Telescope: Loss of innocencehttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/m-karunanidhi-death-dravidian-movement-bihar-uttar-pradesh-shelter-home-sexual-abuse-case-5298319/

Telescope: Loss of innocence

The week when Karunanidhi died and ‘shelter home’ became dirty words.

DMK chief Karunanidhi passed away at the age of 94
DMK stalwart and five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu, M Karunanidhi, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 94 after battling illness for a long time.

“India mourns” (Times Now) the “end of an era”, the “end of an icon” (News X), “RIP Kalaignar” (CNN News 18) as the “sun sets on (the) Dravidian movement” (India Today).

Tuesday night, the news channels were flooded with tributes to M Karunanidhi. Watched good visual tributes with commentaries on Times Now, NDTV 24×7 and DD News (yes, it had live coverage of scenes outside the Kauvery Hospital, Chennai — and read what you will into the political implications of such rare coverage of an Opposition leader).

These were, however, soon sidelined by the “dirty politics” (News 9) over his final resting place between the AIADMK state government and the DMK. A rare sight: All news channels in unison cried foul at the government’s lack of magnanimity. “Absurd”, said Arnab Goswami (Republic); “Preposterous”, added his Chennai reporter. “Wrong side of history,” observed Rajdeep Sardesai (India Today).

Rare to see politicians of all persuasions on all the news channels: D Raja (CPI) and Kamal Nath (Congress) on Times Now — that doesn’t happen as often as it should.

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“Amazing questions” remained on the future of Tamil Nadu politics said the India Today anchor, Wednesday morning. Amazing observation.

Onto the shelter homes: Now that journalists have gotten to them in Muzaffarpur, they are horrified by #BiharHomesofHorror (CNN News 18). And with more such “homes” being discovered in Uttar Pradesh on Monday, #HorrorHomes (News X) suddenly became the place to visit.

English news channel reporters, in general, seized the opportunity to conduct a guided tour of the premises. The Republic TV reporter, for instance, has been showing us the sights — the printing press, the printing press and more of the printing press before he proceeded outside to point out the façade of the shelter home and the CBI officers walking up and down, presumably looking for clues (Monday). So upset was he by the “heinous crimes” that “shelter homes” often stuck in his gullet.

“Shelter home” had become dirty words.

Some Hindi news channels were more interested in, as the French put it, “cherchez la femme”. In this case, they were particularly curious about “Brajesh ki Honeypreet” (News 24), a woman called Madhu, assistant to Brajesh Thakur, who owned the Bihar homes, on the run from the scene of the crimes.

And it has taken the Supreme Court, who else, to restrain enthusiastic reporters from showing images or interviewing the girls who have been allegedly exploited/raped — but didn’t we see girls with their faces in mosaic, in footage on Aaj Tak on Monday?

Monday night saw two “sting” operations which went after other crimes in UP. NDTV 24×7 caught up with Rakesh, one of the accused in the Pehlu Khan lynching case. Out on bail and very much inside his skin, seated in his taut white vest, he boasted about the crime and how he would commit it again and again with his army of vigilantes. Sting operations are never the best form of journalism and leave room for questions about how they were obtained but as anchor Sreenivasan Jain said, this was “chilling”.

India Today followed up with a sting on cops for hire in UP’s “encounter raj”. On camera, one policeman offered to kill for Rs 8 lakh. Equally chilling.

The rains continue to wet Hindi channels’ appetite for news. APB, News 24, and India TV have a particular soft spot for vehicles stranded in floods or potholes as we saw on Monday in different parts of Uttarakhand.

ABP saw the exit of senior anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai from the nightly, Masterstroke. He has written exhaustively on how political pressure led to his resignation on the news portal TheWire.in and whether you believe him or not, the show he presented was hard-hitting and full of facts on issues like unemployment, agriculture, government schemes, etc. Those facts and figures could be challenged and disputed, but at least he dealt with them rather than conducting curious discussions on topics such as “Lutyens irrelevance” (why debate it then?) and the #FinalLutyensDebate (??).

A request: Can those who prepare cricket pitches ensure that a Test match lasts five days — otherwise broadcasters, advertisers and the viewer will be shortchanged, literally in the case of the first two? India lost to England inside four days in the first Test match, denying us the pleasure of listening to Harbhajan Singh, who joined the commentary team, and was just getting warmed up (Sony Six).

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Meanwhile, Mahabharat is back on Star Bharat and Parmatma Sri Krishna on & TV. These are re-runs for the umpteenth time and you wonder why. Then you remember that elections are due this winter and next spring, and you, hmmm, wonder a little more — any connection? Or just an innocent programming choice? Feel a bit like Alice trying to answer that one.