Character assassination, live

BY TERESA REHMAN| IN Media Practice | 13/10/2010
The triumphant husband accused his wife of adultery in full media glare, an amazing instance of intrusion of privacy and character assassination by TV channels.
TERESA REHMAN on the shameful manner in which the Guwahati media chased a juicy story
Not missing an opportunity to add a dash of spice to their mundane programmes, reporters of Guwahati-based satellite channels recently barged into the rented house of Pallavi Saikia, general secretary of Gauhati University Post-Graduate Students’ Union (PGSU). They had accompanied her legally wedded husband, Dr Satyagopal Nath, who suspected that his wife was cheating on him and was having an affair with the former State president of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), Dr Jaiprakash Das.
The television reporters, led by DY365 along with curious neighbours and onlookers followed the wary husband at around 8 am to a rented house and indeed found Jaiprakash there. The triumphant husband, Satyagopal, accused his wife Pallavi of adultery in full media glare. Inspite of Jaiprakash insisting that he had come over only in the morning at around 7 am to collect some forms, the adamant husband insisted that they had taken too long to open the door and that Jaiprakash was allegedly hiding in the toilet. He insinuated that they must have spent the night together. Satyagopal said that though he and Pallavi had married in court last January, they were not staying together as they were yet to get married as per social rituals.
The channels repeated shots of reports thrusting microphones into the faces of the three protagonists who defended their respective stand. Jaiprakash and Pallavi insisted that they were innocent and were mere professional colleagues. The reporters did not seem to find too much ‘masala’ in their versions and started questioning curious onlookers. One of the onlookers gave a sly smile and said that a young boy and girl should not have had a closed-door meeting if they had nothing to hide. The policeman who accompanied the husband was quick to give his comment on television, "It’s nothing but a case of ‘Ek Phool, Do Mali".
Interestingly, the cameras repeatedly showed shots of a bed, an empty wine bottle and a packet of cigarette insinuating the obvious. Repeated appeals by the two ‘accused’ to the media to be restrained in their coverage and terming the whole issue a conspiracy by political rivals fell on deaf ears. The reporters followed them to the local police station where Satyagopal had lodged a complaint. They showed how Pallavi’s mother nearly collapsed in the police station. The footage was flashed the whole day on 10th Oct.
The next day the two were featured in "Akothyo" (literally meaning ‘the unspeakable’) aired on Newslive, a channel owned by a Congress leader where they got a chance to clarify their stand. The irony was that the media had already found the duo guilty as the backdrop said in bold, "Ek Phool Do Mali" and the girl’s photo was set within the petals of a flower and the two gentlemen’s faces morphed into the bodies of two gardeners.
Editor-in-chief of the channel, Atanu Bhuyan, shot questions like, "Would you go back to your husband who had disowned you?" Pallavi, however, was poised and tried her best to counter all uncomfortable questions. She said, "I don’t understand why my husband made this issue public. I would urge him to sit with me and discuss the issue. He will feel sorry once he realizes what he has done." She also added that maybe she would not have faced such humiliation if had been a man.
As a consequence of this hungama the effigy of Pallavi was burnt in the campus of Gauhati University and she was suspended from the students’ union. Television channels kept telling how she had shamed everyone, how her attendance was nil and how everyone had decided to boycott her. She was the first lady general secretary of the University and her associates gave interviews on how they were dismayed by her behaviour and thanked the media for their expose.
Newslive also telecast a one-hour special talk show titled, "Is our Assamese youth going astray? Why do incidents like Joykanta and Pallavi take place?" Here, one girl student pointed out that Pallavi was an ideal for everyone. But her closed-door meeting with her male colleague and the empty bottle of wine on the table was a disgrace. However, one youth said that the media needs to conduct proper investigation before highlighting such issues. The others talked about how consumerism and a luxurious lifestyle were responsible for the youth going astray and becoming self-centered. Taking a moralistic stand, they felt live-in relationships, pubs, discos, drinks were associated with modernity by most of the young people today.
However, nobody bothered to talk about the intrusion of privacy and character assassination of a young girl by the media based on mere accusations by an over-zealous husband. Did the media have the right to participate in the accusations bandied by the husband of Pallavi, a lady who had created history last year when she became the first woman to lead the Post-Graduate Students’ Union. Sociologist Rabin Deka of Tezpur University, Assam says, "Media can’t go berserk like this. It’s time to put a check on our media."
(The writer is a journalist based in Northeast India. She can be reached at www.teresarehman.net).
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