Mob on my TV set, 24×7

By T S Sudhir

“Is Maria Susairaj becoming a celebrity?” asked one of the country’s premier English news channels on Saturday night. This after an entire day of cameras chasing Maria relentlessly, from the jail to the church to the press conference. “Maria even held a presser,” said an anchor, mock-shocked. As if all the news channels were not badgering her lawyer for an `exclusive’ with Maria.

You can ignore most of what Ram Gopal Varma tweets but sometimes a gem escapes his fingers. Like this one : “The bottomline is that hate is a marketable commodity and right now hating Maria sells.” Leading Mob India is the frenzied media, keeping an eye on all that is wrong in our society. The other eye is looking at Wednesday, when the TRPs of the week will be out.

“Nation watches in outrage : Killer walks free” flashed on the screen of a channel as Maria stepped out of prison this afternoon. The implication was obvious. The judge was incompetent. The public prosecutor did not do his job. Maria lied and her lawyer made up stories. But the media will get justice for Neeraj Grover. I cannot help but agree with what Manmohan Singh said to editors this week : “That the media is becoming judge, jury and prosecution.”

Already parallels are being drawn to the Jessica Lall murder case, where the media, led a candle light crusade and brought the well-connected killers to book. But Jerome and Maria are not your Dilli’s politically connected trigger-happy (in this case, a knife) puppies. But yes, Maria Susairaj by virtue of being a wannabe actress, who stays alone in a big city like Mumbai and her questionable relationship with Grover, becomes a `slut’ for the moralistic media. And this `masala’ tale gives reason for news channels to hang her at the nearest square in town. Pop justice. Instant.
In the Grover case, the judge, going by the evidence before him, has concluded that she had no role to play in killing Grover but did help in destruction of evidence. For that the maximum punishment under Indian law is three years and she spent 3 years and 41 days in jail. So why is the media making it seem she got away scotfree. Or as Suhel Seth, the nation’s conscience keeper at 9 pm on every subject ranging from politics to crime to cricket to racism, said the other night : “Oh, the way she smiled as if cocking a snook …” Oh Suhel, now stop analysing every curve of the lip.
The case will go before the High court and perhaps even the Supreme court, where more qualified judges will look at the evidence before them. Why is the media in a hurry to get into black robes itself?

The fourth estate’s job is to provide news. But now the powerful medium is turning into a rabble rouser with a mob mentality. The country has seen how the overzealous media mishandled the Aarushi story. And now this baying for Maria’s blood, as if it has discovered a new Pakistan, is sickening.

We don’t even learn our lessons from what has happened just a day back in the case of the former IMF boss, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Kahn was accused in May of sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper and was declared guilty by an overzealous press which now doesn’t know where to duck as evidence unfolds that the housekeeper’s story does not quite hold together. How will it compensate for loss of Kahn’s reputation and honour?

Before screaming out headlines declaring public outrage and making themselves look like crusaders for justice, the media would have done well to introspect if they were asking the right questions. Was the rule of law subverted? Is there reason to believe that either the investigation or the judicial process was compromised?

I am not arguing Maria’s case. But remember, none of us were there that night to know the factual truth about what transpired. I fully empathise with what Neeraj’s parents and they have every right to demand justice for Neeraj. But to label Maria as a “C-grade actress and we know all about the chaal-chalan of such girls” is downright sexist and objectionable.

Meanwhile, Varma wants to cast Maria and predictably every channel has thrust his mike at him, as if he is going to remake Mother India. (Eeeks, no more remakes please, RGV). He talks about his `Rangeela’ and how Maria is a Rangeela gone wrong. Talk about milking a controversy. And we are told the `Bigg Boss’ team wants to put Maria under electronic survellience in a house for three months along with other equally “infamous” inmates.

Media `scrutiny’ has become voyeurism at its worst. India has bared the other face of its civil society and this one is `fast’ and furious.


(T S Sudhir is the Executive Editor of `The South Reports’)


About t s sudhir & uma sudhir

Uma Sudhir and T S Sudhir are senior journalists, based in Hyderabad. Both work for NDTV. Uma is a Tamilian, who was educated in
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One Response to Mob on my TV set, 24×7

  1. gjnanaswarup says:

    Have a heart . Maria told the press and media that Grover`s body was not cut into 300 pieces. Just 299 pieces. Benefit of doubt goes goes to Maria.

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