Mohali and nine Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs apparently keen to join the Samajwadi Party, far more interesting.

Also read: Mystical Modi to migrating Jitin Prasada — News channels offer ‘real’ entertainment

Sushant, flashback and reruns

As for Sushant Singh Rajput, we were made to relive the events of last summer/autumn when for over three-and-a-half months news channels hunted down the ‘truth of his murder’ (‘Who Killed Sushant?’ CNN News18) and came up with nothing but plots for a Bollywood potboiler — “a full blown whodunit” is what India Today called it Monday.

Remember? A star, his family, friends, employees, a wily ‘temptress girlfriend’, a controversial death, psychotropic drugs, parties, politics, the police, Bollywood’s dynasts versus Kangana Ranaut, the dead man’s fake autopsy (ABP News) and even his atma (Aaj Tak) were paraded before us, accompanied by WhatsApp chats, letters, sting operations, video snatches, hearsay, and a mish-mash of medical views on depression and suicide.

Nothing came of these efforts and then in October, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences’ forensic team found that suicide was the likely cause of death.

On Monday, news channels such as Aaj Tak, India Today, CNN News 18, Times Now, Republic TV were chasing after the same ghosts, asking the same questions — ‘Family awaits justice/Global Movement/Questions remain unanswered’, proclaimed Republic TV and played footage of SSR to the song ‘Starry Starry Night’.

On ‘A star who faded too soon’, Times Now questioned the investigations by the CBI, ED and NCB that went on ‘longer than we thought’. It interviewed former Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey who said that a resolution would be reached “very soon”. Rajput’s friend Sunil Shukla said he wanted to see those responsible for his death behind bars.

Zee News also demanded answers – why is CBI taking so long? It interviewed Rajput’s fans, one of whom wanted to know about ‘his murder’. India Today reconstructed the entire melodrama ‘Sushant, one year later’. Aaj Tak demanded the result of all the investigations by the different agencies — what was the cause of his death, it asked, we have a right to know. ‘Nothing has proved foul play’, concluded India Today. 

CNN News 18 telecast ‘Death of Star’, which looked at the ‘tamasha’ around his death. It said CBI has still not revealed if it was suicide or murder. The news channel went through the entire gamut of events and also arrived at the conclusion that there was ‘zero evidence of murder’. And yet, the doubts persisted.

The supreme irony? News channels continued to ask questions about Rajput’s death; they demanded answers from the investigating agencies. They examined all the ‘evidence’, all the possible key players but other than CNN News 18’s Shreya Doundiyal who remarked, “Was this a collective failure of our fairness?” No news channel asked any questions of themselves.

This inability to look into the mirror and recognise themselves as key players in the SSR case, the ones who virtually held a media trial, found Rhea Chakraborty guilty (of something, never mind what), besmirched the reputation of many in Bollywood without any proof, and propagated the idea of Rajput’s murder relentlessly over 90-odd days, still seem unwilling to be accountable even as they demand accountability of others.

So one year on, we will remember Rajput for his films but equally for his life — and his death — being laid bare on television.

Moving on from Monday to Tuesday and to the Galwan anniversary.

Also read: Aaj Tak, Zee News crossed all lines covering Sushant death, but went ‘silent’ on 20 soldiers

On TV, India defeated China

China was being held to account, but not for its incursions at the LAC. Instead, it was the possible leak of the coronavirus from its Wuhan laboratory where in a ‘world exclusive’ CNN News 18 discovered ‘Bats inside cages’. Ugh.

The rest of the coverage was disappointing. It isn’t clear why the channels you would have expected to pay the greatest tributes to the Galwan ‘heroes’, were inexplicably and literally, missing in action: DD News, the national broadcaster and Republic TV went to Ladakh and returned hastily while channels such as ABP News and NDTV were barely seen there at all on Tuesday. Where were the lengthy shows or even discussions on those fateful days in June 2020 when, according to Lt Gen Y K Joshi, Commanding Officer, Northern Command, “we were on the edge…”?

It took the likes of News Nation to give us an update on the situation. The channel said the PLA was still active in the areas. CNN News 18 also examined where things stand, one year later, and one expert said it all — it seems ‘China has dug in its heels’.

Zee News went all patriotic: “We witnessed China’s arrogance being cut to size,” it said, adding that China lost to a ‘new India’. The visuals accompanying this were of an all-out battle with guns and tanks blazing, alarmingly. Times Now had a touching tribute with interviews of some of the slain soldiers’ widows. It also offered us an animated comic version of the fight at Galwan, which was clever but reduced the ‘brave martyrs’ to toy soldiers.

India TV launched an attack on the Congress’ ‘hamla’ on the government, when the party asked it to come clean on what exactly happened last year. Times Now also deplored Asaduddin Owaisi’s demand of ‘accountability’ from the government — on a day that India paid tribute to those killed. Which, of course, begs the question, why did these news channels waste time debating these political comments instead of simply recalling ‘how India defeated China’ (Zee News) or paying homage to the armed forces?

Just asking.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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