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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 34 August 15, 2015

A New Agenda for the Indian Media

Saturday 15 August 2015


by Satraajit Palchoudhury

The execution of Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon on July 30 has given a new issue to the Indian media especially to the 24x7 news channels. Shekhar Gupta in his ‘Walk the Talk’ programme presented before us two victims, Kishore Kuvavala and Farooq Mapkar, who had to undergo the trauma of the fateful year of 1993. The Srinivasan Jain-anchored programme—The riddle of Yakub Memon—also had all the masalas to attract the viewers. However, the execution of Yakub has also given an opportunity to the political class trying to score as many brownie points as possible out of his capital punishment.

The irresponsible remark of the Samajwadi Party leader, Mohammad Farooq Khosi, who said that now Yakub’s wife Raheen should be made an MP of the Rajya Sabha, clearly reflects the myopic attitude of our political leadership. Controversial BJP Lok Sabha MP Sakshi Maharaj has also not been left behind. He said, “Those opposing Yakub’s execution should be sent to Pakistan.”

At the top of it the jibe of the Home Minister of India at his predecessor, Sushil Kumar Shinde, wherein he alleged that Shinde used the phrase ‘Hindu terror’ deliberately to give terrorism a colour has triggered yet another controversy which was absolutely uncalled for. At least on the issue of national security the aam aadmis expect that our leaders will say—yes on this issue we are at one. Unfortunately this is certainly not going to happen in the long run and under these circumstances the role of the ‘Fourth Estate’ becomes very important.

Yakub Memon has got what he deserved. There is no point in raking up this issue anymore. His family has also suffered a lot in the past 21 years and the paparazzis should also stop chasing them. Above all, within this span of time much water has flown down the Ganga. So, the ongoing debate and discussion on Yakub should now stop once and for all because in the midst of this hullabaloo we have forgotten our real agenda. We, as a nation, should now decide whether there should be capital punishment in our country or not. We, as a nation, should now decide whether the politics of opportunism in the name of one’s caste, community and religion should be allowed in our secular land or not.

The Fourth Estate will have to rise to the occasion. The strength of a democracy stands on a vibrant press. If today the whole world recognises that we are the world’s largest democracy then the kudos will have to be bestowed on the media because it has shouldered its responsibility in a good manner and has proved time and again that it is indeed the watchdog of Indian society. The proactive role that was displayed by the Indian media in 1975 when the National Emergency was imposed stands testimony to the observation made above.

One might agree or disagree but the truth is that Yakub’s execution has opened a pandora’s box. The Mumbai serial bomb blasts were preceded by riots and it is being widely believed that the serial blasts were a sort of revenge that was intended to unleash as a consequence.

We always come across a phrase which sounds quite apt—the law will take its own course. After the execution of Yakub now efforts should be made to bring the rioters, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion, to book. We, the people of India, expect the same amount of urgency and passion from our investigating agencies in the matter raised above. The media needs to go deep into these issues.

Today in a cut-throat competitive environment, media professionals have to prove their worth on a daily basis. Issues come and issues go. During the campaign trail of the Lok Sabha elections, our political leaders laid emphasis on corruption and black money which they claim is stacked in foreign banks. But now this issue has been put on the backburner.

This has happened because the media has a poor memory. In the age of ‘breaking news’ media seems to be following the tricks of the trade. The IPL spot-fixing case also dominated the headlines for a few days and now this issue has been usurped by politics and the focus is now on Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj because of their alleged connection with the former IPL boss—Lalit Modi.

The PDS scam, which has taken place in Chhattisgarh, is not being heard these days. Thanks to Yakub and LaMo. To all intents and purposes, the media cannot wash its hands from these pressing issues. It is expected to highlight these issues because these matters are related to the common man.

In this context it would be apt to mention about the coverage that Lady Diana received after she met with a fatal accident that claimed her life. The paparazzis like to chase the stars and while doing so they set the agenda for their readers and their viewers.

The media fraternity should now introspect. They are now at a crossroads. On the one hand, economics is compelling them to follow the rules of the market and on the other hand they are being confronted by their conscience which is asking them—are you on the right side?

Yakub Memon’s case is just a case in point. To some journalists this just might be a story. But between the datelines and bylines, a journalist should also not forget that he is the mirror of the society.

When post-Godhra riots took place in Gujarat, the Indian media covered it extensively and like Ted Turner, who brought the Gulf War to the living rooms of his viewers, our Indian media professionals too brought the riots to our living rooms. But the question arises: after the riots did they ever try to highlight the sordid tale of the riot victims? Sadly, they forgot because then they got busy with some other issue.

In a country like India there is no dearth of issues and the latest issue of Yakub Memon’s execution is just like an icing on the cake. Let these questions be discussed and debated because through a healthy debate we can come up with solutions. Yakub’s execution should not remain a story. Let this issue help us trace the root causes of the anger and frustration of the people living in our country. Let the Vyapam scam story serve as an eye-opener for the society at large. Let the Indian media now set a positive agenda for our society.

In the light of the Vyapam scam, the Opposition might try to make it a political issue. They are now gunning for the Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. But this scam needs a through and impartial inquiry. No cover-up should be allowed; or else posterity will continue to suffer. The media is expected to follow this scam because one its own members, Akshay Singh of the India Today group, has fallen become a this scam. Can the media afford to remain silent? Mysterious deaths related to Vyapam have been reported by the various national and local dailies of India. But suddenly Yakub’s capital punishment has poured cold water on these burning issues. The media as an institution has a significant role to play in this regard. We have had enough of it. It is time for action. Is our media ready for this churning?


1. ‘Yakub hanging is justice, wish same zeal shown in ’93 riots cases’ report published in The Indian Express on August 1, 2015

2. ‘The Diana aftermath’, American Journalist Review published in 1997

A freelance journalist based in Silchar (Assam), the author has done his Masters in Mass Communication from the Assam Central University, Silchar.

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