Hotel Taj :
icon of whose India ?
Tamil writer, Chennai.
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
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 (CST) 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 recognise this. Nor would they recognise
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
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.
The channels conveniently failed to acknowledge that the Aam Aadmis
of India surviving in Mumbai were not affected by Taj, Oberoi and
Trident closing down for a couple of weeks or months. What mattered
to them was the stoppage of BEST
buses and suburban trains even for one hour. But the channels were
not covering that aspect of the terror attack. Such information at
best merited a scroll line, while the
cameras have to be dedicated for real time thriller unfolding at
Taj or Nariman Bhavan.
The so called justification for the hype the channels built around
heritage site Taj falling down (CST is also a heritage site), is
that Hotel Taj is where the rich and the powerful of India and the
globe congregate. It is a symbol or icon of power of money and
politics, not India. It is the icon of the financiers and swindlers
of India. The Mumbai and India were built by the Aam Aadmis who
passed through CST and Taj was the oasis of peace and privacy for
those who wielded power over these mass of labouring classes.
club and Taj were the haunts of rich spoilt kids who would drive
their vehicles over sleeping Aam Aadmis on the pavement, the Mafiosi
of Mumbai forever financing the
glitterati of Bollywood (and also the terrorists) , Political
brokers and industrialists.
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 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. Can Rajdeep be far behind in this game of
one-upmanship over TRPs ? They all
attacked resilience this time. They wanted firm action from the
government in tackling terror.
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.
And human rights were another favourite issue for the channels to
whip at times of terrorism. Arnab Goswami in an animated voice
wondered where were those champions of human rights now, not to be
seen applauding the brave and selfless police officers who gave up
their life in fighting terrorism. Well, the counter question would
be where were you when such officers were violating the human rights
of Aam Aadmis. Has there ever
been any 24 hour non stop coverage of violence against dalits and
adivasis of this country?
This definitely was not the time to manufacture consent for the
extra legal and third degree methods of interrogation of police and
army but Arnabs don't miss a single
opportunity to serve their class masters, this time the jingoistic
patriotism came in handy to whitewash the entire uniformed services.
The sacrifice of the commandos or the police officers who went down
dying at the hands of ruthless terrorists is no doubt heart rending
but in vain in a situation which needed
not just bran but also brain. Israel has a point when it says the
operations were misplanned resulting in the death of its nationals
Khakares and Salaskars would not be dead if they did not commit the
mistake of traveling by the same vehicle. It is a basic lesson in
management that the top brass should never travel together in
crisis. The terrorists, if only they had watched the channels, would
have laughed their hearts out when the Chief of the Marine
commandos, an elite force, masking his face so unprofessionally in a
see-through cloth, told the media that the commandos had no idea
about the structure of the Hotel Taj which they were trying to
liberate. But the terrorists knew the place thoroughly, he
Is it so difficult to obtain a ground plan of Hotel Taj and discuss
operation strategy thoroughly for at least one hour before entering?
This is something even an event manager would first ask for, if he
had to fix 25 audio systems and 50 CCtvs for a cultural event in a
hotel. Would not Ratan Tata have provided a plan of his ancestral
hotel to the
commandos within one hour considering the mighty apparatus at his
and government's disposal? Are satelite pictures only available for
terrorists and not the government agencies ? In an operation known
to consume time, one more hour for preparation would have only
improved the efficiency of execution.
Sacrifices become doubly tragic in unprofessional circumstances. But
the Aam Aadmis always believe that terror-shooters do better
planning than terrorists. And the gullible media in a jingoistic
mood would not raise any question about any of these issues.
They after all have their favourite whipping boy - the politician
the eternal entertainer for the non-voting rich classes of India.
Arnabs and Rajdeeps would wax eloquent on Manmohan Singh and Advani
visiting Mumbai separately and not together showing solidarity even
at this hour of national crisis. What a farce? Why can't these
channels pool together all their camera crew and reporters at this
time of national calamity and share the sound and visual bites which
could mean a wider and deeper coverage of events with such a huge
human resource to command? Why should Arnab and Rajdeep
and Barkha keep harping every five minutes that this piece of
information was exclusive to their channel, at the time of such a
national crisis? Is this the time to promote the
channel? If that is valid, the politician promoting his own
political constituency is equally valid. And the duty of the
politican is to do politics, his politics. It is for the
people to evaluate that politics.
And terrorism is not above politics. It is politics by other means.
To come to grips with it and to eventually eliminate it, the
practice of politics by proper means needs constant fine tuning and
improvement. Decrying all politics and politicians, only helps
terrorists and dictators who are the two sides of the same coin. And
the rich and powerful alwaysprefer terrorists and dictators to do
Those caught in this crossfire are always the Aam Aadmis whose
deaths are not even mourned - the taxi driver who lost the entire
family at CST firing, the numerous waiters and stewards who lost
their lives working in Taj for a monthly salary that would be one
time bill for their masters.
Postscript: In a fit of anger and depression, I sent a message to
all the channels, 30 hours through the coverage.After all they have
been constantly asking the viewers to message them for anything and
everything. My message read: I send this with lots of pain. All
channels, including yours, must apologise for not covering the
victims of CST massacre,
the real mumbaikars and aam aadmis of India. Your obsession with
five star elite is disgusting. Learn from the print media
please. No channel bothered. Only Srinivasan Jain replied: you are
right. We are trying to redress balance today. Well, nothing
happened till the time of writing this 66 hours after the terror
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