Every utterance, or even the non-utterance of some politically preferred slogan by any starlet or star-ward will be dissected with a fine scalpel by the Indian media, the apparent perpetrators of such ‘heinous’ crimes will be hounded out of their houses and their minds. This much stop.
Not many years ago, Bollywood was the favourite child of Indian media. Every movement of the stars was followed, their unusual haircuts were promoted as ravishing, their inane comments were highlighted as philosophy and whatever they wore or ate, were emulated like it was part of the media’s sartorial and culinary Bible. Bollywood was bringing in the moolah and were the undisputed masters in many newsrooms.
Then, suddenly, the masters changed. They became political, and the media bowed in obeisance, signs of subservience prominent in drools. Indian media, it seems, cannot live an independent life, cannot articulate independent thoughts. Bollywood stars and their wards have now become the favourite whipping boys of the media, because their masters want it so.
It isn’t the one pointed case of Aryan Khan, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s 23-year-old son, who was caught with no drugs, but as a supposed consumer of hashish or cannabis. The fact that Aryan was invited to a cruise as a VVIP guest, just to add “glamour to the ship”, wasn’t a credible explanation for the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). A cache of a few grams of the hashish was all it needed to arrest the star-son.
The NCB may be obeying orders; they have jobs to keep. But the main culprit in this has been the media. Aryan has been made to look like not just a dope addict, but probably a drug dealer, some stopping short of calling him a terrorist.
Such instances have been repeated over and over again. One of the earliest, of course, was Sanjay Dutt, son of Sunil Dutt. He was arrested under the TADA and the Arms Act in April 1993 and was convicted for violation of Arms Act for possession of illegal weapons procured from other accused in the 1993 Bombay bombings.
Further investigation found that Dutt had no links whatsoever with any terror outfit and that he was no more than a wayward star-son. Nobody condones the act of his possessing weapons which he did not even know the use of, but his reputation was marred irreparably by the media. And when this pattern repeats over and over again, and even the slightest acts of indiscretion are outlandishly highlighted and the ‘victims’ are hounded, even to their homes, it becomes illegal and obscene.
Think of the case of Rhea Chakraborty, the unfortunate girlfriend of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. As soon as Rajput ended his life – and there has been no word on why yet – the media went after Rhea. The media bluntly alleged that Rhea was after Singh’s money, that she forced him to commit suicide, some said she was witch.
The NCB lodged cases under various sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and she was made to run from pillar to post, just to maintain her dignity. One channel sent its reporter to the society where she lived and they almost entered her apartment. In the end, nothing was proved, nothing was found, only her reputation was ground to dust.
While even now, in certain states, the sale of bhang – a derivative of the same weed that yields ganja and charas – is done through ‘government authorised’ shops, the NCB lives in a strange world of its own. Even till the 1980s there were government shops which sold the substance. Ganja and bhang has been consumed in India since 2000 BCE. When, in 1961, an international treaty, Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, classified cannabis with hard drugs, the Indian delegation had opposed its intolerance to the social and religious customs of India. As a compromise, the Indian Government promised to limit the export of Indian hemp.
Let us understand our own culture first; let us not impute ideas of western import to our evil ends, of hounding people who have actually committed no crime. Let the media understand and assimilate history in its right context.
Forget the drugs angle for a while. Every utterance, or even the non-utterance of some politically preferred slogan by any starlet or star-ward will be dissected with a fine scalpel by the Indian media, the apparent perpetrators of such ‘heinous’ crimes will be hounded out of their houses and their minds. This much stop. The media must develop some level of self-respect. Sanity has to return.