Mob performs for the camera
HT reports a sleazy story that raged across prime time yesterday:
In yet another incident of crime against women, a 16-year-old girl was molested by around 30 men in full public view for about half an hour on Monday night outside a posh nightclub here. The incident was witnessed by hundreds, but no one came to her rescue. The incident would have gone unnoticed but for the footage uploaded on Youtube on July 10. It sparked outrage across the nation — highlighting, as it does, the increasing incidence of lawlessness and crimes against women.
Public pressure finally forced the police to act, and on July 11 and 12, four arrests were made, although main accused Amarjyoti Kalita is still roaming free.
Assam Police chief Jayanta Narayan Chowdhury said the police were not an ATM machine — dispensing instant service — which earned him a reprimand from union home minister P Chidambaram.
“Every incident of molesting a woman is condemnable… anyone who tries to make light of the incident is condemnable,” Chidambaram said.
Team Anna member and RTI activist Akhil Gogoi, meanwhile, created a sensation when he claimed that a reporter of NewsLive TV channel — which shot and aired the video on Monday — was the main culprit.
“The reporter and his friends were at the bar and they passed comments about the girls, which started the brawl,” Gogoi said. “The reporter instigated his friends to assault the girl.”
Amarjyoti Kalita, the main accused, is a friend of the reporter, Gogoi said. “They went to the bar in the reporter’s Hyundai car. They are being safeguarded by the owner of the TV channel.”
IBN Live narrates a sequence of events which is not in contradiction to Mr. Gogoi’s claims:
The victim had gone to celebrate her friend’s birthday at a city bar where a man passed an obscene remark at her. This led to an altercation in the pub whose management asked them to leave. Once outside, the man followed her and passersby joined him.
The entire incident was shot on camera by a News Live cameraperson and is now viral on the Internet. Upon being questioned on the ethics behind shooting a molestation incident live and airing it, the channel said they did it “in public interest”.
Syed Zarir Hussain, the Managing Editor of the TV channel, said, “Had we stopped rolling the camera, these molesters would not have been arrested. What we did was in public interest. On the night this incident happened, we showed only the molesters. We took a call to show the incident the next day as we realised that the molesters would not have be arrested. Whatever we did, we did for public interest and it is because we showed the video that four people have been arrested.”
“The civil rights group in Assam had been insensitive to the incident,” he added.
He further said, “The police was informed the moment this incident happened. There were two camerapersons and two people cannot take on a mob. So do not blame the media.
“How can the cameraperson be blamed for the accused looking at the camera and smiling?” he asked. “The serious point is that not a single group has come out on the street to protest against the incident. The media launched the campaign…”
He went on to add, “There were lots of people shooting the incident on mobile phones. The TV camera was ours. We were at a strategic location and we reached there. The question of ethical and unethical comes later.”
Not a word of sympathy from the TV channel for the minor girl who was subjected to such trauma! In fact, NDTV reports that this TV channel posted the video on Youtube. Tehelka reports the claim that the channel’s reporters were the main culprits, and enjoy political patronage:
“I have conclusive evidence that the reporter of News Live Gauravjyoti Neog was the main culprit. He was drinking inside a car and misbehaved with the girl when she came out of the bar and called other boys from the street. In due course of time the evidence would be made public,” said Gogoi. He also alleged that the police is not taking action because News Live is a channel owned by Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma. Gogoi also alleged that the other accused Amarjyoti Kalita also works for youth Congress and is close to the state Youth Congress president Pijush Hazarika.
The incident came to light when News Live aired around 30 minutes of visuals of the molestation, its reporter and cameraperson apparently clear from the visual that the News Live team did not try at all to prevent the molestation and was busy shooting the heinous act.
The slow follow up by the police is covered in a separate report by IBN Live:
“One more person has been arrested and 12 others have been identified,” Assam Director General of Police Jayanta Narayan Chowdhury told PTI. “Thanks to the prompt media coverage we have got the video clip of the brawl and have identified 12 of them. We will take strong action against the guilty,” the DGP said.
One of those arrested earlier was a contractual employee of the Assam Electronic Development Corporation Ltd, Amar Jyoti Kalita, who had also acted in an Assamese serial. The other two arrested were Dhanonjoy Basfor and Bulbul Das.
They were charged under Sec 341 (wrongful restraint), Sec 143 (unlawful assembly), Sec 294 (obscene act), Sec 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), Sec 354 (assault or criminal force on a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty) of IPC following a written complaint filed by the girl’s mother.
By Sunday, NDTV reported:
Even as angry voices are raising questions on the police’s role in the Guwahati molestation case, two more people- Diganta Basumatary and Nabajit Deka have been arrested.
More and more ghastly details continue to emerge. NDTV reports:
A team from the National Commission of Women (NCW), which met the victim says she had burn wounds on her body indicating that the men burnt her with their cigarettes.
The whole story makes your skin crawl. I am sure that not every bystander was callous. Quite likely that many would not have had any idea how to begin to stop the developing incident. Can someone point to posts or articles on what to do in case one comes across a situation like this in one’s own life?
Three questions have been asked over and over again across channels yesterday.
The first is the role that media plays in creating stories. Stories are usually “created” by a matter of what to emphasize, and that is entirely the media’s prerogative. In rarer cases the media “manufactures” a story which, on closer look, turns out to be non-existent. Cases like these, where the media is accused of whipping up a mob, are fortunately rare. Times Now, and several other channels, very creditably, make a point of this. It seems to be a hard question to tackle in a democracy like ours.
The second is the slow abdication of the state from its responsibilities: in this case, policing. The primary role of the police is to safeguard our neighbourhoods. When it fails, as it does with so few honourable exceptions, one must find a way of making it work. If the police is only to provide security for the well-heeled and make rounds of bars, then does our tax money really need to be spent on this?
The third is the question of the safety of women in India. The completely necessary outrage over every repeat of incidents such as this may take a long time to affect anything in a country where female foeticide is widespread, where husbands traffic wives because the amount paid in dowry is deemed to be insufficient, and crimes against women can be about 1/3 of all reported crimes. Perhaps the public outrage is necessary so that victims know that a large number of people support them. Also, perhaps it is enough, for now, if such protests make TV producers think twice before creating such incidents in future.
23 July, 2012
Amarjyoti Kalita, prime accused in the Guwahati molestation case who was evading arrest for a fortnight, was on Monday arrested from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Amar Jyoti Kalita was arrested by local police from Lanka area of Varanasi, IG, Law and Order (Varanasi) B P Singh said.
With today’s arrest, 14 of the seventeen identified in the incident on the Guwahati-Shillong road on the night of July nine have been taken into custody.
Of the 14 arrested, seven are in judicial custody while the cameraman of a local TV who filmed the incident Gaurav Jyoti Nego has been remanded in police custody.