Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Fun, frolic and suspense: Media has a field day in Rohtak

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Initial excitement gave way to frustration as reporters waited for the judge to pronounce Ram Rahim’s punishment

A neat row of tripods with video cameras mounted on them, facing the Sunaria Jail in Rohtak, is visible from a distance.

It’s 7 am and over 300 people, including newspaper and TV channel reporters, camerapersons and OB van staff have already gathered at a media enclosure of sorts, just a kilometre away from the jail, to cover Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s sentencing, scheduled for 2.30 pm. The self-styled spiritual guru was convicted in a rape case by a CBI court Friday.

Since most of the media people have reached well before the sentence is announced, there is nothing much to do but contemplate; what the baba will tell the court, how many years will he get, will the judge really come by a chopper?

Police behind barricades at Rohtak. Source: Nayanika Chatterjee /ThePrint

While some of them are busy planning different shots and their script, others are struggling for ideas for an ‘exclusive shot’, given the limited space. “Should we just go to the fields and find a way to the jail? But what if the security personnel catch us,” one of them says.

The other nods in agreement. He then comes up with another idea, “Let’s sit at the corner. And the moment the chopper comes, we will click the shots quietly. There is no need to get too excited,” a cameraperson says. The other appreciates the idea and both shake hands in agreement.

It’s 11.30 am and everyone now seems exhausted. Most of them have been camping there since 5 am and have done several lives for their respective channels, showing the same barricades and fields from all possible angles.

While the two men are busy discussing shots, staff of a TV channel gets bananas. The sight of fresh bananas elevates the mood a little. “Don’t eat these. These could be laced with poison. They have come from the dera,” shouts one and everyone cracks up.
Then follow anecdotes of how some journalists were served tea of the milk that was used to bathe baba Rampal during the crackdown in Hissar and some more jokes.

Reporters sharing bananas while waiting for the judgement. Source: Nayanika Chatterjee /ThePrint

As this session is on, a car enters and everyone gets alert. It’s the chief medical officer and an ambulance. Theories start floating around. “I think the baba is dead,” says one of them.
“What if he gets a heart attack?” adds another. “Something major is happening inside. Why did the chief medical officer go inside? Everyone then starts making calls and takes their positions before cameras to get across this important detail to their viewers.

The bananas are over and the water is nearly getting over as well. The only dhaba, located 100 metres away, has now increased the rate of his paranthas from Rs 30 to Rs 60, but no one has a choice.

Almost 2 pm and there is no sign of a chopper anywhere. “What will we report if the chopper doesn’t come,” shouts one. Then, another reporter comes running through the crowd. “There it is,” he says, pointing to the sky. All camera persons rush to that side, only finding it to be a hoax.


Policemen deployed ahead of the judgement in Rohtak. Source: Nayanika Chatterjee /ThePrint

A few minutes later, the chopper actually arrives and everyone rushes to capture the best shot. Finally, there is something different to show to the viewers.

Everyone starts gearing up again and starts calling their sources in a bid to break the news first. Rumours start pouring in. One shouts, “It’s life sentence,” and then starts laughing, just so that no one takes it seriously and runs it on the channel in a rush to break it first.
As everyone is waiting for the sentence, police personnel march from the other side and take position. There is commotion and everyone believes that it’s life sentence for the baba till a confirmation comes. It’s 20 years.

The frenzy begins again. All reporters take their corners to “go live”. “How can they talk so much,” a photographer from a newspaper wonders. “It’s just another day. And we are happy that it went off well. Baba has gone in for good. Time to relax now,” a reporter says, tucking his mike off in his pocket.

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