My head hangs in shame as I try to
piece together one of the ugliest stories in my more than two
decades of journalistic career - the horrific story of a young
girl being virtually 'gang-raped' (molestation would be an
understatement) by a bunch of 'beasts' (they cannot be called
human beings) on the streets of Assam's main city of Guwahati.
July 9. Time around 9.30 p.m. Location - the busy
Guwahati-Shillong Road (GS Road) near Christian Basti in downtown
Guwahati. A phone call was received at our news desk from one of
our off-duty reporters, Gaurav Jyoti Neog, asking for a camera
unit, and in the same vein asking one of the copy-editors to
inform the police, saying there was a brawl near the Income Tax
Gaurav was shooting the incident with his cell phone while talking
from another handset to the news desk (the reporter talking to the
news desk asking for a camera unit was audible).
Night duty reporter Dibya Bordoloi and cameraperson Jugal rushed
to the spot in less than 10 to 15 minutes, as the incident took
place barely 200 metres away from the News Live studios.
Two young girls apparently had some altercation with some people
inside the Club Mint Bar where they came to attend a birthday
party. The scene shifted from the pub premises to the streets. It
was at this point that Gaurav saw one of the girls slapping a man
(filmed on his mobile handset) and soon a large crowd of people
arrived and went berserk.
The girl who slapped somehow managed to escape, while the other
girl was caught by the milling crowd and then began the horrific
and shocking incident. By then cameraperson Jugal and night duty
reporter Dibya Bordoloi also arrived.
The two reporters did try to rescue and pacify the mob of around
30-odd people (cameraperson Jugal's tape has evidence of how our
two reporters tried to save the girl, asking people not to beat
her.). But our three News Live crew were outnumbered by the
violent beastly mob.
Jugal, a junior cameraperson, maintained his calm and continued
rolling the camera and although the shots at times were jerky he
managed to keep on shooting and shooting so well that he not only
captured those shocking visuals, but same time helped police
identify the rapists (molesters would again be an understatement).
It was a free for all and the helpless girl was stripped and
everyone, some young and old, started touching her private parts,
all captured on tape.
Police arrived at the spot some 30 minutes after the incident
(cannot be sure if the News Live phone call was the first call
received by police or someone else called up earlier than us).
The mob began dispersing and the police managed to shove her
inside the patrol van and took her to the police station.
Our shell-shocked crew arrived News Live studio around 10.15 p.m.
and the instant reaction at the desk was to air some not very
disturbing visuals in our 11 p.m. bulletin. A 20-second clip was
edited - girl being rescued by the police - and we aired for about
10 minutes, saying a girl was beaten by a mob outside a pub and
July 10 (Tuesday): There was a numbed silence at the News Room
when I reached around 10 a.m. and my junior colleagues Mousumi and
Ranita were seen sobbing and asked me to see the shocking visuals.
For a while I was literally speechless and stunned. Tuesday
morning bulletins we did not air any images and there was debate
in the Newsroom whether or not to air the visuals.
Late in the afternoon, we made conscious editorial decision to
telecast the news with the sole intention of fulfilling our social
responsibility of showing the viewers the seriousness of this
beastly act and same time help police to identify the rapists.
There was a suggestion: Why not give the tape to the police
instead of airing the images. We thought the police would simply
put it in the cold storage and take it as any other case they
normally handle. And hence the decision to telecast the story.
Questions were asked as to our journalistic ethics. I would say
our reporters and camerapersons did the right thing under the
circumstances. They did try to rescue and pacify first, but then
they were outnumbered and hence instead of shutting the camera
they did the right thing of rolling it.
Today, people across the nation, including Assam Police chief
Jayanta Choudhury, have gone on record thanking News Live for
filming the incident.
The saddest and most tragic part is that not a single passerby or
a commuter came to the rescue of the girl when she was being
stripped. Another sad part is that no civil society members,
rights groups, political parties and individuals protested even
100 hours after that barbaric crime.
Only after the national media, especially the national satellite
channels, took up the issue on Thursday night did we see some face
saving protests in Guwahati.
Even the local print media remained silent during the last few
days and picked up the story on Friday and published prominently
on Saturday. But News Live continued with its campaign, demanding
punishment for the rapists and would do so to its logical end.
Just hope and pray we do not have to report any such story on any
media ever and Assam should not hog media headlines nationwide for
the wrong reasons.
(Syed Zarir Hussain is
Managing Editor of News Live, the largest satellite TV channel
from Assam, and can be reached at email@example.com)