Sushant Singh Rajput and the Indian media’s khap panchayat

The jingoistic, non-temporal and non-emancipating reporting of news and views by the mainstream Indian media does not coalesce well with a mature democracy

Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @srtlko)
Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @srtlko)

V Venkateswara Rao

“The media in a democratic country have the overwhelmingly important role of pointing out wrongs and injustices, evidence of corruption, failures of the administration and in the investigation of crimes. Building up villains in an unproven case is not their job. At a time when people are struggling with multiple crises, it is almost as though the focus on the case is providing a distraction. This is not just a matter of taste; it is an alarming failure of ethics. A civilized approach to a tragedy cannot be too difficult to achieve,” The Telegraph India wrote in an editorial piece, deploring the Indian Media for focusing too much on the case of the tragic death of young actor Sushant Singh Rajput and holding a brazen extra-judicial trial.

I am not a movie buff. Sometime back, I happened to watch the film‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’, the biopic on India’s celebrated cricketer,on TV and I became an instant fan of Sushant Singh Rajput. I am not a diehard fan of MS Dhoni and cricket. Yet i loved the film. Sushant’s impeccable portrayal of a stoic Dhoni and the latter’s inspiring untold story make the film a good watch. Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely demise makes us all sad. But a nation, as portrayed by the national media, cannot afford to grieve forever on the tragic death of an actor, leaving all other burning issues aside. The investigation of the case is now in the hands of the CBI. Let a fair investigation take place and the guilty, if any, be punished in due course. A minute-by-minute trial by the media tantamounts to contempt of the well-established principle of jurisprudence - “let the law take its course”.

The nation is besieged with many other burning issues - the dragon sitting in our living room, endemic unemployment, surging pandemic, the decay in the institutional framework of our democracy, the non-inclusive social fabric, the financial misery of common people in a recessionary economy, the growing income inequalities, the floods, the fires, the hostile neighbours and many more. Indian media has no time for them.

The number of telecast hours spent on the individual case of an actor’s sad demise have not been spent on any of the life-changing global events like twin-towers’ attack, global financial crisis, Arab Spring, US-China trade war, Black Lives Matter, Brexit, LGBTQ Rights movements, the plight of Rohingyas, recurring hurricanes, wild fires, anti-CAA protests and so on.

India and the US are the world’s biggest and vibrant democracies. The 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC 2020) event held a few days back in USA was widely covered by the global media in all the countries. Yet the national channels and print media in India have largely steered clear of it, with a fleeting coverage at best. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden vowed at the DNC that he would “be an ally of the light,” and a “President for the whole of the country”. “Can America be a place where faith is about healing and not exclusion, ” he asked. Biden’s graceful speech did not find any resonance in the minds of our wise TV anchors.

The jingoistic, non-temporal and non-emancipating reporting of news and views by the mainstream Indian media does not coalesce well with a mature democracy.

(V Venkateswara Rao is a retired corporate professional and a freelance writer)

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