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The connection between TV and Varun’s hate speech

Coomi Kapoor | Blog Bytes<br> Showing the speech once or twice is understandable,but telecasting it more than 20 times a day is not.

Written by Coomi Kapoor
New Delhi | March 24, 2009 3:35:00 pm

Varun Gandhi could well be guilty of violating Section 153 (A) of the Indian Penal Code for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion,but what about the television news channels which have been playing his rabble-rousing speech for days? Showing the speech once or twice is understandable,but telecasting it more than 20 times a day is not. Gandhi,at least,claims in his defence that the footage in which he features has been doctored by interested parties. But what is the excuse for the channels to keep broadcasting his communal message?

The channels will,no doubt,argue that they are exposing the ugly face of communalism. Cynics suggest that the purpose is equally to boost ratings or promote certain political interests. Constant repetition of the offending message is hardly the best way to fight an evil. Many believe that TV,by repeatedly showing visuals of the burnt bogies at the Godhra station,charred bodies and wailing relatives,helped stoke the passions which led to the subsequent Gujarat riots of 2002.

In any case,as far as Section 153 (A) is concerned,it does not matter what the intention of the perpetrator of the crime is. It is enough to prove that the message promoted enmity between different groups on grounds of religion. If Varun Gandhi’s speech evoked feelings of hatred between Hindus and Muslims of Pilibhit,surely the crime is multiplied manifold when it is telecast all over India umpteen times.

The tendency of television channels to blow up incidents caught live on camera to highlight their indignation over retrogressive campaigns,can often do more harm than good.

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While editorially condemning the various senas for their vandalism and warped values,TV,at the same time,plays a role in encouraging such hooliganism by publicizing every threat by lumpen elements and covering in detail their outrageous statements and actions. It seems as if lunatic fringe groups often have a news cameraperson in tow to record their activities,so that they get their five minutes of notoriety. It is hardly a coincidence that Mumbai television crews were at hand to record a non-Maharashtrian taxi driver being roughed up by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena goons. And how did a cameraperson happen to be on the spot when Ram Sene ruffians,claiming to uphold moral standards,were beating up college girls at a Mangalore pub?

In Varun Gandhi’s case,the channels did not explain the source of the CD,which surfaced a full nine days after the actual speech. According to Gandhi’s supporters,an analysis of the CD shows 17 cuts proving that it has been spliced and taken out of context. They also claim that a voice has been superimposed in parts.

VM Singh,the Congress candidate in the last elections from the constituency,who has an old vendetta against the Gandhi family and has been accused of dirty tricks in the past,is widely suspected to be the source.


Incidentally,the alacrity with which channels went to town telecasting the tapes without any counter checks,is in sharp contrast to their reservations,on allegedly ethical and professional grounds,to airing the tapes allegedly showing MPs accepting cash before the trust vote in Parliament.

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First published on: 24-03-2009 at 03:35:00 pm
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