“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.
“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.”
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.
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’)