I am writing from a distance where I presume the newly anointed liberal furies won’t get to me. Once upon a time, lynch mobs used to roam the streets. After the Tehelka scandal, they seem to have moved into TV newsrooms, ready to pounce on perceived heretics. In the so-called debates on TV on the Tarun Tejpal rape case, I have seen fellow-liberals display disturbing levels of intolerance, the sort once associated with right-wing fanatics. A waspish illiberalism that belonged to the fringes has gone mainstream and become respectable: woe betide anyone who dares to stray from the script. Try offering a comment the TV vigilantes do not want to hear. You’ll be lucky to keep your dignity intact.
People with impeccable liberal credentials have been gagged or shouted down for suggesting that the law take its own course. Journalist Padma Rao Sundarji was humiliated and forced to shut up by NDTV anchor Barkha Dutt and co-panelists Shobha De and Kavita Krishnan. She had dared to say that the media “vilification of both the victim and the villain” was wrong and that, under the law, Tejpal had the right to have his “version” heard. The three-pronged attack so terrified her that she maintained a discreet silence for the rest of the discussion. On another show, Alyque Padamsee was bullied (as he put it) after an anchor interrupted him mid-sentence to chide him patronisingly that she was disappointed with him for cautioning the media against rushing to judgement. His offence: saying that it was for the courts to decide, and that, even if it was an open-and-shut case, the courts would have to hear both the prosecution and the defence. On one channel, the mild-mannered Anil Dharker’s argument against “media overkill” was smothered with high-decibel interruptions and he was effectively told to keep his unfashionable views to himself.
No one in his sane mind would support Tejpal. But, like it or not, we have the rule of law and a judicial process we are rightly proud of. Remember how we crowed about giving Ajmal Kasab the chance to defend himself? In the eyes of the law, Tejpal is deemed innocent until proved guilty, however unpardonable the alleged offence. The media cannot set itself up as judge, jury and executioner on the basis that the accused has forfeited all legal rights because of his despicable actions. This was the drift of the argument Padma and Alyque were trying to make when they were shouted down.
Let’s not turn a principled fight into a bandwagon onto which fame-seekers leap, alienating genuine liberals. Politicians are being shameless: the BJP’s Arun Jaitley joked about “secular” rape; my old colleague and friend Chandan Mitra chuckled that “secularism is the last resort of rapists”. This is not only distasteful, it trivialises the issue. The lynch mobs in the TV studios should run after Jaitley, Chandan and their ilk not after Padma, Alyque and Dharker.
Television honchos have tried to claim high moral ground, saying they should in fact be complimented for having put Tejpal, a fellow journalist, under scrutiny and that, if they had ignored the story, they’d have been accused of protecting him. Clearly, that’s disingenuous, a clever-by-half attempt to obfuscate the real issue, which is not about choosing between zero coverage and overkill, as Dharker pointed out, but about striking a balance. More importantly, it is about the thrust of the coverage, which, in this case, has for the most part sounded like a media trial. Tejpal’s bail plea was fine-tooth-combed for flaws, friends of the girl were interviewed to debunk his claims.
What next? Summon the defendant to We the People for cross-examination? I’m surprised how some top lawyers have become a party to this extra-legal farce. Trial by the media has a notorious history and has been responsible for gross miscarriages of justice. Alfred Dreyfus, a French army officer of Jewish descent, was wrongly convicted of passing French secrets to Germany largely because of an anti-Semitic press. The fin de siecle scandal remains an infamous example of how a media trial can influence public opinion and affect the course of justice.
The trend is more recent in India, and identified mostly with the electronic media. To be fair, the partisan coverage of certain stories, especially those involving high-profile public figures, is often less to do with political motives than with the pressure of the 24/7 TV news cycle. However, the Tejpal case is unique in that TV anchors are declaring that they have decided to “take sides” in order to highlight the enormity of the alleged offence and protect the victim against attempts to “intimidate” her. Sorry, you can’t continue to take sides once the legal processes kick in, however noble your motives. In Britain, media reporting is heavily restricted after a person has been arrested and charged. There are strict contempt of court rules to prevent biased coverage, and newspapers have been prosecuted for “taking sides”. Legal niceties apart, I’m concerned about the new “hang ’em, flog ’em” culture. Calm down before someone gets hurt.
(The writer is a former correspondent of The Hindu.)
Apropos of the Hasan Suroor column, Let’s Frame This Debate... (Dec 16), the Tejpal case was a chance to raise some pertinent questions regarding the new anti-rape law. For instance, isn’t it a strange mockery of law that Tarun Tejpal and the Nirbhaya accused would have the same charge against them? But everything was drowned out by the TV vigilantes.
B. Madhusree, Calcutta
Crucifying people in the name of ‘open justice’ has reached sickening levels. The decibel levels are so high and violent on TV that sane voices are hardly audible now.
M.K. John Britto, Chennai
I don’t expect the Indian media to ever come out with the truth, but even investigation and analysis is beyond their feeble intellect. That Tejpal is guilty of immoral conduct he himself has confessed. Apart from that, I haven’t seen a shred of evidence pointing to criminality. It’s a no-brainer the BJP wanted to fix this politically adverse media outfit.
Rajesh, Phoenix, US
The author’s mind is conditioned by the environment in which he lives (the UK) where a normal police investigation is not influenced by politics. Tejpal has also contributed to the hang-the-guilty vigilantism with his two e-mails where he virtually accepted the allegation of molestation. Goa CM Manohar Parrikar also did not come out of this well with his personal directions to the police on how to carry out the investigation.
Hilary Pais, Bangalore
When newspapers and TV channels whose duty it is to serve as the ‘Hyde Park corner’ of the public themselves muzzle the citizen’s voice—as they increasingly do when the opinion is inconvenient to them—the common man can’t even go to court citing freedom of expression and Article 19 of the Constitution. Today the Indian media, through such insidious censorship, is a graver threat to democracy than the state can ever be.
Ramesh Ramachandra, Bangalore
It costs so little to be part of a lynchmob. It requires zero brains, and there are no consequences to worry about.
This was a well-planned case by the BJP to trap Tejpal. They have had their revenge sting operation on him.
Ramesh Raghuvanshi, Pune
G. Vikram, Mumbai
Why can't people on this forum accept Parthsarathy/Male_Unblocked/Misogynist for who he is, Left-wing, Wahabi, Crank?
68 D Ramki
Kejriwal has not declared an open stand on male rights. This is only political correctness / posturing, because of the LACK of awareness among males about the infringment on their rights, and media black out of their protests. This lack of awareness, needless to say, is due to media brainwashing and denial.
Much of the anti-male policies that the Congress brought, were due to the lack of opposition from opposition parties, including the BJP. The reason for this, is not only political correctness, but also corruption. Even their own allies could simply be 'bought off' with lucrative posts. Each had a price.
At this rate, the Congress may have even passed the 'Male Ban Bill' easily now, except that, their luck ran out with the public, who do not want it to return to power. Otherwise, under the cover of a media blitz, they would have bought off the opposition with lucrative offers, and fulfilled this secret, anti-male, agenda with no problems.
The ONLY reason Kejriwal is better from a MRA PoV, is that he will tackle corruption and bring in better governance, especially the judiciary. This is very important, and can happen only when vested feminist interests and corruption are removed from the equation.
Of Course, I agree with you, that Kejriwal ( and EVERY SINGLE PARTY ), must spell out their policy wrt to the anti-male laws that have already been passed, and are in the pipe line. That is an ideal world. I hope they do, too.
You are free to accuse me of by BJP leanings. I am openly accepting that I am a Right of Center, Strongly Conservative, Hindu Nationalist, BJP/NDA supporter. But let us discuss about you. Are you really a MRA (Male Right Activist)? You are a pseudo MRA, your agenda is hyperagitating against some imaginary ghost who is keeping on talking about need to prevent sexual assault on women. You are only helping the cause of feminists by your shout down at anyone who disagrees with you. Your stand on alcohol abuse has anyway exposed your so called MRA ideology , what more to say !
And while I accept and admire your pro AAP/Kejriwal stand, you are a utter hypocrite in trying to pretend that kejriwal will not proceed with same gender reservation policies that BJP or CON is implementing. Show me one place where Shri Kejriwal asserts the importance of MR (male Rights) and I shall revise my stand. I bet you will not be able to, since you are in all probablity a Open Marxist and an undercover Feminist.
@DC - " the left leaning liberals are as vociferous as the right leaning commentators on Tejpal issue in the media,"
Left leaning liberals are making "politically correct statements" in the immediate aftermath as they realised they were on weak ground. As things cool down a bit, you may see them slowly moderating and changing their opinion.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT