Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Gnani Sankaran, Chief Organizer - Watching at least four English news channels surfing from one another during the last 60 hours of terror strike made me feel a terror of another kind. The terror of assaulting one's mind and sensitivity with cameras, sound bites and non-stop blabbers. All these channels have been trying to manufacture my consent for a big lie called - Hotel Taj - the icon of India. Whose India? Whose Icon ?

It is a matter of great shame that these channels simply did not bother about the other icon that faced the first attack from terrorists - the Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus railway station.. CST is the true icon of Mumbai. It is through this railway station hundreds of Indians from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamilnadu have poured into Mumbai over the years, transforming themselves into Mumbaikars and built the Mumbai of today along with the Marathis and Kolis

But the channels would not recognize this. Nor would they recognize the thirty odd dead bodies strewn all over the platform of CST. No Barkha Dutt went there to tell us who they were. But she was at Taj to show us the damaged furniture and reception lobby braving the guards. And the TV cameras did not go to the government-run JJ hospital to find out who those 26 unidentified bodies were. Instead they were again invading the battered Taj to try in vain for a scoop shot of the dead bodies of the page 3 celebrities.

In all probability, the unidentified bodies could be those of workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrating to Mumbai, arriving by train at CST without cell phones and pan cards to identify them. Even after 60 hours after the CST massacre, no channel has bothered to cover in detail what transpired there. . .

It is precisely because Taj is the icon of power and not people, that the terrorists chose to strike.

The terrorists have understood after several efforts that the Aam Aadmi [common people] will never break down even if you bomb her markets and trains. He/she was resilient because that is the only way he/she can even survive.

Resilience was another word that annoyed the pundits of news channels and their patrons this time. What resilience, enough is enough, said Pranoy Roy's channel on the left side of the channel spectrum. Same sentiments were echoed by Arnab Goswami representing the right wing of the broadcast media whose time is now. . .

The same channels celebrated resilience when bombs went off in trains and markets killing and maiming the Aam Aadmis. The resilience of the ordinary worker suited the rich business class of Mumbai since work or manufacture or film shooting did not stop. When it came to them, the rich shamelessly exhibited their lack of nerves and refused to be resilient themselves. They cry for government intervention now to protect their private spas and swimming pools and bars and restaurants, similar to the way in which Citibank, General Motors and the ilk cry for government money when their coffers are emptied by their own ideologies.

The terrorists have learnt that the ordinary Indian is unperturbed by terror. For one whose daily existence itself is a terror of government sponsored inflation and market sponsored exclusion, pain is something he has learnt to live with. The rich of Mumbai and India Inc are facing the pain for the first time and learning about it just as the middle classes of India learnt about violation of human rights only during emergency, a cool 28 years after independence. . .


At December 3, 2008 4:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we will know soon enough in the elections how the aam aadmi will vote on terror.

I would like to remind you however of the perils of writing off the terror attacks on the two hotels in Mumbai as relevant to the elite and the chattering classes only.

I remember that in 1988 and 1989 Mani Shankar Aiyer would repeatedly dismiss the Bofors issue as only relevant for people in the cocktail parties of South Delhi. No relevance to the masses to the villagers. Well, we saw what happened.

The reason why the channels were focused on the two hotels was because there was a siege there that lasted three days. CST was a hit and run. You cover it once and you are done. A siege is an ongoing drama where events unfold over three days and makes compelling television. If Taj and Oberoi had been hit and runs and CST was a siege I am sure that would have got more coverage. Nariman house was a lot less glamorous location as compared to the Taj and the Oberoi yet it got equal billing. Why – because there was a siege that made equally compelling television as the two hotels.

The unequal emphasis we saw in the coverage of the various terrorist strike locations has more to do with the nature of the strike (hit and run vs. siege) and less to do with the fact that the Taj and the Oberoi are rich people’s watering holes.

I am afraid Mr. Gnani Sankaran has got the wrong end of the stick



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