Sunday, May 19, 2013

An untimely analysis of media involvement in the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case

The Aarushi-Hemraj murder case.

This is easily one of the most notorious crimes in recent times. A family murdering their loving daughter for alleged relationship with the domestic help. And equally notorious for the legal mix ups, media judgements and heated debates. Its been 5 years, and nothing has been more clearer than that it stinks all over.

In a country where thousands get killed for honour, money and reasons only the perpetrators can justify, this case still holds an important position. While the loss of every single life is unfortunate, one has to view it in an objective manner w.r.t the legal system to perceive and judge the legal system that we live in. Compared to the cases of old people being killed by their domestic helps, Jessica Lal murder, many sexual harassment cases, honour killings in rural areas, political vendettas, business hits, mysterious police killings, largely noisy shootouts, chaotic communal riots, state crackdowns, and witch hunts( phew, the list keeps growing, to my alarm) - the Aarushi murder case is still a unique case.

Let me try to perceive the aspects of the case without going into the details of the crime, but rather the aftermath. I remember the days when the news was out. People were horrified by the ramifications and the daily scoop provided by various media networks. People followed the developments as it was a crime scene from some popular movie unfolding in public. Then there was the public outrage, candle walks, special reports, 'expert analysis' and very lengthy and details reports in almost all newspapers for months together.

It was a field day for media networks. I assume many a newbie news network made ad deals for billions during the coverage of this case. This was 2008 and I recall that not many private channels were on air as it is today. And those days, people perceived and respected news a bit more compared to today. It was the time when big, respectable news establishments were slowly being bulldozed by cash rich, entertainment and profit minded news networks. I recall that it was during this period of time that I heard of many new News channels.

The media did a full tight job of mopping up the crime scene, showing scene by scene footage of what exactly happened, later followed up with who the perpetrators were and some even went as far as correctly 'identifying ' the motive for the crime as well. They were even able to dig up supporting stories about the Talwar family's behaviour in the past that could explain their shady nature. All the news channels had special experts and analysts available round the clock, to discuss the same matter from various aspects. The legal aspect, the crime scene investigation, the moral perspective  and even the psychological aspect of it was dissected with clinical precision and brought before the wild eyed audience of a billion. There were even various articles and special analysis on the philosophical ramifications of such crimes on the social order of India. phew.. the media-men were surely up for a raise back then!

As for the public, the same public that is part of all the notorious news in the country, behaved as it usually does. People with special interests and expertise in the matter sought platforms to air their views and move their lives and careers forward. Those innocent sheep who depend on the TV got a lion's share of the hot news. They knew everything about the case even before the police did. The judgement was passed and all that was left was to see was that if the establishment was smart enough to apprehend the criminals in time and get them the deserved punishment without letting them escape from the clutches of law. Blah! This is the same story every time. Guided by media's involvement in twisting statements and stories a bit here and there to make it spicy, the public often reaches its own judgements. And after all this and at the end of years of long legal process, if the expected doesn't happen, then all hell breaks loose and the circus begins again. This time around, it would be targeted against the policemen and the people in the administration and legal system for letting out a 'known' criminal into the crowd. LOL. what a joke. The crowd is the biggest set of criminals out there. Judging and taking power into their own hands.

As it would usually happen, there were even some media houses and intellectuals of various walks who didn't take this gravy train. Opinions, blogs and some thoughtful inputs by such people in limited networks continued to be available , even when the mass media lost interest in the case for sometime while the legal process was in progress. Even in my student networks, a general interest and mostly concern was present. I am sure many a thinking guy/gal would have reached their own conclusions and kept it to themselves or a few people smartly.

What concerns me is that many vital evidences and much needed restraint from the public was lost in this case and the accused became the convicted in a matter of hours. This is not acceptable in a society committed to be led by the power of law. Its not the power of masses that should rule this society. But I am afraid, we are reaching a point where the society is slipping into a vortex. The power of masses is being misused in all corners where law can't cut its corner,and given the limitations and beautifully crafted loopholes in the system, the legal and constitutional system is challenged everyday. And I rarely see cases where the judiciary wins against mass appeal. It is a double edged sword, this power of masses. Arm the masses with pens and books, we have a mature population who can use the power vested in them. But arm them with poverty, hunger, unwanted hatred towards each other, suspicions and insecurity, and we have a very dangerous and explosive population who can't be trusted to wield the power responsibly.

So again, was democracy the right way for a country like India? I can only shake my head in regret.

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