Arindam Chaudhuri
Long live tehelka long live India tv
Shame on people who defend the shameless

Amongst all nations of the world perhaps the maximum abuse of democracy by individuals (rich/famous/politicians) takes place in India. When a senior Labour Party leader in UK is caught in a sex scandal, he accepts, apologises and resigns. No one in the US, UK or Japan who is caught red handed in some case of corruption ever denies it. The assumption of course is that the public is intelligent enough to see the truth behind, say, a Tarun Tejpal’s Tehelka or a Rajat Sharma’s India TV sting operation. In India of course we are shameless. Shamelessly, they came the very next day after the Tehelka episode, with ludicrous and shameless claims of falsely doctored tapes, assuming I guess that the public remains perpetually drunk and can’t see the most evident truth. Surprisingly the media (which often gives an impression of being perpetually drunk) did give these statements enough coverage to make the entire episode look confusing for the masses. In days to come the shameless were seen giving interviews in celebrity chat shows and were given high visibility through the peep show pages (read page 3) of leading dailies. But of course the matter didn’t end at that. The shameless went further shamelessly behind Tehelka, and rest as they say, is history. And history has a habit of repeating itself.

March 2005. Phase-I. Unknown to most Indians, the nation is stung by a sting operation by India TV. Some MLAs have been caught virtually naked exploiting women and a senior leader due to a similar episode, in days to come, loses his chance to be the Chief Minister of an Indian state. Unknown to most Indians partially because the eyeballs were not yet tuned on to India TV and more importantly because apart from Asian Age and a few other lesser known newspapers, no newspaper or TV channel picked up this huge scam. The apparent reason was that the Indian media does not encourage peeping in to the private lives of individuals (primarily politicians). The reality of course is that the Indian media acts in connivance with the politicians in such matters, partially because they are scared of political dictates and partially due to the fact that at top positions in the media itself there are people with multiple skeletons in their own cupboards.

Phase-II : Undeterred by the conspiracy of silence, India TV which had scores of tapes in their data bank comes out with tapes which show small time celebrities offering the casting couch. Ouch! That hurt. While the entire nation made their own judgement and sent their support through SMS to India TV, the rest of the media and the shameless friends of those caught red handed came out full force in their defense. Everyone was afraid that it could be their turn next! And if sources are to be believed there indeed are many more tapes of much bigger and powerful people and politicians. So one after the other public figure came up shamelessly in defense of the two pathetic pawns in this game of making the public aware of harsh realities.

Call it an attempt to gain eyeballs. How does it matter? The same people opposing the India TV sting operation, otherwise, come out strongly in defense of market forces. And this is the market. Washing machine companies in US promote single living through their ads because the more the marriages split up, double go their sales. Can you blame them? No; According to the same people. They defend such instances of market manipulations by saying that the public is free to make its own decisions, and the corporations after all have to take care of their bottom lines! So... India TV also has its market driven necessities. It has to survive this battle for eyeballs. Be it an attempt to make public aware or be it a calculated move to increase TRPs, every thing it did was at least legal.

It is surprising that the same people who hate the Shiv Sena for its moral policing at fashion shows and Valentines Day, the same people who fight for the rights of FTV and more, the same people who don’t want censorship of sleazy Hindi movies, have become the new defenders of morality. Because this time the camera could be inside their pants. Sorry friends, you don’t probably have the right to decide what is good for the public. Let them decide what they want to see - semi nude fashion shows, FTV, Julie or India TV. Didn’t you only want that?

The reality is also that if you have to expose the problem of casting couch, you have to act as if you need a role. It is not an act of peeping in to somebody’s private life. Shakti Kapoor or Aman Verma might have a dozen girl friends and as many wives. India TV did not put a camera behind them to find out what they do in their private lives. They sent a woman asking for a role in films - immaterial that she might have looked desperate for the role - and look what they blatantly asked for. None of them obviously fell in love, or, looked to be in love with our Ruchi. They were clearly striking a pathetic and shameless deal.

The bigger issue though is perhaps something else. Yes, it’s true that those shown were smaller stake holders. Yes, it’s true that the politicians might have been offered women and in that sense the very act of offering women is demeaning. At the same time the question is, does the public have the right to know if our elected senior Ministers and heads of the state or for that matter top rated icons like film stars and cricketers, can be lured by anyone into a room to have a sleazy time exploiting women? Most probably the answer is yes. At least that’s what a market research done by a group of five IIPM students seemed to prove. The public wants to know if the icons they worship are pathetic and shameless creeps or are they really worth their adulation. Are the politicians they trust their votes with, the moral guardians of their society or are they evil eyed lusty corrupt snakes?

The answer can be complex and infinitely debatable. At least one thing is certain. In this land of shameless criminals and criminals in the garb of politicians, a Tehelka or an India TV does put them on the guard; Even if it is for a short period. Right now they are all running scared of Suhaib Ilyasi and Rajat Sharma’s sting journalists. Another thing is also certain - only the ones who engage in bribe seeking or couch offering activities are losing their sleep. And perhaps rightly so. Rest are resting in peace. So one wonders whom is the media so worried about? And why are they after India TV?

Final analysis: I read the Tehelka newspaper regularly. It is as bold and as revealing as ever. Every issue has some revelations that leave me shocked. India TV might also mature up to more serious issues in times to come, once the eyeballs have settled down. But does it matter? Can they change India? No. Not until they have betrayers in their own community. Not until journalists from other media houses take up the issues they bring forward and take it forcefully to the public. Till then I only hope that many more Tehelka’s and many more India Tv’s come up and make hell out of the lives of the shameless creeps who occupy public space. It was supposed to be the job of the newspaper that you are reading right now. Sad that the market forces don’t allow them to mess up with the rich (their advertisers) and the politicians (who can mess up their basic existence). Till the time they do their jobs properly... Long live Tehelka! Long Live India TV!
Post comment