‘ NDTV’s Sreenivas Jain disappoints’ !

published on June 29, 2013

Dr. Vijaya Rajiva

The two English news channels NDTV and CNNIBN have done an excellent job of reporting on the Uttarakhand tragedy. The are to be congratulated. And the intrepid reporter Sreenivas Jain has routinely done good programs on controversial and timely issues in the past. However, his recent entry into the fake encounter case of Ishrat Jahan has been a disappointment( ‘Ishrat Jahan fake encounter : Modi knew about it in advance ?’ NDTV, June 27, 2013).

In the first place, he himself seemed to be at sea in the legerdemain of the case and asked : what is going on ?

In the second place, he surrounded himself with what looked like a motley crew of incompetent/biased commentators, except for Narayan Vyas of the Gujarat government, who soberly stood by the legal aspects of the case and  Mr. Karnik, former Director of the IB who refused to be drawn into the sleaze and the drama.

The case concerns the alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan and her friends where all four were shot dead by the police in 2004. They were reportedly planning to assasinate Shri Modi.The case has been dragging on since then. The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) now claims that it has evidence that Mr. Rajinder Kumar of the IB (Indian Bureau of Investigation) colluded with the Gujarat police to conceal all evidence of the fake encounter. This is ofcourse a serious charge and it is not clear why the CBI report was leaked to the press.

What is new about this latest development is that the report claims that the conspiracy to kill Ishrat Jahan and co. went all the way up to the then Home Minister (Amit Shah) and the Chief Minister (Naarendra Modi).

The panelists at the discussion, apart from Narayan Vyas and Mr. Karnik had already made up their minds that the CBI report was authentic. Sreenivas Jain’s questions and comments were more or less in the same category. If the viewer was looking for authentic discussion and reportage none ensued.

Digvijay Singh will be Digvijay Singh and as a Congress politician his aim is to throw up as much mud at Shri Narendra Modi as possible, evidence or no evidence. Mukul Sinha, a lawyer for the victims of the alleged fake encounter had no sensible legal arguments, only slander and innuendo. Rana Ayub of Tehelka ( a female counterpart of the ubiquitous Ashish Khetan, Tehelka reporter) was no surprise. Her report in Tehelka was full of unsubatantiated allegations which she partially reproduced on national television. One began to wonder whether Tehelka, supposedly a no nonsense down to earth publication was losing its grip on events. The sum total of her contribution to the discussion was : if Mr. Kumar is let off, then this is a bad precedent, where ordinary citizens can be killed by the state and no one is brought to book. Innocent until proven guilty seems to be a principle that she has not heard of !

The real surprise here was Vrinda Grover, lawyer and womens’ rights advocate, who represented Ishrat Jahan’s family and who spoke shrilly about state terror, again with no substantive evidence at hand. She was definite that this was a fake encounter and that Ishrat had been wrongfully framed. This, despite the fact that well known reliable sources such as Praveen Swami (former security and intelligence analyst for The Hindu) have reported frequently that David Headley had mentioned her as a LeT operative and associated with the ISI. Much of Grover’s statements seemed based on speculation, gossip and hearsay.

This entire crew was shockingly certain that the encounter was a fake one and that the CBI enquiry would establish the guilt of the conspirators beyond doubt. This was a position they had held for sometime even before any conclusions had been reached even by the CBI ! Curious as to what and who their sources of information were.

The two sober voices were Narayan Vyas and Mr. Karnik of the IB.

Mr. Karnik said he had no knowledge of the details of the CBI report, except through the media and the general question that should be asked is whether Mr. Rajendra Kumar as an IB official acted within the parameters of his position or not.

Narayan Vyas rightly pointed out that the report is not in the public domain and its contents cannot be verified for accuracy e.g. misrepresentations, tampering with the tapes etc.  The matter is now with the Courts and once the report is in the public domain then one can discuss it. He was rebuked by Sreenivasan for introducing procedural matters ! But Mr. Jain, this is precisely what legal processes depend on ! There cannot be  a rush to judgment, without the due processes of law.

It has now transpired that the Ministry of Home Affairs has pointed out that it does not believe in the credibility of the CBI report. It does not think that Mr. Rajinder Kumar, acted in any conspiratorial manner.

Mr. Jain, the educated middle class of India relies on the national media for accurate reporting. Anything which falls short of this is a disservice to the country. Please get back to your beaten track. You did well there.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).

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