Dec 122012

My blog for Tehelka, last week

Photo: Tehelka Photo Archives


It is impossible to look at 26/11 and not discuss the role of the Media – especially TV news channels. As important as discussing the role of broadcast news, is also to ask if they have really learnt the lessons from the way they covered the news then.

No matter what news channels say, to justify the way they covered and presented news, the fact remains they were, at best, irresponsible. To know the extent of damage caused by the media during the 26/11 operations, one has to just read the Supreme Court of India verdict on KasabThe verdict quotes extensively from the transcripts between the terrorists and their handlers across the border. This is one except. :( Pg. 224)

Jis taraf aap mude ho aapka munh samudr ke paas hua. Wahan mod ke road ke upar ek building hai civil logon ki. Woh asal mein Navy ki hai. Woh civil ko di hai. Uskey taraf do jagah police waale khade hain. Woh position lekar aapke upar shisht lekar firing kar rahe hain. Jis tarah aap gaye hain. Uske peechey se aakar aapko fire karna padhega. Theek hai.

The way you have turned, you should be facing the sea. There, at the corner of the road, there is a building of civilian people. In reality that belongs to the Navy. It is given to the civilians. Over there, policemen are standing at two places. They have taken position and, taking aim at you, they are firing at you. The way you have gone you would have to come from behind and fire at them. You understand?

Aapki building ke upar fauji apni position bahut mazboot kar  rahi hain. Number ek.
On the top of your building the soldiers are making their position very strong. Number one .

The reason why the handlers, sitting in another country, were able to pinpoint accurately – the position of policemen and soldiers sent to flush out the terrorists  was because they were watching it live on Television.  Indian News Television Channels.

The Honourable judges took cognisance of this. In their judgement they have a separate section that looks at the role of the news media. They list a number of occasions, in the verdict, and state that there are several more.  (pg.247)

The reckless coverage of the terrorist attack by the channels thus gave rise to a situation where on the one hand the terrorists were completely hidden from the security forces and they had no means to know their exact position or even the kind of firearms and explosives they possessed and on the other hand the positions of the security forces, their weapons and all their operational movements were being watched by the collaborators across the border on TV screens and being communicated to the terrorists.

The judges state that they cannot say

whether the security forces actually suffered any casualty or injuries on account of the way their operations were being displayed on the TV screen. But it is beyond doubt that the way their operations were freely shown made the task of the security forces not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky

This was an event that took place four years ago. The SC verdict was delivered in August of this year. Kasab has been hanged. But, the question that remains  is what of the media? What of their sense of responsibility & discretion. Be it the Guwahati molestation, or the Mantralaya fire, or indeed, the coverage of Balasaheb Thackeray‘s death and live transmission of his funeral across channels, the media seems to have once again traded responsibility for ratings.

Self regulation is a promise that has been dangled for almost a decade. But, it is not working. While Government intervention is avoidable, there may be a via media. Since the media tends to be fond of Ombudsmen, let us have an independent one that is not made up of people who are currently engaged in the production and monetization of news. And let us do this, before media coverage ends up causing a riot, or costing lives.

Oct 272007

You must have been on moon not to have not heard and be struck by [tag]Tehelka[/tag]‘s expose on the Gujarat riots, in the words of the men who committed murder, rape, and carnage.

THERE WAS no spontaneity to what happened in Gujarat post- Godhra. This was no uncontrived, unplanned, unprompted communal violence. This was a pogrom. This was genocide.

In a series of articles, the magazine strips away the masks to reveal the glee and joy at carnage. This goes beyond a pogrom – it becomes a pogrom led by people who enjoy violence and perpetuating it. In addition to the stories, read the diary of [tag]Ashish Khetan[/tag], the man who possibly put his life at risk, in carrying out this report. Read it here

If you have seen [tag]Rakesh Sharma’s Final Solution [/tag] or read [tag]Dionne Bunsha[/tag]‘s [tag]Scarred : Experiments with Violence in Gujarat[/tag]- the contents expose will not come as a surprise, unless you are the BJP.But, what is shocking is the systematic and co-ordinated manner in which psychopaths practiced their craft.

….local BJP MLA Mayaben Kodnani, who is also a doctor…..drove around Naroda all through the day, urging the mob to hunt Muslims down and kill them. Kodnani’s trusted lieutenant, BJP member Bipin Panchal, was also present with his own small band of followers, armed to the teeth. All through the massacre, Bajrangi and VHP state general secretary Jaideep Patel were on the phone with each other. Bajrangi did not reveal whether Patel was also involved in the planning. However, he did say that the death toll was being communicated to Patel at regular intervals.


Be very afraid, say [tag]Tarun Tejpal[/tag] – editor in chief of Tehelka, in his foreword to one of the most chilling journalistic pieces that I have ever seen and heard. And co-ordinated and planned manner in which the saffron brigade organised themselves, and the casualness with which they committed murder, and the utter lack of remorse that they show on camera – does more than scare you, it terrifies you.

Anil Patel, the VHP vibhag pramukh (departmental chief), was among the key planners of the carnage here. He told TEHELKA that after the Sabarmati incident, he had taken a vow to kill at least 500 Muslims, failing which he would relinquish the VHP office he was holding. “Our war cry was ‘Lock the door from outside and burn the Muslims from the inside’,” Patel told TEHELKA.


Read the transcript of [tag]Baba Bajrangi[/tag] and you will be more than afraid, you are most likely to end up throwing up what ever is in your stomach.

TEHELKA: Tell us how it was all done… revolvers… cylinders… Bajrangi: The cylinders were theirs [the Muslims’]… Whichever house we entered, we just grabbed the cylinder and fired at it, and, dhadak, they exploded… We had guns in any case… I can’t tell you what a good time it was… But four of our activists died in it… No hearing took place even in that… TEHELKA: Did you climb to the top of a masjid and tie a pig there? Bajrangi:We rammed an entire tanker into it… the tanker was fully laden… We rammed that tanker inside… TEHELKA: It was a petrol tanker, no? Bajrangi: It was diesel… We drove a whole diesel tanker in and then set [the mosque] on fire… TEHELKA: Meaning, it was the tanker explosion which set Patiya on fire? Bajrangi: In the masjid… TEHELKA: In the masjid… Bajrangi: As for the rest of it, I was in charge at the time… Whatever I wanted to do, I did… TEHELKA: At the pit, was oil… Those people had gathered there… Bajrangi: It was a huge pit… You could enter it from one side but you couldn’t climb out at the other end… They were all there together… They started clinging to each other… Even while they were dying, they told each other, you die too, what are you going to be saved for, you die too… so the number of deaths increased. TEHELKA: Then people poured oil in… Bajrangi: Oil and burning tyres… TEHELKA: Where did the oil come from? Bajrangi: Oh that… We had lots of material with us… we filled lots of jerrycans in advance… From the petrol pump, the night before… Petrol pump owners gave us petrol and diesel for free…


Today too I am fighting against Muslims and will continue to do so… I have nothing to do with politics… What I say is this: the VHP is an organisation… a Hindu organisation… Our politics should be limited to killing Muslims, beating them up… TEHELKA: How do you feel after you have killed Muslims… Bajrangi: Maza aata hai na, saheb [I enjoy it]… I came back after I killed them them, called up the home minister and went to sleep… I felt like Rana Pratap, that I had done something like Maharana Pratap… I’d heard stories about him, but that day I did what he did myself.

This is Suresh Richard – a member of the Charra tribe – a recruit to the VHP talking about murder and rape…

Richard: One of our brothers brought a tanker… from Thakar Nagar crossroad…. He’d killed Muslims and brought the tanker. It was put in reverse and the mosque was broken… [It burst] like water out of a fire engine… Petrol was thrown and then it was burnt…

TEHELKA: who brought the tanker? Richard: A brother brought it… TEHELKA: From the VHP… Richard: Not that… He was a Hindu brother… Those who were inside… they were all finished … TEHELKA: It is being said the Chharas also committed rapes… Richard: Now look, one thing is true… bhookhe ghuse to koi na koi to phal khayega, na [when thousands of hungry men go in, they will eat some fruit or the other, no]… Aise bhi, phal ko kuchal ke phek denge [in any case, the fruit are going to be crushed and thrown away]… Look, I’m not telling lies… Mata is before me [gesturing to an image of a deity]… Many Muslim girls were being killed and burnt to death anyway, some people must have helped themselves to the fruit… TEHELKA: There must have been a couple of rapes… Richard: Might even have been more… then there were the rest of our brothers, our Hindu brothers, VHP people and RSS people… Anyone could have helped themselves… who wouldn’t, when there’s fruit?… The more you harm them, the less it is… I really hate them… don’t want to spare them… Look, my wife is sitting here but let me say…the fruit was there so it had to be eaten… I also ate… I also ate… I ate once TEHELKA: Just once? Richard: Just once… then I had to go killing again… [turns to relative Prakash Rathod and talks about the girl he had raped and killed]… That scrap-dealer’s girl, Naseemo… Naseemo that juicy plump one… I got on top… TEHELKA: You got on top of her… Richard: Yes, properly… TEHELKA: She didn’t survive, did she? Richard: No, then I pulped her… Made her into a pickle…

And all of this under the tutelage of the man who is the next great hope for the [tag]BJP{/tag]. [tag]Narendra Modi[/tag]‘s party has reacted to it in its typical way — by going into collective denial Not us, conspiracy, The Congress Information Agency (CIA) – while describing Tehelka, politically motivated, etal.. And, while all of it may be true….. the fact remains that the people on camera aren’t secular lackeys or Congress stooges, … they are members of the saffron family gloating about murder and rape.

Isn’t it about time that the full force of the law is brought down on these people, and justice is delivered?