Europe is facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War 2. Manipur is on the edge. Lakhs of people are affected in Assam floods. Al Jazeera does a special programme on how lakhs of toilets will transform primary school education in India. Stories abound in the Pakistani press on how India’s new foreign policy is isolating Pakistan. Karnataka farmer suicides are reaching record levels.
And yet if you flicked through the Indian TV news channels and newspaper front pages in the last couple of days, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is only one burning issue in India. And that is a woman called Indrani Mukerjea.
It appears that Indrani is either the most powerful woman in India or the most important or simply the most popular of all time. By now frenzied journalists have put out each and every detail (substantiated and unsubstantiated) into the public domain.
Just check out some of the headlines…
From Pari to Indrani, social butterfly to murderer mother: The story of Indrani Mukerjea and Sheena Bora.
The unending Indrani Mukerjea saga and why women feel she is hero.
Indrani Mukerjea's stepdad molested her.
Did her disturbed childhood force Indrani Mukerjea to take an extreme step?
Mother, Money and Murder
10 questions police is likely to ask Peter Mukerjea.
No home food allowed to Indrani.
No angle has to be left and a prominent newspaper also writes an edit titled “How to avoid bad journalism” and adds with a blog “Why is media obsessing with grisly details of the murder.” Quite ironic.
Ex-Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea launched INX which was headed by Indrani. Their news channels happened to be News X and since then it was sold off. So News X also spares nothing to cover their former owners and their website even has a story titled…
5 directors capable of making a movie on Sheena Bora death & Indrani Mukerjea’s ‘supposed’ betrayal!
(For the record the five directors are Bollywood’s Mahesh Bhatt, Vishal Bhardwaj, Kamaal Rashid Khan, Madhur Bhandarkar and Ram Gopal Verma).
Why do Indian media houses thrive on such crass sensationalism? They say that this is what the readers/viewers want. But is that really true? How much do say do they really have? And if all the channels and newspapers keep covering a trivial issue non-stop, then what can anyone really do?
And a second point is that nobody is saying that they shouldn’t cover them. Crimes by the high and mighty are as much news as any other. But why does a whole front page be have to be dedicated to that day in and day out.
One national newspaper only had Indrani headlines on its front page…
‘I knew Sheena was Indrani’s daughter’
Sheena had told me, but I chose to believe my wife: Peter Mukerjea
Murky findings as cops dig deeper
Grandparents are Sheena’s mom & dad on certificates
Sheena bowled us over: Rahul uncle
Peter is lying, says former mom-in-law
‘Was asleep in car during murder’
All the other front page news became “briefs” at the side.
While other stories crept in in subsequent days, Indrani continued to be the main front page lead for many more days.
Why should the channels cover it 24X7? Then what happened in the sensationalism Noida double murder case? There were a million and one specials and articles on Arushi and the TV channels absolutely frothed at the mouth but in the end everyone seemed to agree that Arushi did not get justice.
So what is the purpose of highlighting the sensational and trivial at the cost of real stories—both good news and bad news.
When the Noida double murder broke out, it was…Arushi is news. News is Arushi.
When the Foreign Minister was seen as indirectly helping someone whom the previous government hadn’t even pressed charges, it was…
It’s all about Sushma. Sushma is all there is.
And for the past few days it’s been…
India is Indrani. Indrani is India.
All the great newspaper editors who stood for service and justice when we got Independence must be turning in their graves right now!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here