Recently senior Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai was caught in a scuffle in New York with NRIs on the sidelines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to America. Soon it became a major story.
On Twitter, Rajdeep (@sardesairajdeep) has more than 1.5 million followers and he Tweeted the following…
First, Kick and abuse while I am on cam asking questions, then release video selectively. Rule of the mob.
Super speech by Modi; not so super behaviour by some bhakts. Guess some things won't change.
Glad we caught the idiots on cam. Only way to shame the mob is to show them. #ModiAtMadison
Great crowd at Modison square garden! except a few idiots who still believe abuse is a way of proving their machismo! #ModiAtMadison
Viewers of the channel he works for got his side of the story and it was seen by many on YouTube too.
His friend Achint Sharma backed him with the article titled #IStandWithRajdeep which incidentally happened to become a top Twitter trend in support of the beleaguered journalist.
Most of the journalist fraternity rallied around him. The account @sureshnakhua took him head on and was promptly suspended.
Had this happened in the climate that existed in India 10 years ago, then matters would have ended here. Rajdeep would have been seen as a hero who fought a mob in New York and the person who had a scuffle with would have thanked his stars that there was no case against him since all of the above put circumstances squarely against him.
However this is 2014 and not 2004 and social media in some matters has already emerged as a force to reckon with. Most of Twitter was not amused and a lot of people took Rajdeep head on. It is the era of videocams and very soon YouTube was flooded with clips from all angles and all vantage points.
At the end of it, it is clear that the two parties happened to be aggressive, both parties used abusive words and both parties raised their hands. We now have a fight on our hands and the debate currently centres on the beliefs of the debaters and not plain facts.
Meanwhile, @sureshnakhua returned as @nakhuasuresh and pasted screenshots of the Tweets that got him suspended most of them ending with #HTSackRajdeep.
He had many supporters like @Kesar_ who Tweeted…
Depressed to know that @TwitterIndia has suspended @sureshnakhua .It can be you or me very soon.... Horrible! #IStandWithSureshNakhua
#ShameAbroad also started trending on Twitter after that.
Meanwhile the person who had a scuffle Rajdeep decided to give his side of the story when he blogged 'When Rajdeep assaulted me'. He candidly accepted that he had used the title NewsTrader No. 1 and also mentioned all the provocation that Rajdeep had indulged in.
The above mentioned person revealed himself as Mahender (@mandak247) and decided to hit back with his Twitter account.
So we now had a full-fledged war and as of writing this article, Twitter India's top trends are #IStandWithRajdeep and #ShameAbroad with Modi coming third!
This was said by media watcher @mediacrooks who is probably Rajdeep's biggest critic on Twitter…
Every person who tweeted "I stand with Rajdeep" is a thorough "Genetic Moron".. who has little respect for facts or truth... Period!
Interestingly Zee News also got into the act and gave an unflattering report for Rajdeep innocuously titled 'Rajdeep Sardesai heckled by pro-Modi supporters in New York' on YouTube
Rajdeep replied via Twitter…
Sorry folks, won't respond to lies of channel/editors caught on tape seeking bribes and sent to jail. Supari 'journalism' at its worst.
This is unprecedented in the Indian media where dog eats dog is a concept unheard of some time back. When I entered the Delhi journalism industry in the 1990s, we were strictly told never to mention any other media house. If a newspaper name did come in the story, then we had to simply call it “a media house”.
A few years' back media started covering media with a bang and now media attacks media is quite common. Take the recent example over the outrage over the Tweet about Bollywood star Deepika Padukone’s cleavage where almost all the major media houses blasted The Times of India.
Amidst all this, we also had someone who had no stakes in all of it in the form of James FontanellaKhan (@JFK_America), a writer with the Financial Times.
This is the story he told through a series of Tweets…
(1) …I've received many msg in the last 24hrs. I'm not a judge of what happened.
(2) what I can repeat is that a small group of people started shouting against the reporter. Things got heated. He claimed that
(3) he was kicked. I didn't see that. But he was certainly verbally attacked and their presence was intimidating. Then
(4) the reporter got confrontational. removed his jacket. there was an exchange of words. it was hard for me to capture everything
(5) i did hear him say asshole. then he walked away. one of the guys in the crowd shouted something. i couldn't hear what exactly
(6) the reporter turned back and put his hands around his neck. the scuffle btw the two started. quickly everything cooled.
(7) for context. reporter was called a traitor, the group acted like a mob. if i would have been him i would have felt threatened
(8) i think both sides were provoked each other. I hope this helps clarify things.
US columnist David B. Cohen (@DavidBCohen1) was less flattering while speaking about Rajdeep…
Straight from the #Hamas playbook: start a fight, use the media to mislead, play the victim
Interestingly Mahender mentioned in his blog that he was writing “to avoid a Rashomon like state”. That's an interesting usage. In Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, all the main characters tell the same story in a totally different way from their point of view.
That’s what the Internet has enabled. Once only the powerful person’s (Read: Rajdeep) story would be out in the open: Not any more. Now it’s a free for all and already we have the whole story from the point of view of Rajdeep, his adversary, the crowd, the Left, the Right, Twitter, Facebook, the mainstream media, impartial observers…
History is full of places where we have to rely on only one person’s account and wonder whether it is true. But today we live in a world where there are a million Rashomon-like accounts and the individual is free to choose what he or she perceives to be the truth!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.